Super Mario Bros. 3

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Super Mario Bros. 3
Super Mario Bros. 3 coverart.png
The cover art depicts Mario, the main protagonist, flying with the ears and tail of a Japanese raccoon dog, obtained from the new "Super Leaf" item.
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D4
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Shigeru Miyamoto
Takashi Tezuka
Producer(s) Shigeru Miyamoto
Composer(s) Koji Kondo
Series Super Mario
Platform(s) Famicom/NES, PlayChoice-10, Game Boy Advance, Virtual Console
Release date(s) Famicom/NES
  • JP October 23, 1988
  • NA February 12, 1990
  • PAL August 29, 1991
Virtual Console
  • NA November 5, 2007
  • PAL November 9, 2007
  • JP December 11, 2007
  • JP January 1, 2013
  • PAL December 26, 2013
  • NA April 17, 2014
Wii U
  • JP December 25, 2013
  • PAL December 26, 2013
  • NA April 17, 2014
Genre(s) Platforming
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Super Mario Bros. 3 (スーパーマリオブラザーズ3 Sūpā Mario Burazāzu Surī?) is a platform video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Famicom/NES, and is the third game in the Super Mario series. The game was released in Japan in 1988, in the United States in 1990, and in Europe in 1991. Development was handled by Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development, led by Shigeru Miyamoto, who directed the game along with Takashi Tezuka.

The game focuses on Mario and his brother Luigi, who embark on a quest to save Princess Toadstool and the rulers of seven different kingdoms from the series' primary antagonist, Bowser, and his children, the Koopalings. The two must traverse a total of eight separate regions in order to restore order to the Mushroom World. Super Mario Bros. 3 builds on the gameplay of previous Mario games by introducing new power-ups used to augment character abilities, establishing several conventions that have also been featured in later titles of the franchise.

Before its North American release, gameplay footage from Super Mario Bros. 3 appeared in the Universal Studios film The Wizard, which helped to fuel anticipation amongst fans. The game was an instant commercial success, ultimately becoming one of the best-selling video games of all time. Super Mario Bros. 3 was also well received by critics and has ranked highly in numerous "greatest games of all time" lists. The title's popularity resulted in a short-lived animated television show, and it has since been ported to several of Nintendo's later consoles – notably as part of Super Mario All-Stars for the SNES, which featured an updated version that would also subsequently be used for Super Mario Advance 4.


Super Mario Bros. 3 is a two-dimensional platform game in which the player controls the on-screen protagonist (either Mario or Luigi) from a third-person perspective. The game shares similar game mechanics with previous titles in the series—Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, and Super Mario Bros. 2—but introduces several new elements. In addition to the running and jumping moves found in past games, the player can fly and float with the aid of special items, slide down slopes, and execute new types of jumps.[1] Super Mario Bros. 3 is set after the events of previous games. Mario and Luigi embark on a mission on behalf of Princess Toadstool to stop Bowser and his children—the Koopalings—from terrorizing the kings of seven regions in the Mushroom World. The Koopalings stole the kings' magic wands and transformed them into animals.[2] Each region serves as a game world that is divided into stage levels, and an eighth region is included as the final world, Dark Land. The eight worlds feature distinct visual themes; for example, the second world, "Desert Land", contains sand-covered levels with pyramids, while the levels in the fourth world, "Giant Land", are populated with obstacles and enemies four times as large as other worlds.[3]

Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced several suits to alter the character's abilities. For example, Mario can use the "Frog Suit" to swim more easily in water, but will move more slowly on land.

The player navigates through the game via two game screens: an overworld map and a level playfield. The overworld map displays an overhead representation of the current world and has several paths leading from the world's entrance to a castle. Paths connect to action panels, fortresses and other map icons, and allow players to take different routes to reach the world's goal. Moving the on-screen character to an action panel or fortress will allow access to that level's playfield, a linear stage populated with obstacles and enemies. The majority of the game takes place in these levels, with the player traversing the stage by running, jumping, flying, swimming, and dodging or defeating enemies.[4][5][6]

Super Mario Bros. 3 featured a world map that would be seen again in future Mario titles.

