Having fond memories of playing this game as a kid I decided to dust of the Nintendo and pop in Super Mario Bros. 3 and spend and afternoon beating the game with a friend. Before we started we agreed that neither of us would use the warp whistles and we would beat every single level in the game on our way to Bowser’s castle. I’m going to cover this game less as a review and more as commentary of our experience playing through it. I’m sure everyone is familiar with the original Mario games anyway.
First I would like to note that the introduction of world maps is one of my favorite features of SMB3 that was lacking in the first two. Instead of beating a level and going straight to the next you can choose to take multiple routes, play card games and visit mushroom houses to grab some extra items. The map allows a nice little break between levels as well as the option to use previously found items such as mushrooms, flowers or leafs to gain a little advantage in the next level.
World 1: Grass Land
Grass Land Map
This world was a breeze, having every level memorized from my childhood. We switched off each level beating the first 4 levels and picking up a power-up at the mushroom house and failing the slot machine mini game like 90% of our attempts at winning some extra lives. My friend (who was playing as Mario) ended up beating the first fortress (mini castles) with very little difficulty as you can fly up above the map near the end to avoid the mini boss. We quickly got the last 2 levels out of the way and it my my turn to play the first castle. I should note that castles aren’t really castles at all, you merely step inside to listen to toad cry about the king who has been turned into some crazy animal who needs you to beat the boss to get a wand and change him back. The actual level takes place on board a floating ship cluttered with cannon balls coming from every direction and the screen begins to move on its own forcing you to keep up or lose a life. At the end of the ships is a pipe to fight the world boss, 3 hits to the head is all you need and the first boss is pretty easy dodge and jump on. Upon recovering the wand you fall through the clouds back to the castle where you are greeted by the king with a big smile on his face. The only reward is a letter from the Princess saying thanks.. blah blah blah.. here’s a reward. Anything but a P Wing is a disappointment as the P Wing grants the ability to fly through an entire level which was our backup plan for most of world 8.
World 2: Desert Hill
Desert Hill Map
Being the only world in the game to not be titled ____ Land means this world has to be special right? The first two levels in this world aren’t too bad. We get introduced to quicksand, Venus Fire Traps that live in quicksand and Pile Driver Micro-Goombas (blocks that appear to be normal but jump around when you get near them). Only 3 levels in and we are faced with the first fortress, nothing too challenging here, just watch out for falling Thwomps and pay attention to those sneaky Boos. Level 3 was quickly beaten as the only obstacle was a few bouncing fire snakes that we ran right by which brought us to a special level called the desert. The desert is a calm level until about halfway through when you are hit by Tweesters (tornadoes) which catch you and throw you around the map. As soon as you pass the tornadoes the sun which has been sitting in the corner of the screen decides that he wants to kill you and swoops down back and forth chasing you for the rest of the level. The Angry Sun is an annoying enemy as he cuts you off and forces you to focus more on avoiding him than playing the rest of the level. Fortunately after beating that level we wont be seeing him again for a long time. Levels 4 and 5 pass pretty quickly as the biggest challenge is getting past some Boomarang Bros. and jumping over a few Chain Chomps. The last level before the castle is another special one, the pyramid level is the first maze level that we were faced with. It wasn’t too tough but we did hit a few dead ends and have to turn around before we found the correct route to the end of the level. The final level of world 2 was the castle in which we boarded another air ship and had to dodge cannonballs, Bullet Bills, and wrenches from the very annoying Rocky Wrench who comes back seconds later even if you kill him. The boss wasn’t much harder than the first one but he does jump all over the place like a maniac making it a little harder to jump on his head.
