The Anatomy of Super Mario: XXXIII. Please hammer don’t hurt ’em

And here you earn your doctorate. World 8-3 is pretty straightforward, both in its design and its intentions: It simply hates you and wants you to be dead.

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You fight Hammer Bros. here. Not a couple, nor a couple of pair of them; Hammer Bros. comprise the vast majority of enemies in this stage.¬†Backing them up are a ton of Bullet Bill launchers and a handful of Koopas. Make no mistake, though, it’s the Hammer Bros. that make this stage the hell that it is. You can tell you’re at the perimeter of Bowser’s castle here, as the background consists largely of fortress walls and parapets. Also, as I may have mentioned, all you fight are Hammer Bros. We’re talking “last line of defense” here.

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By now you should be familiar with all the Hammer Bros.’s tricks, but that doesn’t make them any easier. We’re a long way from the mercy invincibility of their debut, and instead you’re forced to fight wave after wave of the guys. The first two pairs appear in their basic setup, leaping between parallel rows of bricks. These two encounters are a mercy, because you can get beneath them pretty easily to knock them out — and once they’re gone, you can collect a power-up from the top row of bricks. It’s not too difficult, with cautious play, to beef yourself back up to Fiery Mario here.

Admittedly, cautious play isn’t exactly a breeze to pull off in this stage. The clock on World 8-3 is painfully limited, so there’s not much room for dawdling. The Bullet Bill launchers and Piranha Plants throughout the stage minimize the amount of safe ground you can count on, and when those aren’t around you’re facing Hammer Bros. There isn’t much room to breathe at this point. At least you’ve left behind the insanely difficult jumps; once you clear the huge pit in World 8-2, the remainder of the game takes place on more stable ground.

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By far the most difficult Hammer Bros. in the entire game are the four that appear in the second half of World 8-3. You’ve faced one of the Bros. on flat ground before, but never this many in a row. There’s no room for error, despite the slightly random nature of their attacks. The one mercy is that you could potentially have built up to Fiery Mario in the first half of the stage, which trivializes the Hammer Bros.’s attacks — in fact, on flat ground, they’re incredibly easy to take out given that they have nowhere to jump to avoid your fireballs.

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Realistically, though, actually powering up to that point is pretty tough. This stage is meant to be long and grueling… and also hurried and frantic. And once you’ve made it through the rain of hammers and bullets, it’s just you and Bowser. Well, and a ludicrously involved final stage, but who’s counting?

7 thoughts on “The Anatomy of Super Mario: XXXIII. Please hammer don’t hurt ’em

  1. You may or may not have already mentioned this, but one of the toughest aspects of the World 8 stages is that you have to do them all in one go; unless I’m mistaken, none of them give you a mid-level checkpoint.

    When I last played SMB for the NES’s 25th anniversary, I realized what you mentioned here: that there are two power-ups in the first part of the level, and holding onto both of them makes the ground-based Hammer Bros. far more approachable.

    Looking forward to the grand finale!

  2. I always loved how the climb up to the flag is functionally the same as in 8-1, yet so much more intimidating because the blocks are just floating there.

  3. I’ve really enjoyed these. I know your initial fear was that SMB is probably the most analyzed videogame. But I’m not aware of anyone else who has gone into such depth in each level, and looked at those levels in the context of the entire game.

  4. You do have to work to earn it (It’s easy to screw up the second set when you can bust blocks), but as long you don’t rush too quickly or fall off during the end ascent 8-3 is in the bag once you get the Fire Flower.

    Like 8-2’s 1UP before the big jump it’s another time where World 8’s Checkpoint Embargo pays off, since it’s a pretty short stage and no checkpoint means that until you blow through your lives you always have another shot at going Fire Mario each time you die.

  5. Isn’t world 8-3 the only level where they can drop from the top tier all the way to the ground? All the other appearances they can only jump from top, to middle, to ground. Here they can skip the middle layer unannounced and land right on you.
    Barbaric.

  6. @RS: Actually that’s standard for all Hammer Bros. in Super Mario Bros. and Lost Levels. Randomly jumping from the top layer to the ground isn’t an 8-3 exclusive skill, it’s just how they work.

    Still, with the proper timing in block hitting you can bash any asshole who attempts landing on top of you like that. It’s risky, but it works.

  7. @ vaterite
    Not exactly the same functionally, having floating blocks instead of columns means a missed jump can’t be saved with the wall jump glitch.

    Of course, an average SMB player probably won’t know about that. Even if you know how, it takes perfect timing to pull off. :)

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