Posted on April 10, 2013
My Top 100: #3 – Super Mario Bros. 3
After compiling a list of a hundred games I thought deserved to be on my countdown, I determined the order from #100 to #10 rather easily. “I like Title A more than Title B, but less than Title C.” That’s how I worked through my list, and even doing most of my top 10 was easy enough.
When it came to my top three, however, that’s when it got difficult. If there could be a three-way tie for first, I would be happy with that.
In good conscience, however, I can’t. I had to choose, and somehow figure out what these three games meant to me, and which one meant the most. That is, after all, what my countdown has been about from the get-go. These games are more to me than just several hours of gameplay; they were the defining games from various parts of my life, and I can still pick up and play any of them at any time, no matter what mood I’m in.
So that’s where Super Mario Bros. 3 fits in. Numéro trois. It feels somewhat low, but that’s just how it goes.
SMB2 was nothing like the first game, so it was only natural to assume SMB3 would change things up as well. In reality, the game actually went back to what made the original so fun – running, jumping, head-stomping and fire-spitting your way to defeating Bowser and rescuing Princess Toadstool.
But there was more to it than that… a lot more.
Sure, the Mushroom Kingdom was once again yours to explore, but it was friggin’ alive. After seeing the land map for the first time, I remember just sitting there and staring at it for a few minutes before going into the first stage. There were wandering Hammer Bros., dancing hills, mushroom huts, a castle moat… and what was this? Six stages in the first world? That was a wild concept. The first game had four stages per level, and the second usually had three per level… but six, and two castles??
If my Mario math was correct (even though my actual math was terrible those days), there’d be at least seven of these worlds. Whatever the hell seven times six was, I was in for quite the ride.
*I know there were more than six stages in later levels, I just didn’t know it at the time.*
Every world has a unique theme, and though the difficulty ramps up with every one, the challenges are always different. Whether it’s the brutal anxiety of swimming in World 3’s water levels with Big Bertha just a few pixels away, or the sweaty-palmed precision it takes when navigating World 7’s hundred-pipe stages, there are no two areas that feel the same. Never had the gaming world ever felt so vibrant and colourful, or seem so friggin’ big.
The game’s powerups were so random, too. The Super Mushroom and Fire Flower were back, and were joined by a few new ones as well. Flying around as Raccoon Mario was pretty awesome, but when the Frog Suit popped out of that treasure chest at the end of World 2, I no longer had any idea what to expect from the game. I mean, Frog Mario was pretty useless in the Desert World, but was pretty handy in future levels.
The Tanooki Suit’s random appearance didn’t seem to be too much out of the ordinary, but turning into a statue by pressing down and B didn’t make a whole lot of sense. It was pretty cool, though, and it could be pretty useful.
My “THIS GAME JUST WENT FROM AWESOME TO RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME” moment came some time during World 7, when I first got the Hammer Suit. Hammer Suit Mario is actually pretty useless – the arc of his projectiles was a bit tough to get used to, and I didn’t seem to last very long whenever I had that power up. Still, there was something incredibly badass about actually being one of the fearsome Hammer Bros.
I could go on and on about how the game plays, or how all the little things like the White Toad Houses, Treasure Ships and Kuribo’s Shoe kept you guessing, but for the sake of the blog, I won’t. Super Mario Bros. 3 was such a leap forward that pretty much every platformer released afterwards tried to emulate it somehow.
It was definitely Nintendo’s crowning achievement on the NES!
Ahhhh 1990. It was a pretty memorable year for me, and the decade it kicked off was quite fantastic as well; Crystal Pepsi, Full House, Jurassic Park, the ridiculousness of the OJ Simpson murder trial, and most importantly, the Blue Jays and Red Wings both winning back-to-back championships. There were a bunch of other things that made the 90’s awesome, but let’s focus on ’90 and the beginning of my love affair with Super Mario Bros. 3.
That was the year I remember going to Newfoundland to see my father’s side of the family. I had seen them a few times when they’d come to New Brunswick for a visit, and I had actually made the trip over as a toddler, but this was the first time I’d get a “grand tour” of the island from Mom and Dad.
Unfortunately, the trip became memorable for all the wrong reasons.
There are two ferry rides to Newfoundland; one lasts about 8 hours, but leads you to the opposite side of the island with a much longer drive to St. John’s; the other ferry takes about 14 hours, but with a much shorter drive afterwards. Thankfully, we had chosen the short ferry ride with the longer drive.
Some might think a relaxing ride on a boat in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence would be preferreable to a cramped ten-hour car ride. I got pretty violently ill during the second half of the ferry ride, though, and it often had me (to quote Bill Cosby) with my face in a place that was not built for my face.
The majority of people my parents were making idle chit-chat with, including the ferry’s Captain, said I just had a typical case of seasickness. The Captain even said “ah, he’ll be fine after he gets sick a few more times”. He also said we should head to one of the lower sections of the boat, just so that I wouldn’t feel the effects of the waves as much.
I can still picture that lounging room down below; very dark, everyone facing one direction, and paper barf bags in a slot behind the seat in front of us. One of the kids in the family sitting up front let me play Golf for Game Boy, which was the first time I played Nintendo’s hand held.
A day or two after getting to Port-aux-Basques and hitting the road to St. John’s, I was still quite sick. During our hotel stays, in-between pukes, I tried to relax and get my mind off things by playing through Super Mario Bros. 3. It was in one of those hotels that I made it as far as the Pipe Maze for the first time, without even having to pause the game to puke! I got to that level with the Arrow Lift, the one you jump on to change directions… then paused the game so I could go puke.
It was an amazing trip, and quite memorable despite the stomach bug. We went back to Newfoundland two years later for a family reunion, but didn’t take the whole scenic trip around the island.
I’m definitely hoping to take the long way around again some day soon, even if it means packing the Gravol.