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Why Super Mario Bros 3 is one of the greatest games ever made

What we really remember Super Mario Bros 3 for are all the little moments. There’s the shock of seeing the angry sun come to life in 2-3 as you start a mad dash to the end of the stage. There was the urgency of the first autoscrolling level, witnessing the platforms move while you were still planning your jumps. How about reaching the top of the tower in Sky Land to see a second world map that’s up in the cloud? Or the first time a giant hand popped up to grab Mario on the World 8 map?

The game is overflowing with moments like that – moments  that are burned into the memories of a generation, moments that echo forever in the Mario series. Every Mario game that follows it, no matter how great, is indebted to this structure. The reason millions still buy every new Mario game more than 20 years later is because of Super Mario Bros 3.

It should also be applauded that Nintendo made such a massive leap in game design within the same console generation. They did so many amazing things with the aging NES hardware, expansions that most developers only achieve in the sequels that wait for the next hardware generation. In fact, Super Mario World followed SMB3 directly and, while it looked better and was somewhat deeper, it was merely an upgrade of what Mario 3 forged.

We don’t rank Mario 3 so high on our lists and name it the best Mario game ever because of its historical/cultural significance or because virtually every game in the genre that followed was inspired by it. We do it because it encompasses everything that we love about Mario games. The exploration, the creativity, the colorful worlds, the challenge; it’s all there. The Mario games that followed SMB3 built on it meaningfully with stupendous additions, but ultimately they were merely adding extra paint to an already perfect canvas.

If you want to know why the world loves Mario, play Super Mario Bros 3. The rest is secondary.

"Why _____ is one of the best games ever made" is a weekly feature that goes through GamesRadar's list of the 100 best games of all time and highlights different titles, explaining why they're on the list, what makes them so amazing, and why we love them so much.

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16 comments

  • jack-roletter - August 17, 2012 1:53 p.m.

    Dude Super Mario World is easily the best Mario game ever to me. It was a pure upgrade from a great game and that's all that it needed.
  • Sjoeki - August 16, 2012 3:46 p.m.

    Kuribo's Shoe! I can remember playing that game till I could jump around in that kickass shoe and turning the game off after that level, it easily is one of the best shoes ever to be in gaming!
  • Cloudiology - August 16, 2012 5:53 a.m.

    would just like to say thank you for not using that damn slideshow article technique you guy are so adamant about using! this is a perfect example of what could easily have been in that format but isn't! KUDOS!
  • alexandre-bret - August 15, 2012 8:04 p.m.

    Hell yeah Ive played many games with amazing graphics popular franchises sleeper hits on generations of console but this 8bit game is in my top 5 for sure
  • The_King_of_Nothing - August 15, 2012 4:13 p.m.

    Couldn't agree more. SMB3 always has been and always will be one of my favorite games of all time.
  • XanderGC - August 15, 2012 2:51 p.m.

    Man I love SMB3! I probably only finished it a handful of times and maybe only once by not skipping any of the worlds. It is amazing that it was only an NES game and yet it offered so much to do.
  • masterjoe123 - August 15, 2012 2:03 p.m.

    I love this game, but I think World was better. Also, inb4 tehtimeisnow says this game sucks.
  • GarcianSmith - August 16, 2012 4:21 a.m.

    I'm with you on this one. SMB3 is undoubtedly an excellent game, but World is just Mario perfected, with a gorgeous art style and a top-notch soundtrack. It plays well, too.
  • Moondoggie1157 - August 15, 2012 1:33 p.m.

    For me, it will always be a toss up between SMB3 and World. I'll say one is better until I play the other one again haha
  • Redeater - August 15, 2012 1:15 p.m.

    If I may be so bold can I ask what is with the change in ranking as of late? It seemed that everyone on TR and most GR articles always ranked SMB2 ahead of 3.
  • GR_HenryGilbert - August 15, 2012 1:55 p.m.

    Editorially SMB3 at the top has been our stance since we ranked it on the top 100.
  • Redeater - August 15, 2012 1:09 p.m.

    #1 reason Unlike most N64, PS1 and some old PC games it still stands the test of time. Best. Game. Ever.
  • talleyXIV - August 15, 2012 1:08 p.m.

    Why is an article necessary?
  • lkchevrolet021 - August 15, 2012 12:57 p.m.

    "We don’t rank Mario 3 so high on our lists and name it the best Mario game ever because of its historical/cultural significance or because virtually every game in the genre that followed was inspired by it." "In fact, Super Mario World followed SMB3 directly and, while it looked better and was somewhat deeper, it was merely an upgrade of what Mario 3 forged." Got to love contradictions (I Love both SMB3 and SMW but I also believe SMW was an upgrade and as such is better)
  • jackthemenace - August 15, 2012 1:18 p.m.

    They weren't saying that every other Mario game was inspired by it, they were saying that they WERE, but it WASN'T the reason they named it the best.

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