Random Game Wednesdays: Super Mario Bros. 3 (Nintendo Switch Online)

It’s been a while since I did a new installment of Random Game Wednesdays, and I thought that for the grand return of the feature, I should go to a new source of games. So, I went with the NES library offered with Nintendo Switch Online. There’s already a decent amount of stuff in there, with favorites, more obscure games, and weird enhanced versions of games, most of which I haven’t touched. But of course, the random number generator decided to throw me a game I’ve played a million times before.

Not that I’m complaining. Super Mario Bros. 3 is an absolutely incredible game that hasn’t aged a day. Tight controls, excellent level design, iconic visuals, and a great soundtrack all make this game just as entertaining today as it was when it first came out. But it’s also interesting to look back and see how much this game pushed the series forward.

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Super Mario is known for it’s secrets, but it’s weird to think about how there really wasn’t much of that in the first two games. Both had hidden warp zones, but that was about it. Super Mario Bros. 3 on the other hand is filled to the brim with secrets. You might find a secret Toad house with a special item if you happen to grab every coin on a stage. Or maybe you’ll open a secret area on the world map by breaking a rock with a hammer. Or maybe a special airship will appear that’s full of coins. While the next game in the series, Super Mario World, would take this to the next level by offering branching paths and stages that could only be found with secrets, it’s clear the root of this is in 3.

But there’s a lot more to the game than just the secrets. The core gameplay remains as fun as the series has ever been. Just like in the first game, you’re mostly just trying to get from the start of the level to the end, dodging or defeating enemies and collecting coins and power-ups along the way. But more varied obstacles and terrain make it much more interesting this time around. For the first time, slopes have been introduced, which you can slide down and kill any enemy in your path. Along with these are bouncy blocks as well as platforms that move along a set path. There’s just a lot going on in these levels.

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The way you access the levels is new too. Instead of simply going from level to level, you now have a world map. While for the most part, you still have to just go to the next level and play it, it does occasionally  allow you to choose between a couple different levels. Like the first game, the levels are divided between eight worlds, but this time there’s a clear theme for each world, which is reflected in both the levels and the map. For example, the second world is desert themed and the fourth world has giant enemies and pipes.

But levels aren’t all you can do on the world map. You’ll also come across minigames. The most common one is like a horizontal slot machine, where you try to stop three rotating pictures at the right time to create a picture of either a star, a mushroom, or a flower. There’s also one that pops up every once in a while that is a memory match game for items. It’s a fun little diversion and goes a long way to making this game feel fresh.

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At the end of each world, you’ll find a king who’s been transformed into an animal and a Toad who’s freaking out about it. This will lead to you boarding one of the Koopalings’ airships, to defeat them and get a wand that will change the king back. If you lose, the airship will fly to a random part of the map, sometimes hiding behind levels that you may have skipped the first time around. It’s a cool way to add extra stakes to boss levels, as well as encouraging the player to try every level.

One of the big things that keeps this game feeling great so many years later is the controls. If you go back to the first game, you’ll notice that Mario kind of slides around a lot, but thankfully, that’s been toned down a lot here. Now, when you make a mistake, it feels like it’s your fault and not because the game just doesn’t handle well.

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You don’t need me to tell you that Super Mario Bros. 3 is a great game, this is pretty common knowledge. If for some reason you haven’t played this game before, there’s no reason not to give it a try. It’s a game the defies time and is still just as fun as it was when it was brand new.

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