World 3: Water Land
Water Land Map
One of the longer worlds in the game and home to my least favorite enemy in the game, Boss Basses. The first two levels are a piece of cake, just swim along the levels avoiding the Bloopers and make it to the end easily. Level 3 was the first level with the Boss Bass who loved to jump out of the water and swallow us whole. We learned a pretty good routine of avoiding his attempts to eat us and finished of the level fairly fast. Up next was the first fortress which was kind enough to be a maze with a ton of doors that all went to different places. The only way to avoid looping around to the beginning to the level was to find the correct door to the boss battle (Hint: it was door 6). Levels 4-7 were all different style levels, we had to swim under water, jump across floating platforms in the sky and complete a few normal levels. Rolling up on fortress number two, we were given a horrible combination of a water level and a fortress which was quite a pain to slowly swim through to get to the mini boss. If the fortress wasn’t bad enough, my good friend Boss Bass was back on the next level which would periodically completely submerge in the water leaving us swimming right out in the open for him to come and eat us. Lives were lost. We managed to time out the periods when the map was under water and try to find the highest possible ground to stay away from that stupid overweight fish. Level 9 was easy, as was the air ship on the castle which had more fire than cannonballs this time making us stop and go to avoid getting burned from the short bursts of flames. The boss on on the air ship caused a bit of trouble with her projectiles that never disappeared. We had to kill her fast or be stuck in a tiny room with a dozen deadly rings bouncing around trying to kill us. Never the less we managed to tackle world 3 and pick up a precious P Wing to help us later in the game.
World 4: Giant Land
Giant Land Map
Easily my favorite world in the game, almost everything has been super sized except poor Mario and Luigi who stay the same size. The first level was easy, basically a friendly welcome to big world (that’s what I call it because Giant Land sounds dumb). Level 2 was similar to the one in Water Land where the ground sunk allowing the Boss Bass to eat us except everything was big besides the fish which was now an innocent little Cheep-Cheep. The first fortress was easy enough as the biggest threat was a few sideways moving Thwomps and a new little enemy which was a walking flame that behaved similar to a Boo (chase you when you look away and stop when you face them). Level 4 was all underwater with giant blocks that looked like cinnamon toast crunch and we were followed by Lakitu who floats in a cloud throwing spike balls from the sky to brighten our day. Levels 4 and 5 were rather normal besides everything being enlarged, we simply ran through these on our way to the second fortress. Fortress 2 was full of lava and the blocks that were floating in the air fell out from underneath us if we stood in place too long. We simply jumped a lot to reset the fall timer and made our way to the mini boss and bopped him 3 times with our new strategy of jumping before he reveals his head so we can instantly kill him and move on. The fortress opened a bridge to the castle/air ship of world 4. Another ship heavily centered around fire made it easy to get to the fourth boss with full power-ups which were desperately needed as he decided to bounce around the room like he was made of rubber making it a pain to squeeze in 3 hits. Big world was short and sweet as we moved on to world 5 where things started to become a little harder.
World 5: Sky Land
Sky Land Map
Despite being Sky Land, the first few levels are on the ground and must be completed before we could reach the clouds. The first level was full of Chain Chomps who were easy to avoid but we ran into a new enemy, Buster Beetle, who can pick up blocks and throw them towards us. Level 2 had multiple routes, one went up high where we had to bounce on note blocks but we fell off about halfway and got stuck taking the ground route and searching for the correct pipe to the finish. Level 3 was full of Munchers and the only level in the game to contain the Goomba’s Shoe, a power up that allows Mario or Luigi to run over all sorts of enemies without taking damage. The first fortress was easy, we just progress slowly avoiding the Thwomps and Roto-Discs. Up next was a special level called the tower (I’m guessing that’s how we got to the clouds) and we kept taking pipes up to the next level and it was like 5 mini levels in one. There was no finish to the tower, we just entered a pipe and appeared near level 4. Levels 4-7 were all sky levels, meaning that we had to jump from across platforms all the way to the end and avoid falling as it was an instant death. The second fortress was all lava with small areas to land on and jump across, the only thing that caught us off guard were the fireballs that fell from the ceiling instead of shooting out of the lava. Level 8 was easy despite Lakitu appearing to throw more spike balls as we tried to avoid falling off the small cloud platforms. Level 9, the last level before the castle almost made us give up on the game. The screen was moving pretty fast on its own and the platforms were all moving up and down giving us exactly one chance to make each jump as fast as we could and then Fire Chomps started showing up and almost always blocked the way with fireballs causing us to fail the level. The Sky Land castle/air ship wasn’t too bad but the boss was a real pain, every time he jumped he shook the whole level leaving us stunned and unable to move around and he usually took that time to kill us. After a few tries we got lucky and he missed his shot allowing us to get the last 2 hits and move on.
