The first time I ever played–nay laid eyes upon–Super Mario Bros. 3, it was courtesy of a friend of mine who had the courage to let me borrow her Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 GBA cartridge.
While I would eventually lose the cartridge (that, in and of itself, is an entirely separate story), I did actually beat the game. And, boy did I hate it.
Don’t ask me why. I have no idea why the game perturbed me as badly as it did. I wasn’t exactly a slouch at games at 10 and 11 as I had already beaten Metroid Prime, Super Mario World and a myriad of other games. I even had the game’s official Nintendo Power guide, courtesy of the same friend, which exposed all of its secrets, including the warp whistles, locations of secret power-ups, and other goodies.
Whatever the case was, the game was simply too challenging for me. Even with saves, a benefit of the game’s port to GBA, I felt it too difficult and frequently found myself having to close my GBA SP and walk away for a few minutes after sessions that didn’t just feel unfair, but felt practically diabolical.
Perhaps it was due to the game being released on a handheld and lacking both the nuance of control and larger screen real estate of its console brethren, or maybe it was because it was simply a hard game, but I developed a distaste for Super Mario Bros. 3 that lasted for years.
Super Mario Bros. 3 Defined a Generation
It wouldn’t be until many years later that I came to understand the importance of Super Mario Bros. 3. Now, I’ll be honest, I still don’t love the game. I find it outclassed by nearly every other Mario platformer, other than Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels. However, as my knowledge of the games industry and its history has increased, I’ve finally understood why it has left such an indelible mark on such a large number of gamers.
After reading David Sheff’s classic account of the rise of Nintendo, Game Over, one comes away with a real indication of how much Nintendo meant to the industry, and to greater American culture, in the early 90s. Super Mario Bros. 3 was a cultural phenomenon that, in many ways, defined what it meant to be a consumer, a child, or someone who played games in the 1990s.
Despite what I may think of it, there’s no denying that Super Mario Bros. 3 defined a generation of video games and that it deserves to be memorialized as such. From its place in movies like The Wizard to its enormous marketing campaign that featured an infamous commercial, Super Mario Bros. 3 represents the incredible clout that, at the height of its power, Nintendo possessed over consumers in North America and abroad. For a late millennial like myself, who has only known a Nintendo humbled by its own hubris, it’s a testament to how fickle success ultimately proves to be.