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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) Takashi Tezuka[1]
Producer(s) Shigeru Miyamoto
Programmer(s) Toshihiko Nakago
Artist(s) Takashi Tezuka
Hideki Konno
Hiroyuki Kimura
Composer(s) Koji Kondo
Series Super Mario
Platform(s) Nintendo Entertainment System, PlayChoice-10, Game Boy Advance
Genre(s) Platforming
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Super Mario Bros. 3[a] is a platform video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was first released in Japan on October 23, 1988, and later in North America on February 12, 1990. The game was developed by Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development, led by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka. Enhanced remakes were later released on the Super NES in 1993 and the Game Boy Advance in 2003. The game has been re-released as a Virtual Console title for the Wii, Nintendo 3DS, and Wii U consoles.

Super Mario Bros. 3 centers on plumbers Mario and Luigi who embark on a quest to save Princess Toadstool and the rulers of seven different kingdoms from the antagonist Bowser and his children, the Koopalings. The player, as Mario or Luigi, is able to defeat enemies by stomping them or using items that bestow magical powers. Mario and Luigi are given a wider range of abilities than in previous Super Mario games, including flying or sliding down slopes. In addition, Super Mario Bros. 3 introduces numerous elements, such as new enemy characters and the use of a world map to transition between levels, that have reappeared in or have influenced subsequent Mario games.

Super Mario Bros. 3 is acclaimed by critics as one of the greatest video games of all time,[5][6][7] and was a commercial success upon its release. Super Mario Bros. 3 is the third-best-selling NES game, having sold over 17 million copies worldwide. The popularity of the game also inspired a short-lived animated television series.


Super Mario Bros. 3 is a two-dimensional, side-scrolling platform game in which the player controls the on-screen protagonist: either Mario or Luigi. The game shares similar gameplay mechanics with previous titles in the series—Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, and Super Mario Bros. 2—and introduces several new elements. In addition to the running and jumping moves found in past games, the player can slide down slopes, pick up and throw special blocks, and freely climb up and down vines. In addition, with power-ups, Mario can fly and float.[8] The game world consists of eight "kingdoms" that are each subdivided into multiple levels. 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 twice their normal size.[9]

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 kingdom 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 kingdom'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.[10][11][12]

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 mini-games and bonus screens that provide the player a chance to obtain special power-ups and additional lives. Power-ups obtained in these mini-games are stored in a reserve until activated by the player from the map screen.[10][11]

In addition to special items from previous games like the "Super Mushroom" and the "Fire Flower", new power-ups are introduced that provide the player with new options. The "Super Leaf" and "Tanooki Suit" give Mario raccoon and tanooki appearances respectively and allow him to fly; the "Tanooki Suit" enables him to 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.[13] Other suits include the "Frog Suit", which increases the character's underwater speed and agility and improves the 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 (when crouching).

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 (a palette swap of Mario). Through this mode, players can access several mini-games, 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 mini-game.[14]

Plot and characters[edit]

The plot of Super Mario Bros. 3 is described in the instruction booklet. The Mushroom World, the setting of the game, is invaded by the Koopalings, Bowser's seven children. The Koopalings conquer each of the seven kingdoms by stealing its king's magical wand and using it to transform him into an animal. Princess Toadstool sends Mario and Luigi to travel to each kingdom, retrieve the stolen wand, and restore its king to normal.[15]

Mario and Luigi receive notes and special items from Princess Toadstool after rescuing each of the first six kings. When they rescue the seventh king, they instead receive a note from Bowser, boasting that he has kidnapped Toadstool and imprisoned her within the castle of his own realm, Dark Land.[16] The brothers travel through Dark Land, enter his castle, and defeat Bowser in a battle. The game ends with Toadstool being freed from the castle.[17]

On September 10, 2015, Miyamoto confirmed a fan theory stating that the entirety of Super Mario Bros. 3 takes place as a stage play. The game's title screen features a stage curtain being drawn open, and during the game obstacles are seen hanging from off-screen catwalks, objects are bolted to the background, and certain objects cast shadows on the skyline. When Mario finishes a level, he walks off the stage.[18]


