Super Mario Bros. 3 was the first video game I ever had, and it was my favorite for a long time. The nostalgia actually goes back to before I got it; a couple of friends of mine had the strategy guide, which I think I read cover to cover before I actually played the game. The themed worlds were cool, and the enemies were even cooler. Mario himself isn’t the most intriguing character, and the game isn’t rich in awesome tunes like Mega Man games are (although I hadn’t heard of Mega Man at this point), but the world and characters and the epic feel to the whole thing made up for all that.
I don’t think I ever expected to actually beat the game when I got it, but after I beat Mario 2, I decided to give it a shot. I was very methodical about avoiding the dangers of Dark Land – my strategy was to collect as many P-wings and Jugem’s Clouds as I could so I could skip most of the final world. (To be specific, I’d get P-wings from the white Toad’s house in World 1 and the airship of that world, and a Jugem’s Cloud from World 2. Then I’d get the frog suit near the start of World 3 and warp to World 5, where I’d get a bunch more items. Then I’d warp to World 7 and pretty much immediately to World 8. [I didn’t realize you can warp from an early area of the warp zone to World 8 directly.] This way I could fly over the Dark Land airships and level 1, and use the Jugem’s Cloud on the mini-fortress. The frog suit was to make it easier to swim under the boats.)
Once I beat the game, I eventually went and explored the other worlds. I had actually never been to Giant Land until after beating the game, so that kind of thing added replay value. One time I actually beat the game straight through, without warping. It took a very long time though; level-wise, I think Mario 3 is still the longest Mario game (although some of the levels are very short).
I had some time on my hands last week, so I decided to play through the game again, start to finish. I decided to beat every level, and to avoid using any P-wings or Jugem’s Clouds. And of course no Game Overs. (This was on an emulator, so I play it over several days. I still have my licensed copy of the game, though.) It was fun. I got to re-discover some things I had forgotten, although I did remember a lot of the tricks. Here are some notes from the experience:
- It was definitely easier than I remember. I did the trick in World 3 where you rack up 99 lives by bouncing a Koopa shell between two Bullet Bill Blasters. This is a good idea for a “new explorer”, but in my case I think it was a mistake. It was a long time before my number of lives dropped below 95, which means the extra lives I earned in-between were wasted and not satisfying at all. (You can’t get more than 99). The last two worlds were still tricky, and I ended with 75 lives. I’m quite certain I would have gotten the number up past 30 before that, though.
- Speaking of easy, I ended up not using items on the map screen very often either. Maybe a more interesting challenge would have been to beat the game without visiting any Toad’s Houses or N-spade games, although the rare suits are fun. (You can get them in some levels, but holding onto them is really hard.)
- I think I might have found a more optimal “safe” path through the game than what I was doing before. After beating World 2 (which isn’t very hard for someone taking on World 8), I might warp to World 4, where you can get a P-wing and a Jugem’s Cloud early on from the Sledge Brothers. Then you could use the remaining whistles to go to World 8, or maybe World 7 for another easy Toad’s House. Of course you could also just beat that world and get some more items from World 5.
- This was the original NES version, of course. The Mario All-Stars remakes are cool, but I don’t think you would appreciate them without knowing the originals, especially since the Super Nintendo graphics themselves look out of date by today’s standards.
Final note: Mario 3 has a really epic-feeling ending song – still my favorite from any game, I think. It ties in the feel of the whole game while you see a brief review of the different worlds, leaving you with a sense of having accomplished something big, mixed with a bit if wistfulness that it’s over. (Contra does a great job of that too, but Contra isn’t nearly as cool.)