GSQ5: Marking the occasion

Monday the 18th is officially the day Nintendo has designated as the anniversary of the NES launch. The truth is that the system didn’t have a hard launch date, but Frank Cifaldi has done a lot of research into that and I don’t want to spoil his findings. So, instead, I’ll play along with Nintendo’s convenient lie and say HAPPY BIRTHDAY NES by posting a piece on the game many people consider the finest ever made for the system: Super Mario Bros. 3.

I’m pretty proud of this piece. And I’m a dude who doesn’t hesitate to admit openly when something I’ve created doesn’t live up to my standards or expectations, so when I say I’m proud of this article I am actually making a statement, here. I actually managed to say something that I think is moderately insightful and which I’ve never seen or heard anyone else say about one of the most written-about games ever published. I’m sure someone will quickly prove me wrong, but let me bask in my self-congratulatory smugness for just a moment here.

…wait for it…

…wait for it….

OK, now you can go ahead and shoot me down.

Unlike a lot of people, I don’t actually revere SMB3 with my soul. I was excited about the game, no question about it, and I was pretty thrilled when my aunt brought home my copy for me (she was a warehouse manager at a local department store and would sneakily pluck new games out of the stock room for me before they hit the shelves, plus she let me benefit from her 20% employee discount, which made the game-obsessed days of my youth pretty awesome). But once I’d finished the game both with warps and without, I never really felt compelled to go back and revisit it. Unlike, say, Mega Man 2 and 3, both of which I replayed until my fingers could probably play through them automatically, I was content to have finished Mario 3 and let it be.

Yes, I’m one of those terrible humans who enjoyed Super Mario World much, much more. Alors!

Still, I will always think fondly of Mario 3 simply because of the memories around it. My aunt brought the game home for me on on the evening my birthday that year — a Friday — and since I knew the game was due to arrive that day, I made plans to spend the night at my similarly NES-obsessed best friend’s home so we could take turns playing it into the wee hours. What I wasn’t expecting is that when I walked into his house brandishing my new acquisition, a dozen of my friends would jump out for a surprise birthday party. It was, in the fact, the most amazing birthday ever. Someone even got me a cassette of Sesame Street Disco, which was almost as fantastic as Mario 3.

And, of course, after everyone else went home, I stuck around for the rest of the night. We did indeed play Mario 3 into the wee hours.

35 thoughts on “GSQ5: Marking the occasion

  1. My favorite plumber game being Super Mario Bros. 2, I kinda empathize with people whose favorite Beatle is Ringo.

  2. You are not terrible for liking SMW more :P It was the better game (IMO anyways), at least by a little bit. Granted, it mainly refined and expanded on ideas started in SMB3, but still, SMB3 didn’t have Star Road and a bunch of levels named after bad 1990s slang!

    Honestly, I liked SMW more and this is coming from someone who had SMB3 since pretty close to when it came out, played the HELL out of it, and then didn’t get an SNES for at least a year into its life, which I may add, was a core system that didn’t come with a game! I did eventually pick up Super Mario World, but it wasn’t right away (not that I didn’t rent it and play it at friends’ houses a ton before that though). Somehow I still like it more though :) Go figure.

    I will give SMB3 credit for the best marketing ever though :P

  3. Haha did you mean to write “Alas!” or is that some kind of nonsensical half missing “Zut alors!” you were going for there?

  4. You obviously meant to write “no one would dispute that…” rather than “no one would argue that…”

  5. The rarity of killer powerups, not to mention overall variety given way by the very economy of idea usage you mentioned, is one of the reasons why Mario 3 is tops in my book. Some would say the brevity of the stages is a liability, but really, it works here because they were designed to be unique, bite-sized platforming challenges, perhaps nowhere moreso than the sky world. Always felt of course that this was lost in Mario World, which ditched the speed for exploration.

    Speaking of the sky world, the double-tiered structure of the world, and that they made two separate levels for each way through the linking tower between each, totally blew my mind back in the day.

  6. I also prefer SMW to SMB3, but in my SNESophile ways that’s hardly surprising. I never played SMB3 until I’d played the crap out of SMW, and my SNES (which was my first console) came with All-Stars packed in. To me SMW was the gateway to my gaming hobby, so yea. Rose-tinted glasses or whatever, that’s my old school Mario of choice.

  7. Seconding Casey’s correction. Also, you couldn’t revisit completed levels in SMB3 (unless you Game Over’d or beat the game).

