Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3
By Zach Patterson Tuesday, 27 Feb 2007

I think it’s an understatement to say that most gamers are well familiar with Super Mario Bros 3 by now. While Super Mario Bros reinvented the platformer and introduced us to Mario’s first platforming action game (Mario Bros and Donkey Kong notwithstanding) and Super Mario Bros 2 (US) introduced us to some crazy characters, better graphics and more moves, Super Mario Bros 3 takes the all the basics of the first game and expands upon the advances we saw in the second. Super Mario Bros 3 was the first Mario game to introduce us to the map and the possibility of nonlinear level progression (outside of warps, of course).

In addition, the graphics improved well past even Super Mario Bros 2′s colorful world and detailed characters to deliver one of the prettiest games on the NES. The sprites are large, expressive, and most importantly, add to the atmosphere of the levels. Speaking of the levels, there is a great variety here (grassy, desert, water, ice, castle, cloud, and everyone’s favorite, big world), and nearly every level has secret areas to explore with coins, one-ups, or power-ups. Most secrets are reliant on you using this games defining power-up: the magical racoon-tail-that-allows-you to fly-empowering leaf. It’s surprising that even today, the ability to fly through the clouds in even the first level still holds the wonderment it did back when it was released. It almost feels like going into an a forbidden territory in the game, a place where Mario had never been able to reach. In addition to the tail, you can also receive the Tanooki suit (an upgraded version of the leaf but Mario is completely in a raccoon suit and can turn into a statue on command…man, where did these wacky ideas come from?), the Frog suit (allowing you to swim exquisitely and be useless on land…try an airship with the frog suit, it’s loads of fun), the excellent hammer bros suit, the one level only Kuribo’s Shoe (best item ever), and of course the classic fireflower. These powers are distributed gradually as you progress and are in many ways one of the most defining parts of the game. None of the games following it or before it included as much variety as this one.

The difficulty in the game tends to be on the easy side, but there is a good challenge that really ramps up as you progress towards the end of the game. Also, the game is never cheap with its difficulty, it just is challenging and based on skill or enemy placement.

The music is a wonderful score provided by Koji Kondo that varies from upbeat pop to doom and gloom metal and rock. Each world has its own map theme, and most themed levels also have their own music. It’s a lengthy, diverse soundtrack that is right up there with all the other classic Nintendo soundtracks of the time.

The Game Boy Advance release improves several aspects, most of the graphical improvements were already seen in the Super Mario All-Stars version of the game. Everything is much sharper, the backgrounds are more detailed and similar to Super Mario World, and the characters have much more detail as well, looking closer to their Mario World counterparts. In addition, there is the ability to save anywhere and quit, although these quicksaves are lost once loaded one time. It’s a handy feature that allows you to stop progress between castle saves and not have to lose any ground. This version, like the other Mario Advance games also adds in Mario Bros Classic, which, while a decent time waster, after 5 minutes, it begins to lose its appeal. Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, the game allows you to unlock new levels and powers

(the feather!) through the e-reader device. Good idea, but in practice this proves to be kind of impractical and expensive just to use. While e-readers have gotten considerably cheaper due to their unpopularity, it is still pretty annoying that in order to fully play the game, an entire new piece of hardware much be purchased PLUS cards to unlock the new material. Annoying. Regardless, all the new stuff added is simply adding on to an already classic game.

Mario 3 was a hugely hyped game in its time, and has continued to sell well and be fondly remembered to this day. If you haven’t ever played it (however unlikely that may be), be sure to pick up the excellent Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros 3 for GBA, and an e-reader if you can find one, so you can enjoy some great new content.