What’s to be said about Super Mario Bros. 3 that hasn’t been said before? This is one of those rare games that even surpasses “classic” status – well beyond it in fact, as it’s probably a pure definition of what video games can strive to be.
Super Mario Bros 3 turns 25 in North America today (at least, as of the day this article is published.) And people still play it – and not only that, but this game has set so many standards and influenced almost every platformer to come after it. Mario was already a household game by the time Super Mario Bros 3 was released, and the original Super Mario Bros. helped launch him to stardom. So what makes this game so special – why is it that this game was the entire basis for every 2D Mario platformer after it? Why are future Mario games (such as New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario 3D Land) still referencing it so heavily? Why is it consistently near (or at!) the top of almost every best games list?
Super Mario Bros. 3 of course borrowed heavily from the formula of the original; classic jumping on turtles, searching through eight worlds to find Princess Peach. Power ups, coins, and more help you along the way. But this game was Super Mario Bros.’ first true sequel. Sure, we had Super Mario Bros. 2, which wasn’t even technically a Mario game… and Japan got what we’d later come to call the Lost Levels, but it was more of an expansion to the first game with a much higher difficulty and a few twists. Super Mario Bros. 3 gave us new power ups, new enemies, new characters… all while retaining a simple formula that’s actually even easier to pick up than the original Super Mario Bros. game, thanks to more intuitive and fluid controls.
Icons from this game still appear today. Possibly the most notable is the Super Leaf. It introduced the flying mechanic to Mario games, seen again in the Cape Feather, the Wing Cap in Mario 64, and the Propeller hat in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. The powerup has appeared again and again, in New Super Mario Bros. 2, made its way into Mario Kart 7, and even played a central role in Super Mario 3D Land. Many characters introduced in this game still return today – chain chomps, Boom Boom, and of course, the inimitable Koopalings. While we have yet to see some beloved items return – looking at you, Mr. Hammer Bros. Suit – with the Koopalings returning, the Super Leaf popping back up, and even Boom Boom making reappearances, it’s only a matter of time, we’re sure.
Two and a half decades later, this masterpiece is clearly still going strong. It goes to show you that strong level design, fluid, easy to understand controls, and a simple concept really hammer down a beloved class. And one of the best parts, is during the gameplay, when you realize Super Mario Bros. 3 might not actually be happening; that the entire game is a stage production. It’s all a play, complete from the curtain opening to exiting stage left at the end of levels. The game is full of quirks like that that endear it to us even more. And we’re certain we’ll still consider it just as strong 25 years from now, as well.