Completing stages allows the player to progress through the overworld map and to succeeding worlds. Each world features a final stage with a boss to defeat; the first seven worlds feature an airship controlled by one of the Koopalings, while the player battles Bowser in his castle in the eighth world. Other map icons include large boulders and locked doors that impede paths, and special minigames that provide the player a chance to obtain special power-ups. A new feature is the player's option to save power-up items obtained in minigames for later use via a menu accessible at the overworld screen.This is the only place power-ups can be given to small characters, as in levels this simply makes them bigger.[4][5]

In addition to special items from previous games like the "Super Mushroom" and "Fire Flower", new power-ups are introduced that provide the player with new options. Items vary in scarcity; for example, 1-up mushrooms, which give the player an extra attempt to play after the character dies, are abundant, while the "magic whistle", which enables the player to bypass certain worlds, only appears three times in the game.[7] The "Super Leaf" and "Tanooki Suit" give Mario racoon and tanuki appearances respectively and allow him to fly or turn into stone to avoid enemies for a short period of time. Changing into a Tanooki statue while jumping results in Mario pounding the ground and killing whatever enemies are directly under him; this marks the first appearance of the "ground pound" move in a Mario game, a move that was later given to Yoshi in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island and that later became part of Mario's standard move set in Super Mario 64 and subsequent games. Other suits include the "Frog Suit", which increases the character's underwater speed and agility and improves jumping height on land, and the "Hammer Suit", which gives Mario the appearance of the Hammer Bro. enemy and allows him to throw hammers at enemies and resist fire attacks. Some abilities provided by the suits are intended to give the player more navigation options in stages. For example, the Frog Suit allows the player to access underwater pipes, and the Tanooki Suit can temporarily transform Mario into an invincible statue, reducing the threat of damage.[4][5][8] Additionally in level 5-3 Mario can gain a power-up known as the Kuribo's boot or Goomba's Shoe. This item allows him to stomp on spiked enemies, munchers, which are common in levels with it, and terrain. However, Mario loses this item at the end of the level, as it is an item which Mario carries, rather than an intrinsic power-up.[9]

Super Mario Bros. 3 includes a multiplayer option which allows two players to cooperatively play the game by taking turns at navigating the overworld map and accessing stage levels; the first player controls Mario, while the other controls Luigi. Through this mode, players can also access several minigames, including a remake of the original Mario Bros. arcade game, in which one player has the opportunity to steal the cards of another but may lose their turn if they lose the minigame.[10]


Super Mario Bros. 3 was developed by Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development, and took more than two years to complete.[11][12] Developer Shigeru Miyamoto directed the designers and programmers, working with them closely during the initial concepts and final stages, encouraging a free interchange of ideas. Miyamoto considered intriguing and original ideas to be key to creating a successful game.[11]

The game was designed to appeal to players of varying skill levels. To assist less skilled players, bonus coins and 1-ups are more abundant in earlier worlds, while later worlds present more complex challenges for more experienced players. In the two-player mode, the players alternate turns to balance play time.[11] The development team introduced new power-ups and concepts that would give Mario the appearance of different creatures as a means of providing him with new abilities. An early idea changed Mario into a centaur, but was dropped in favor of a raccoon tail that allows limited flying ability.[11][12] Other costumes with different abilities were added to his repertoire, and levels were designed to take advantage of these abilities.[13] New enemies were included to add diversity to the game, along with variants of previous enemies, such as Goombas, Hammer Bros., and Koopa Troopas.[12][13] The real life experiences of Miyamoto and his staff provided the inspiration for new enemies. For example, the idea for the Chain Chomp enemies (spherical, dog-like creatures) came from a bad experience Miyamoto had with a dog as a child.[11] Bowser's children were designed to be unique in appearance and personality; Miyamoto based the characters on seven of his programmers as a tribute to their work and efforts.[11][12] The Koopalings' names were later altered to mimic names of well-known, Western celebrities in the English localization.[12] These names are Wendy O., Morton Jr., Larry, Iggy, Ludwig von., Lemmy and Roy Koopa.

The character graphics were created by using a special graphics machine ("Character Generator Computer Aided Design") that generated a collection of all the graphical shapes used in the game. Shapes in the collection were assigned numbers that the game's code uses to access in real time, and are combined to form complete images on the screen in real time.[11] The Super Mario Bros. 3 cartridge uses Nintendo's custom MMC3 (memory management controller) ASIC to enhance the NES capabilities. The MMC3 chip allows for animated tiles, extra RAM for diagonal scrolling, and a scanline timer to split the screen. The game uses these functions to split the game screen into two portions, a playfield on the top and a status bar on the bottom, allowing the top portion to scroll as the character navigates the stage while the bottom portion remains static to display text and other information.[14]

