(Review archived from January 10, 2018)
I’m certain that entire swaths of internet text have been devoted to lauding the greatness of this game, but I’m going to boil it down to the single concept that stuck with me this time around. Meticulous. Certainly not a groundbreaking revelation by any means and if you read no further that’s probably all you need to know (as if you didn’t already). This game is a masterwork that is simply meticulous in its execution. And it’s this attention to detail, this fine-tuned gaming experience that makes SMB3 feel timeless, particularly in a sea of half-baked ‘retro inspired’ platformers. Even when cast under the gaze of the most discerning critical eye it’s hard to find fault with this game. The graphical elements presented here codified what most of us would consider the ‘gold standard’ of Super Mario world building. SMB was too simple and too ‘bricky’ in appearance to be considered truly iconic, SMB2 didn’t take place in the Mushroom Kingdom and was in fact a re-skin of Doki Doki Panic, but SMB3 finally gave us a set of immediately identifiable world building elements which Mario games would carry forward even to this day. The music is simple, catchy and memorable. The control is impeccable. It’s simple enough for beginners, deep enough to keep veteran players on the hunt for its many secrets.
In fact, if one were to find any ‘troublesome’ element here, it’s that the game is almost too polished and refined. If you’re looking for a quirky nuanced experience, you won’t find that here (see SMB2). But this criticism is the very height of hyperbole and ridiculous conjecture. This is the gaming equivalent of Led Zeppelin IV; every note serves a purpose, every intonation is perfectly placed. If you wanted to listen to Black Flag you’d have done that in the first place, right? Special shout out goes to the All-Stars version of the game which I feel is the very best representation of SMB3.