    Good feature though, and an interesting observation. Pity Nintendo’s gotten a bit TOO obsessed with incremental jiggering in the Zelda series at this point, but it’s sure worked well for the likes of Mario Galaxy.

  8. My memories: SMB3 had the best set of (and usage of) power-ups in a platformer ever. SMW had the best world map structure in a platformer ever. I guess this means it comes down to level design, which is excellent in both games. I’d probably have to spend more time playing them side-by-side and would still have a hard time choosing.

    Also, I… I don’t think I ever played the connecting tower in World 5 backwards. I need to rectify this oversight somehow. I think I may suddenly be in need of a copy of SMB3 for GBA or something…

  9. Dispute is a perfectly valid substitute for argue. You people are aware it has a verb form, right…?

    And yes, intent was a nonsensical broken “zut alors,” but thanks for caring.

  10. Yes, except “no one would argue that” means the opposite of “no one would dispute that.” i.e., “No one would argue that” means “no one would try to convince you that.”

  11. I think the nit-pickers are looking for the more negative connotation of “dispute”. You could also go with “no one would argue that it *isn’t* one of…” for the same effect. I have to admit it does read a little awkwardly as-is.

  12. Sorry about that! I could have sworn I hit preview and not post, and when I saw that in the time it took to write my comment other people had come back and clarified the same point, I thought “Oh, I won’t post that then.” And yet here it is!

  13. Oh what in the world. I clearly don’t have a handle on the comment system, as it apparently didn’t post what I thought it posted, and then apologized for. STOP LOOKING AT ME I’M SORRY.

  14. I loved Super Mario World. I’m pretty sure I have never played Super Mario Bros. 3. (Maybe once at a friend’s house, but I think I just watched.) (Yes, I had and have an NES.)

  15. Oh, wait, I thought you guys were saying I should have written argue instead of dispute, but I just checked the article. Yeah, OK, that’s poor phrasing. My copy editor is fired.

  16. no complaints here. This is was an excellent dissection of the game. I too prefer SMW but back in 1990 it just didnt get any better than this.

  17. Hahaha, I just finished writing a piece on Super Mario Bros. 3 for a website a few friends are dabbling in. ( I started off with the exact same sentiment: Super Mario Bros. 3 didn’t touch me as deeply as most NES fans of my era. I was always much more fond of SMW myself.

    Respek knuckles Parish.

  18. “I too prefer SMW but back in 1990 it just didnt get any better than this.”

    Yeah, it did. Ninja Gaiden 2.

  19. “Yeah, it did. Ninja Gaiden 2.”

    The judges would also accept Castlevania 3 & Clash at Demonhead as entrants in “amazing NES games of 1990 that still aren’t objectively better than Super Mario Bros. 3.”

  20. Oh sweet let’s have an argument that involves stating subjective opinions as absolute fact, because that never gets old or pointless.

  21. Can we? I mean I thought nostalgia was all about cultivating a smug sense of superiority!

    I’ll stop cluttering the comment thread now, and leave by saying the article was a fantastic read, as always.

  22. From the article: “Complete a stage and you’re free to move about the level map, advancing to a new stage, indulging in multiplayer battles, seeking treasures, or even revisiting previously conquered levels for extra spoils…”

    Wait a sec. Is my memory faulty, or is this in fact untrue? I was pretty sure that you couldn’t replay levels once you’d beaten them, with only a few exceptions (like the tower in Sky Land that connects the “ground” and “cloud” sections of the map).

  23. Parish, I think your smugness is well-deserved. The “first true Nintendo sequel” observation is deft, and easy to overlook after playing countless Mario platform games.

    I also appreciate how interesting details about the game’s design are developed naturally from one paragraph to the next. Nearly anything I read online is easily skimmable, as if 70-80% of the writing isn’t worth my time to read.

  24. Well, good. I’m not insane, then.

    I think it’s worth pointing out that your inability to go back and replay levels further adds to the “specialness” of ultra-rare items. SMW lets you try again and again until you’ve mined out every secret in a level. As for SMB3 — well, if you missed that Hammer Bros. Suit on your first visit, there’s nothing to do but dry your tears and soldier on.

  25. “Super Mario Bros. 3 was a first for Nintendo in many ways, but none more important than this: It was Nintendo’s first truly iterative work.”

    I take it you don’t count the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros 2?

  26. You’ll need to read about two sentences further into the article to learn the answer to that question.

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