25 Years of Tanooki

Can you remember your first experience playing a video game and getting so sucked into it that you played it for the whole day feeling that no time passed? For me, this experience augmented itself in the video game Super Mario Bros 3 for the 1985 NES console. I had the chance to replay the game in the Console Living Room exhibit and I found that I remembered certain secrets and gameplay mechanics even though I haven’t played this game in over ten years! So what made Super Mario Bros 3 so memorable and commended considering aspects of gameplay?

Super Mario Bros. 3 follows its predecessors as a third-person perspective, two dimensional, side scrolling game where, as always, Mario must rescue the kidnapped princess. As the player, you must navigate your way through eight distinctively styled worlds, maybe less if you are familiar with in-game secrets, while uncovering new power-ups and helping a new kingdom in each ‘world’. In honor of the game’s recent 25th anniversary US release, many websites, including gamesradar, have been posting articles and videos about how influential this video game was at the time of its release and what game mechanics and elements introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3 are viewed as an integral part of the Mario franchise today.

The bright color palette of the game combined with the super bouncy music that greets the player in the first world make the graphics very appealing to look at and the change in colors and music according to a world’s ‘theme’ made it feel that the game wasn’t being repetitive by reusing design elements from different worlds, and if they were, were altered enough so players would still notice the change. The change in tempo and pitch between a world stage and a boss stage makes the player feel that they need to concentrate and take the Koopaling single screen boss battles more seriously than the pleasant side scrolling stages. A new design element that has become fairly common and frustrates many people are the automatically scrolling stages where if the player doesn’t keep moving, they will fall off of the stage and automatically lose. These were always very rage-inducing since you can’t see what will appear on the screen next, so taking leaps of faith didn’t usually work out so you just keep trying until when you finally complete the stage, the player feels accomplished so that the next level won’t feel like as much of a challenge.

Power-Ups Galore!

The gameplay aspects which I found the most intriguing and entertaining when playing the game recently as well as in my childhood, were the many power-ups Mario can attain during certain stages of the game, particularly the raccoon suit and the tanooki suit. It’s always satisfying to fly over an entire stage when the player can get a running start in the raccoon suit or whack enemies with your tail that Mario can’t squash from above. The game dynamics associated with the gameplay surrounding the raccoon suit seem the most thought out compared to other in-game power ups because entire separate routes are built into stages that can only be accessed with the suit and these routes lead to players devising different strategies when attempting to complete the game.

Super Mario Bros. 3 World 1 Map

The gameplay element of multiple routes is integral to Super Mario Bros. 3’s gameplay. Each world map has been designed with multiple routes that the player can take in order to accomplish the same end goal, like using warp tubes and warp whistles to access different levels. Also, toad houses, the card matching games, Hammer Brothers wandering icons are fun optional gameplay elements that can give the player useful items to use in the main game, but are not mandatory to advancing the game. Finally, the simplicity of the NES controller with only having to utilize the A button, B button, and the d-pad to control Mario made the game easily accessible to multiple demographics and the option of multiplayer meant that friends could play the game as a tag team to see how quickly they could beat the game together or as a competition to see which player can beat the most levels and dominate the board with either M squares or L squares. Super Mario Bros. 3 is perhaps my favorite Mario franchise video game for its aesthetics, smooth gameplay, and its ability to still hold up today as a video game classic that inspired many aspects of the current Mario games.


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