World 6: Ice Land
Ice Land Map
Ice Land is the biggest world in the game with 3 fortresses and 10 levels. The first level consisted of getting used to sliding around on ice blocks and learning how to avoid Ptooies which run around and shoot spike balls straight up and catch them. Level 2 was another sky level with moving clouds that kept going higher and higher making us climb to the finish. Level 3 was also in the sky but big ice blocks made it easy to run straight to the finish and move on to the first fortress which took place mostly on a moving platform surrounded by projectiles that we had to dodge. Level 4 was also in the sky with giant spinning platforms that are supposed to knock us off but instead sent us flying upwards which lead to skipping most of the map and beating it rather fast. Level 5 was a horrible maze where every pipe brought us back to the beginning and the only way to win was to fly up into the correct passage near the end but in order to do that we had to keep full power-ups through the map filled with Buster Beetles throwing blocks at us. Level 6 was an easy water level thanks to having a fire flower power-up ready and level 7 was a sky level full of falling blocks and ice blocks that was beaten first try. Fortress 2 was cluttered with Twhomps, Roto-Discs and Boos and was completely made out of ice blocks making us have to slide and crouch through little holes to progress. Level 8 was all grass instead of ice and was fairly easy, the only enemies were Buster Beetles and a few Nipper Plants which are very easy to jump right over. Level 9 was a water level full of enemies, the only noticeable threats were the Blooper Nanny and Big Bertha which is like a less deadly Boss Bass. Level 10 was a short level leading way to the third fortress which was full of Boos, Roto-Discs and conveyor belts trying to push us into the spike pits below. Finally we reached the castle/air ship. The airship was disappointing having only fire and a few gaps to jump over but the boss caught me off guard with his little circus act. He was standing on top of a ball and rolling around making it hard to jump way up there and he also threw circus balls all over the place that never went away so we had to kill him fast before there was too much going on.
World 7: Pipe Land
Pipe Land Map
We were nearing the end at this point, eager to get to world 8 and tackle Bowser, but first we had to go through the most annoying world in the game. Level 1 introduced a new concept with wrap around levels, if we left the screen on one side we would enter on the other. We used that trick to climb through a vertical pipe maze to the finish at the top. Level 2 made us hit invisible blocks to create bridges and then tunnel back to the start and replay the level to reach the end. Level 3 was just a mostly straight level with a Lakitu chasing us but there were blocks every so often with invincibility stars so we could run right to the end and not worry about him. Level 4 was under water with a huge maze Jelectros, a few Big Berthas and the only level in the game with Spiny Cheep-Cheeps who were very fast. Level 5 was another maze that took us quite a while as we took pipe after pipe trying to make sense of where we were coming out but it was nothing compared to the first fortress. The first fortress ha no enemies, every pipe went back to the start and we ran out of time. Second try I decided to break every block in the whole room, eventually I found a P switch that turned all the blocks into coins and I fell through the floor. Still I dead end I decided to try again but stay at the top and we found a secret door up above, the door took us to a power-up to make us fly and then back to the start yet again. With time running out we decided to fly around the main room with no enemies and found a pipe on the ceiling that lead to the boss and we finally moved on. Level 6 was another wrap around stage full of pipes and Arrow Lifts which needed to be used a bunch to reach end. Level 7 was an entirely munchers, the only way to make it across was to find all the star blocks and time them perfectly so you had enough time to grab the next and remain invincible. Level 8 took about 4 tries simply due to the amount of enemies that shot fireballs at us while we tried to jump across tiny platforms. Level 9 was an above ground maze made of purple tubes, we didn’t have to guess which pipes to go in this time, we only had to find our way to the end through trial and error. Fortress 2 had a little of everything, fireballs, Piranha Plants and Roto-Discs were all around the main level yet it was still a rather simple layout. The final castle/air ship before world 8 wasn’t too bad. It had a lot of long jumps that I didn’t think were possible but a good running start is all we needed. The boss here shook the map and kept us from moving but our previous experience with a boss like this allowed us to kill him with only a couple of tries. Our reward this time was a little different though, no thank you from the princess but rather a not from Bowser himself informing us that he had taken Peach captive.