Beginning development shortly after the release of Super Mario Bros. 2,[19] Super Mario Bros. 3 was developed by Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development, a team that consisted of more than ten people, and took more than two years to complete.[5][20] Developer Shigeru Miyamoto served as director. He worked closely with the designers and programmers during the conceptual and final stages, encouraging a free interchange of ideas. Miyamoto considered intriguing and original ideas to be key to creating a successful game.[20] Originally, the team intended for the game to be played from an isometric point of view, but the developers found that this made it too difficult to position jumps, so the game kept to the 2D side view used in previous games. Some elements of the game were left over from this concept, such as the checkered floor present in the game’s opening cutscene.[19]

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.[20] 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.[5][20] Other costumes with different abilities were added to his repertoire, and levels were designed to take advantage of these abilities.[21] New enemies were included to add diversity to the game, along with variants of previous enemies, such as Goombas, Hammer Bros., and Koopa Troopas.[5][21]

Some of the enemies designed for Super Mario Bros. 3 were inspired by the team's personal experiences. For example, Miyamoto stated that the Chain Chomp enemy, a tethered ball and chain creature that lunges at the player when in close proximity, was based on a "bad [childhood] experience" he had with a dog.[20] Bowser's children, the Koopalings, 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.[5][20] Nintendo of America named the Koopalings after well-known musicians; for example, the characters "Ludwig von Koopa" and "Roy Koopa" are named after Ludwig van Beethoven and Roy Orbison respectively.[22]

The character graphics were created with 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, and are combined to form complete images on the screen in real time.[20] 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 scan line 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.[23]

Like its predecessors, the music in Super Mario Bros. 3 was composed by Koji Kondo, who composed several new songs as well as returning melodies from Super Mario Bros. According to Kondo, who had composed the music in Super Mario Bros. based on what he believed fit the levels rather than focusing on composing a specific genre of music, the game was the most difficult game for him to compose.[24] Kondo experimented with several different genres of music, unsure of how to follow up the music from the first game after hearing from several people that it sounded a lot like latin or fusion music,[19] and came up with several different melodies throughout its development before settling on what ultimately made it into the game.[24] The development team chose not to feature music on the game's title screen, as it was felt to be unnecessary.[24]

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.[25] 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.[26] 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.[26][27] The film was released in December 1989, between the Japanese and English versions of the game.[28]


Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 97.50% (6 reviews)[29]
Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame NES: 5/5 stars[12]
CVG NES: 98/100[30]
GameSpot Wii: 9/10[31]
IGN Wii: 9.5/10[32]
Mean Machines NES: 98%[10]

Upon release, the game was lauded by the video game press. It was widely considered to be one of the best games released for the NES. Computer and Video Games editors Paul Rand, Tim Boone and Frank O'Connor awarded the game a 98/100, praising it for its gameplay, replayability, sound, and graphics. Boone commented that the game is nearly flawless in its utterly "stupendous incredibility and absolutely impossible to put down for anything less than a fire alarm – and even then you find yourself weighting down the odds." Rand called Super Mario Bros. 3 the best video game ever, labeling it "the Mona Lisa of gaming" and stating that it is "astoundingly brilliant in every way, shape and form." O'Connor stated that the game "makes Sonic the Hedgehog look like a wet Sunday morning and even gives the [Super] Famicom's [Super Mario World] a run for its money."[30]

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".[10] In a preview of the game, Nintendo Power gave it high marks in graphics, audio, challenge, gameplay, and enjoyability.[11]

Super Mario Bros. 3 has received universal acclaim from modern critics who consider the title to be one of the best games of all time. Edge 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.[33] They lauded the overworld map as an elegant alternative to a menu to select levels.[34] Allgame's Skyler Miller praised the game's level design, graphics, music, and nonlinearity.[12] Dengeki referred to the game as a popular title and expressed excitement over its re-release on the Game Boy Advance system.[35] The items hidden in the game's levels, such as the warp whistles, were well-received: Rignall regarded them as part of the game's addictiveness, and Sheff stated that finding them provided a sense of satisfaction.[10][36] Both Screw Attack and GamesRadar ranked it the best NES game made. GamesRadar claimed that while Super Mario Bros. defined its genre, Super Mario Bros. 3 perfected it.[7][37]

Criticism focused on particular aspects of the game. Miller considered the inability to save progress a drawback since gamers will have to play the entire game in one sitting if they wish to complete it.[12] Rignall described the audio and visuals as being outdated in comparison to games on the Mega Drive and Super NES (the latter platform having already been launched in other regions by the time Super Mario Bros. 3 was released in Europe).[10]


Super Mario Bros. 3 was a commercial success and became a best-selling game.[21] Its inclusion in The Wizard served as a preview and generated a high level of anticipation in the United States prior to its release.[28][38] 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.[39] By 1993, the game had sold 4 and 7 million unbundled 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.[40] Including bundled units, the NES version of the game sold over 17 million copies.[41] 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, adjusted for inflation.[43]


Super Mario Bros. 3 is credited for popularizing the use of overworld maps in the Mario series.

Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced several elements which were carried over to subsequent Mario titles.[44] 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 games such as Super Mario World, Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy.[5][45][46] 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 and has since become a part of his standard appearance.[5]

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.[47] 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.[48] The game's stages and graphics comprise a background theme in the 2006 Nintendo DS game Tetris DS.[49] 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.[50][51] 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.[52] Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of the four games represented in Super Mario Maker.

Super Mario Bros. 3 has appeared on numerous top video game lists. The game debuted on Nintendo Power's Top 30 best games ever list at number 20 in September 1989.[6] It entered the list's top 10 a few months later and reached number one in May 1990.[53][54] Super Mario Bros. 3 remained within the top 20 for more than five years.[55] More than a decade later, the magazine ranked the game number six on their list of 200 Greatest Nintendo Games.[56] In August 2008, Nintendo Power listed Super Mario Bros. 3 as the second best NES video game, praising it for making the series more complex and introducing new abilities that have since become signature abilities in the series.[57] The game placed 11th, behind Super Mario Bros., in Official Nintendo Magazine's "100 greatest Nintendo games of all time".[44] 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".[7][58] In a poll conducted by Dengeki, the game tied with Super Mario World as the number three video game their readers first played.[59]

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.[60] 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.[5] Users and readers of the website placed the game high on similar lists: 32nd in 2005 and 21st in 2006.[61][62] In 2007, the game was included in the "game canon", a list of the ten most important video games selected for preservation by the Library of Congress.[63] 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.[64] 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."[65] 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."[66] GameSpot placed the game on their list of the greatest games of all time.[67] USgamer ranked the game as the third best Mario platformer ever.[68] Super Mario Bros. 3 ranked 34th on Warp Zoned's "Scientifically Proven Best Video Games of All Time" list, a statistical meta-analysis of 44 "top games" lists published between 1995 and 2016.[69]

Super Mario Bros. 3 is well known for spawning the Commander Keen series of side-scrolling platform games, which launched Id Software. During their period of employment at Softdisk in the early 1990s, video game developers John Carmack and Tom Hall secretly developed the adaptive tile refresh technology that would perform smooth, side-scrolling graphics on EGA cards for IBM clone personal computers. They used their spare time late at night to develop a clone of the first level of Super Mario Bros. 3, using the hero in Softdisk's Dangerous Dave, calling the prototype Dangerous Dave in Copyright Infringement. When John Romero saw their work in action, he and the project chief at Softdisk Jay Wilbur suggested that they finish the PC clone of Super Mario Bros. 3. This demo was later presented to Nintendo, who denied to allow their games on PCs because they "were only made exclusively for their Nintendo consoles".[70][71][72][73][74] As a result, the first Mario-style, side-scrolling episode of Commander Keen was made on Softdisk's computers at odd hours. Shortly afterward, Softdisk suggested that the team form its own company, which became Id Software on February 1, 1991.


The game has been ported or remade on several other Nintendo consoles. It was included in the 1993 Super NES game Super Mario All-Stars, a compilation of remakes of NES Super Mario games featuring updated graphics and sound,[75] which was also later released on the Wii in 2010.[76] A Game Boy Advance version, Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3, was released in 2003. This version features support for the Nintendo e-Reader peripheral, which allows the player to access additional levels stored on e-Reader cards, in addition to updated graphics, power-ups, and sound.[77]

Super Mario Bros. 3 was re-released as a downloadable Virtual Console title in 2007 for the Wii and in 2014 for both the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U consoles. These versions support multiple console-specific controllers, such as the Wii Remote or the Wii U GamePad, and allow players to save progress with the use of save states.[78][79] The game was included as one of thirty pre-installed NES titles included with the NES Classic Edition plug and play console.[19]


  1. ^ Super Mario Bros. 3 (スーパーマリオブラザーズ3, Sūpā Mario Burazāzu Surī)


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