During 1988, a shortage of ROM chips, along with Nintendo of America's preparation of a version of Super Mario Bros. 2 for Western gamers, prevented Nintendo from performing various North American game releases according to their original schedules. The delayed products included Super Mario Bros. 3 and, according to Nintendo Power, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.[15] The delay, however, presented Nintendo with an opportunity to promote the game in a feature film. In 1989, Tom Pollack of Universal Studios approached Nintendo of America's marketing department about a video game movie; inspired by Nintendo video game competitions, Pollack envisioned a video game version of Tommy for younger audiences. Nintendo licensed its products for inclusion in what would become the film The Wizard. During the movie's production, the filmmakers requested and were granted approval from Nintendo regarding the script and portrayal of the company's games.[16] Super Mario Bros. 3 was one of the products shown in the film, and was used in a final scene involving a video game competition.[16][17] The film was released in December 1989 between the Japanese and English versions of the game.[18]


Review scores
Publication Score
Allgame 5/5 stars[19]
GameSpot 9.0/10[20]
IGN 9.5/10[21]
Mean Machines 98%[4]
The Video Game Critic A+[22]

The game has received critical acclaim by the video game press. Julian Rignall of Mean Machines referred to Super Mario Bros. 3 as the "finest video game" he had ever played, citing its addictiveness, depth, and challenge. A second Mean Machines reviewer, Matt Regan, anticipated the game would be a top-selling title in the United Kingdom, and echoed Rignall's praise calling it a "truly brilliant game". Regan further stated that the game offered elements which tested the player's "brains and reflexes", and that though the graphics were simple, they were "incredibly varied".[4] In a preview of the game, Nintendo Power gave it high marks in graphics, audio, challenge, gameplay, and enjoyability.[5] Edge magazine considered Super Mario Bros. 3 Nintendo's standout title of 1989, and commented that its success outshone the first Super Mario Bros.'s sales milestone; the first title sold 40 million copies, but was bundled with the NES.[23] They lauded the overworld map as an elegant alternative to a menu to select levels.[24] Allgame's Skyler Miller praised many of the game's elements: level design, graphics, music, and nonlinearity.[6] Dengeki referred to the game as a popular title and expressed excitement over its rerelease on the Game Boy Advance system.[25] The in-game, hidden items were a well-received element.[26] Rignall considered them a component of the game's addictiveness, and Sheff stated that finding the secret items in the game, such as the whistles, provided a sense of satisfaction.[4][27] GamesRadar ranked it the best NES game ever made. The staff claimed that while Super Mario Bros. defined its genre, Super Mario Bros. 3 perfected it.[28]

Criticism focused on different aspects of the game. Miller considered the exclusion of a system to save progress a drawback, while Rignall described the audio and visuals as being outdated compared to games on the new Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).[4][6]

Super Mario Bros. 3 has appeared on numerous top video game lists. The game debuted on Nintendo Power's Top 30 list at number 20 in September 1989.[29] It entered the list's top 10 a few months later and reached number one in May 1990.[30][31] Super Mario Bros. 3 remained within the top 20 for more than five years.[32] More than a decade later, the magazine ranked the game number six on their list of 200 Greatest Nintendo Games.[33] In August 2008, Nintendo Power listed Super Mario Bros. 3 as the second best Nintendo Entertainment System video game, praising it for making the series more complex and introducing new abilities that have since become signature abilities in the series.[34] The game placed 11th, behind Super Mario Bros., in Official Nintendo Magazine's "100 greatest Nintendo games of all time".[35] In 2007, ScrewAttack called Super Mario Bros. 3 the best Mario game in the series as well as the best game on the NES, citing the graphics, power-ups, secrets, and popularity, summing it up as "just incredible" and stating, "If you haven't experienced this greatness, we pity you".[26][36] In a poll conducted by Dengeki, it tied with Super Mario World as the number three video game their readers first played.[37] The game has been ranked on several of IGN's lists of "top games". In 2005, they rated it 23rd among their Top 100 Games, and praised the precise and intuitive controls.[38] IGN editors from the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia ranked Super Mario Bros. 3 number 39 in their 2007 Top 100 Games, citing Miyamoto's "ingenious" designs. They further commented that the game improved on the "already-brilliant concepts" of the previous titles with new power-ups and enemies.[12] Users and readers of the website placed the game high on similar lists: 32nd in 2005 and 21st in 2006.[39][40] In 2007, it was included in the "game canon", a list of the ten most important video games selected by a committee to preserve key titles within the industry.[41] In 2009, Game Informer put Super Mario Bros. 3 9th on their list of "The Top 200 Games of All Time", saying that it is "a game with incredible lasting power that we won't soon forget".[42] This is down one place from Game Informer's previous ranking in 2001.[43] Edge ranked the game #20 on its list of "The 100 Best Games To Play Today", calling it "the one 8-bit game that still shines today, no caveats required."[44] UGO listed Super Mario Bros. 3 on their list of the "Top 50 Games That Belong On the 3DS", calling it "Arguably the greatest Mario game ever made."[45] GameSpot placed the game in their list of the greatest games of all time.[46]


