Canon Spike is a series of Articles examining undisputed classic Video Games that everyone should play and games underrated and unappreciated in their time that we deem worthy of reevaluation.
It was unprecedented when it happened, it might even be more ridiculous now, but on December 15th, 1989 Universal Pictures released a movie to Theatres across the country that was essentially a 90 minute commercial for a upcoming Nintendo Game.
I’m speaking of course, about The Wizard. One slog of a kiddie road movie, a shameless vehicle for then Wonder Years star Fred Savage, current teen heart throb du jour Christian Slater, and future indie alt-country darling Jenny Lewis. The movie was panned on release and holds up absolutely terribly today, but is definitely worth the effort for a certain demographic. That sweet, sweet Nintendo product placement from the NES’ heyday is pretty hard to resist. And at the time this was the only place kids in America could catch a glimpse of a certain game their Japanese counterparts had been enjoying since 1988. But this wasn’t just any game…
This was Super Mario Bros. 3
This was the first real event game. The coming years would see its share of Mortal Mondays and Sonic Two-sdays but this was the first case of appointment gaming. After it’s official North American release on February 12th, 1990, everyone on the schoolyard and I’m sure everywhere else nerds of all ages gather was buzzing about P Wings and Warp Whistles and if you didn’t have a copy you were missing out.
The infinite lives trick.
Sure, secrets and hidden items had been a staple of Video Games since their inception but this was the first game where it felt like there was something hidden to discover on every level, some new trick to exploit and brag to friends and family about the first chance you got. Everyone was playing this game and everyone was on the hunt.
Frog Suit on Big Island.
It was truly remarkable to have so much hidden in a game of this size. Mario’s first two NES adventures had been robust but nowhere near this level. Eight worlds took us from land to sea to air, deserts and gardens, through to Bowser’s fire and darkness covered inner sanctum.
The Final Battle.
More power-ups were introduced here too, including the Frog Suit for easier swimming, the Tanooki Suit that would allow Mario to transform into a temporarily invincible statue, and the Hammer Brother Suit that would allow Mario to gain the power of one of his trickiest foes. And Mario needed the help, several new villains made their debut here, including the big brawling mini-boss Koopa Boom Boom, skeleton Koopa Dry Bones, and Bowser’s progeny, the 8 Koopa Kids.
The Koopa Kids, showcased here on the game’s original Japanese Box Art.
Maybe it was this initial economy of content that has allowed the game to endure the way it has. Fans usually bemoan Nintendo’s penchant for constantly re-releasing their old games but it’s usually the opposite sentiment when it comes to Mario 3, with early adopters of the 3DS and WiiU clamoring for the game to be made available for those platforms even before Nintendo announced that it’d be officially ported.
The updated graphics of the SNES and GBA versions.
Some would argue that Nintendo has never really topped Super Mario Bros. 3, even after seemingly moving onto bigger and better things with the subsequent releases of Super Mario World (SNES) in 1991 and Super Mario 64 (N64) in 1996. Creativity seemingly stagnated thereafter and the critical and commercial disappointments of the early 2000’s Gamecube era (Luigi’s Mansion and Super Mario Sunshine) caused them to regain popularity by going back to the classic 2D Platformer well in 2006 for the New Super Mario Bros. series on DS and Wii while the Wii’s brilliant 3D Platforming Super Mario Galaxy series was beloved by the hardcore but largely overlooked by mainstream consumers.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 for 3DS
Nintendo garnered critical and commercial acclaim with Super Mario 3D Land (3DS, 2012) and Super Mario 3D World (WiiU, 2013), again by dialing back the more fetch quest-y elements of N64-era 3D Platformers and adopting a more straightforward 2D Platformer style ala Mario 3.
Super Mario 3D World’s familiar World Map, a concept first introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3
Maybe the game’s legacy has been hard to shake because it truly was perfect. The perfect game at the perfect time and the perfect place. It’s been relevant for 25 years and it’ll probably still be relevant 25 years from now.