Patrick Hope: Its contents will help you on your way
After a month on characters, we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming here at Welcome to Bonus Stage. Actually, that’s not quite true. This week, in honor of the wedding of Our Town’s esteemed editor/Grand Poo-bah/Generalissimo, we’re tackling one of the most beloved games ever made, and his favorite game — “Cheetahmen II.”
Haha no, I’m only joking. We’re talking about “Super Mario Bros. 3.”
This is kind of a difficult game to talk about, because what is there really left to say?
EVERYONE likes “Super Mario Bros. 3.” It has generated over $1.7 billion in revenue for Nintendo across all of its various ports. It introduced a bunch of elements that persist in the series today, like flying Mario, the Koopalings, and theme worlds. When the now-defunct Nintendo Power magazine ranked the best Nintendo games ever, across all rankings, “Super Mario Bros. 3” never fell below seventh. There was more or less an entire movie created entirely to hype its release, see: “The Wizard.” It’s kind of a big deal.
So what makes “Super Mario Bros. 3” so beloved, aside from the obvious reason of its being really good?
“Super Mario Bros. 3” was released in the U.S. on Feb. 12, 1990, when Nintendo was pretty much at the height of its U.S. powers. The Sega Genesis wouldn’t really gain traction until later in the year when the system was bundled with the original “Sonic: The Hedgehog,” so Nintendo controlled the console market. If you played video games, odds were really high you owned a Nintendo. And if you owned a Nintendo, you likely were into Mario. After the kinda out there “Super Mario Bros. 2” (and yes, I know the whole Doki Doki Panic thing), fans were ready for a return to the original “Super Mario Bros.,” and “3” blew them all away.
Much larger worlds? Crazy new power-ups that let you do things like throw hammers or turn into stone? A different boss in each world as opposed to Bowser every time? They were all in “Super Mario Bros. 3.” Never has a series raised the bar across entries as much as “Super Mario Bros. 3” did over its two predecessors.
There are legitimate fan wars between “Final Fantasies VI” and “VII,” “Link to the Past” and “Ocarina of Time,” and “Super Metroid” and “Metroid Prime.” That just doesn’t exist for “Super Mario Bros. 3” vs. the previous two.
I’ve never actually met anyone who prefers the original to “3.” The big debate is actually between “3” and “Super Mario World.” When a game, or anything, for that matter, surpasses expectations that greatly, it’s pretty hard to not have a soft spot for it.
Another reason for the persisting popularity of “Super Mario Bros. 3” is its chronological place in Nintendo’s history. In America, this was the last big hurrah for the Nintendo Entertainment System before the Super Nintendo was released in the fall of 1990. If there was a big-name game that was going to push the system to its limits, this was it. “Super Mario Bros. 3” was the crowning achievement for the NES, like “The Last of Us” was for the PlayStation3 or “Chrono Trigger” was for the Super Nintendo. Everyone’s going to remember the last great game for any system, and “Super Mario Bros. 3” is no exception.
In one of the best scenes in “Mad Men,” Don Draper described nostalgia as taking us to a place we long to go again. It’s a powerful force and one that’s often used as a rationalization for being a fan of anything that’s not at the cultural fore. And in many cases, that’s true. But not really so with “Super Mario Bros. 3.”
Yes, a lot of people may have great memories of Warp Whistle’s and Kuribo’s Shoe, but “Super Mario Bros. 3” stands out because it was so great and because it really stood alone at the top of the Nintendo mountain at a time when the Nintendo mountain was extraordinarily tall. Something like that will likely never be replicated, so we’re left with a shining beacon of Nintendo dominance.
One toot on this game will send you to a far away land.
Hope is a local attorney and video game enthusiast. Read his blog at bonusstage.areavoices.com. He beat “Shadowgate 64” thanks to a guide in Nintendo Power.