Super Mario Bros. 3 was a commercial success and became one of the video game industry's best-selling games.[13] Its inclusion in The Wizard served as a preview and generated a high level of anticipation in the United States prior to its release.[18][47] Levi Buchanan of IGN considered Super Mario Bros. 3's appearance in the film as a show-stealing element, and referred to the movie as a "90-minute commercial" for the game.[48] By 1993, the game had sold 4 and 7 million units in Japan and the United States respectively. In the United States alone, the game generated over US$500 million in revenue for Nintendo. Author David Sheff commented that, in music industry terms, the game went platinum 11 times.[49] In 2008, Guinness World Records listed the game as the best-selling video game to be sold separately from a system, and reported worldwide sales of over 18 million copies.[50] Game Informer reported in their October 2009 issue that the Virtual Console version had sold one million copies.[42] As of 2011, Super Mario Bros. 3 remains the highest-grossing non-bundled home video game to date, having grossed $1.7 billion, inflation adjusted.[51]


In the television series The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, the appearances and names of the Koopalings were altered from their original form in the video game.

Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced several elements which were carried over to subsequent Mario titles.[35] A similar overworld map is used in Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros., and Mario's ability to fly has been a feature in such games as Super Mario World, Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy.[12][52][53] The game's 'Super Leaf' item has returned in more recent Mario titles for the Nintendo 3DS, like Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7 and New Super Mario Bros. 2. Bowser's red hair was first popularized in the game (though it was originally added in Super Mario Bros.: Peach-Hime Kyushutsu Dai Sakusen! in 1986), and has since become a part of his standard appearance.[12] Through a collaboration between NBC and Nintendo of America, an animated television series titled The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 was created in 1990 by DIC Entertainment. The show aired weekly and featured numerous characters, enemies, and settings from the video game; the original seven Koopalings are given different names based on their given personalities and are also given a new age order.[54] Other Nintendo products have included various elements from the game as well. Music from Super Mario Bros. 3 appears as a track on Nintendo Sound Selection Koopa, a collection of songs from Nintendo games.[55] The game's stages and graphics comprise a background theme in the 2006 Nintendo DS game Tetris DS.[56][57] The Koopalings are also world bosses in Super Mario World, Mario is Missing!, Yoshi's Safari, Hotel Mario and all New Super Mario Bros. games except New Super Mario Bros..[58][59] Boom Boom, another boss from this game, additionally reappears in Super Mario 3D Land and Super Mario 3D World, alongside a boomerang-wielding female counterpart named Pom Pom.


The game has been ported to several other Nintendo consoles. In 1993, it was included in Super Mario All-Stars, a SNES compilation of enhanced remakes of NES Mario games.[60]

Super Mario All-Stars was ported to the Wii in 2010, released as Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Edition to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of Super Mario Bros. It was released in Japan on October 21, 2010 and in all other regions in December 2010, distributed in Wii optical disc format. The game disc contains an emulation of the original SNES ROM image as is, with support for the Wii Remote, Classic Controller, and GameCube controllers.[61] A 32-page booklet detailing the history of the Super Mario franchise and an audio CD containing music from each Super Mario game were bundled with the game disc.[62] The game sold 307,755 copies in its first week, selling more copies than any other title that week. The 25th Anniversary Edition has since sold 2.24 million units worldwide.[63]

A Game Boy Advance version, Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3, was released in 2003, and included several updates.[64][65] It features similar graphics to the SNES remake (the release was a port of the SNES version) along with a larger color palette and parallax scrolling, although the latter not to the same extent. The Mario Bros. minigame allows up to four players instead of two, and the Nintendo e-Reader peripheral gives the player access to walkthrough demonstrations as well as new items and levels.[65] In late 2007, Super Mario Bros. 3 was released on Wii through the Virtual Console service, featuring the original graphics and gameplay of the NES version.[66][67]


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External links[edit]