World 8: Dark Land
Dark Land Map
Finally we were at the final world, home of Bowser and ready to save Princess Peach. The levels on world 8 are much harder than the rest of the game and the first level just happened to be a tank level. The screen was locked on our position while a bunch of tanks rolled by shooting cannonballs, fire, and being ridden by Rocky Wrenches to add more projectiles to the equation. The second level to beat was the battleships but luckily they are in water and Mario can swim so we just swam under most of the commotion and resurfaced at the end to fight the mini boss. Next up were 5 levels that were unnumbered and fairly short. They were all different style levels with inspiration from previous worlds and at the end of each was a mushroom power-up to help us out on the next part. Next up was a neat level in the sky similar to an airship but a lot more difficult. It was full of planes that we had to jump between and most of them were driven by Rocky Wrenches throwing crap at us as we tried not to fall off. Finally reaching what is technically the first level, it seemed very out of place being similar to a world 1 level with the exception of a lot more enemies. Level 2 was none other than a black and white version of the desert level with our old friend the Angry Sun. This level had a lot of quicksand with Piranha Plants shooting fire everywhere and the end was pretty difficult with very spaced out single blocks and the Sun trying to kill us the whole time. This level cost us a few lives but I would rather play it 5 times over than have to deal with the fortress that immediately followed it. The only fortress on world 8 was a massive maze, it put other maze levels to shame with its irritating amount of doors that brought us to the wrong place. Also conveyor belts were all over the place pushing us the wrong way. The secret to solving it was finding the right room and hitting a P switch to turn some blocks into coins and running through a now visible door before it disappeared. Eventually we solved the mystery and went on to the last level before the castle. Another tank level with cannons everywhere. Avoiding the cannonballs, Bob-ombs, and Rocky Wrenches wasn’t too hard and then we got to fight the last mini boss of the game. I expected Bowser’s castle to be the hardest level in the game but ended up beating it my first try. Upon entering the first room giant statues shot lasers at me forcing me to back away and come back running at full speed. After that I simply rode a platform up to the next level and standing on a falling platform and waiting until just before it went off screen to jump to the next part. After passing a bunch of Roto-Discs blocking the way I came upon a room full of falling platforms and fireballs. After climbing to the top and avoiding the lava pit I entered the next room, ran past a couple more statues, jumped across some platform to the last door and entered the final fight with Bowser. His fireballs were really easy to dodge and we had to lure him into smashing the floor in the center of the room until he had broken enough blocks to fall through and be defeated. The last door unlocked and Luigi went on to save the princess. Mario gets all the fame anyways, it’s time for Luigi to be the hero!
The game took about 4 and a half hours to fully complete every level with 2 players. I never expected such an old game to offer so much. Super Mario Bros. 3 has always been one of my favorite Mario games second to Super Mario World on the Super Nintendo. This game has been re-released on all sorts of Nintendo consoles making it easy to get ahold of if you would like to play through it yourself. It’s truly one of the best games for the original Nintendo and I’m glad I played through it again.