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Monday, February 12, 2018

Super Mario 3 - My Favourite Levels!

One of the things I like to do to relieve some stress is play video games.  I know, some of you are probably thinking that activity is one of the worst ones for reducing stress.  Honestly for some games, you would be absolutely right.  If I were playing a game that I either hated or one that I found incredibly difficult, I'd likely be throwing a controller through the television screen.

But in the case of today's game, it doesn't make me do that, as every time I play it, I am instantly taken back to being a carefree eight-and-a-half year old.  God, I miss being eight-and-a-half again.

As it so happens, this game is celebrating its 28th birthday this year!  (Or, thirtieth if you live in Japan.)

Yes, it was on February 12, 1990 that "Super Mario Bros. 3" was released in North America.  The game was originally released in 1988 in Japan and as of right now it is the third best selling video game in Nintendo's history.

And why not?  The game was a massive improvement over the first two games released for the Nintendo Entertainment System and really stretched the capabilities of the NES cartridge.  Eight massive worlds with eight different bosses, the game is huge!  The game is also responsible for introducing some of the mechanics and characters that have appeared in future Mario games.  It marked the first appearance of the Boo enemies, the first time Mario could carry a Koopa shell, the first time Mario could fly in a game (via the Raccoon leaf), and the first appearances of Bowser's seven children.  And that only taps into the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the innovation and challenge the game brought.

I still remember the first time I played it.  Amusingly, I rented it from a video game place and interestingly enough, I ended up playing a copy of the Japanese version - which was MUCH HARDER than the American version.  Don't ask me how they got the Japanese version, but they had it!  But I didn't care at that point.  From the first level, I absolutely loved it and would play that game hours on end for two whole years!  Yep.  I was a hardcore Mario fan.

That's not to say that I didn't have my frustrating moments with the game.  Once you got to World 5, the difficulty level went from child's play to impossible without the use of a Game Genie in no time!  But I persevered and the first time I completed the game, I was ecstatic.  And then when I completed the game WITHOUT warp whistles, I was even MORE ecstatic! 

(Come all know you used at least ONE...)

Anyway, I got to thinking...there are a ton of levels in Super Mario 3, and I thought about which levels I enjoyed playing the most.  We all have our favourites, and certainly I know which levels I really look forward to playing whenever I played the game.  So, I went through each of the eight playable worlds (I don't include World 9 - The Warp Zone), and I chose my favourite level out of each of them. 

(Oh, yeah...the screenshots were actually taken from the SNES version of the same game.  And they are not from me playing...I took them from a playthrough posted on YouTube.  Besides, I could get a much higher score.)

WORLD 1 (Level 1-1)

I know, I know.  Choosing the first level of the game just seems like an easy choice.  But to be honest with you, this was the level that made me go "oh my goodness" when I first played this game 28 years ago.  It's essentially a tutorial level filled with the enemies that you'll likely encounter (Goombas, Koopas, Pirahna Plants).  It also contains your first taste of the Raccoon Leaf which allows Mario to fly.  It's a simple level, but it really does pack a punch and gets you excited for the rest of the game.

WORLD 2 (Level Quicksand)

What makes this selection really bizarre is that it was initially a level that I despised!  It took me a week to try and figure out how to defeat the level - which I consider one of the toughest of the early levels.  It's bad enough that you only have a time limit of 200 seconds to complete it.  You also have to deal with a gigantic angry sun that dive bombs you as you figure out how to maneuver yourself around huge sand tornadoes!  But that's where the fun of the level comes from.  It's a mad dash to the finish, and figuring out the solution to the level was half the fun.  Who knew you could take out the sun with a Koopa shell and use your super speed run to avoid the tornadoes?  It's such a crazy level, but I couldn't imagine the desert area without it.

WORLD 3 (Fortress #2)

I have a love-hate relationships with Mario levels that force me to swim underwater.  If I have a Fire Flower or the Hammer Brother suit (one of the best power-ups in the game, by the way), I'm fine.  If I am little Mario, I hate them.  But Super Mario 3 introduced the Frog Suit in the game.  On land, it's mostly useless.  But underwater?  It made swimming levels so much easier.  For the level in which you should try the Frog Suit out, I recommend the second fortress in the water world.  The fortress is 95% underwater and features some tricky swimming sections.  Because the Frog Suit can allow you to move more straight underwater, it is a godsend...and it makes this level so much enjoyable to play!

WORLD 4 (Level 4-1)

Really, I could have put any level in this section because the entirety of Giant Island was so much fun!  Seeing question blocks, enemies, and pipes at three times their size offered a challenging, but comical way to look at the world.  In the end, I went with 4-1 because the sheer shock and joy that I got playing through this massive sized world...that's a moment forever etched in my mind.

WORLD 5 (Level 5-3)

Kuribo's Shoe, Kuribo's Shoe, Kuribo's Shoe!  In case you're wondering, a Kuribo is the Japanese word for Goomba.  And in 5-3, it is the ONLY level in the whole game where you can try on the gigantic green boot that the Goombas hop around in.  And boy what an awesome tool it is.  It allows you to hop over sharp pirahna plants and Spinys to get through the level.  And it can take out an enemy in one hit with just a simple squish.  It's criminal that this power-up only exists in the one level...but it's because of this that 5-3 is my favourite level in the fifth world.

WORLD 6 (Level 6-10)

The ice world is my frozen hell on this game.  I loathed every level of it for the first nine or ten stages.  The slippery ice was enough to cause me headaches, the near impossible jumps were devastatingly difficult, and don't even get me started on the trick to beating 6-5 (a level I couldn't figure out for TEN YEARS).  But then the glorious 6-10 came along and redeemed the world for me.  Provided I had a fire flower on me, I could shoot at the ice blocks and get as much money as I could.  I also ran the risk of unthawing some enemies, but seriously...shooting fire at ice blocks to reveal treasure inside?  That was the most fun level ever!

WORLD 7 (Level 7-7)

The pipe levels irritated me just as much as the ice levels did, but for some reason, I found Pipe World to be slightly easier.  (Well, aside from 7-4, which was an underwater disaster.)

But I think what I liked best about 7-7 was that it was a simple level that you could just blow through in a rapid pace.  The fact that there were Starmen that could grant you invincibility scattered through the level every ten seconds certainly made this a breeze to get through - and also amped up the fun considerably!

And finally...

WORLD 8 (Bowser's Castle)

No contest.  The final level of the game is also the one that I enjoy the most of the final world.  The final world is extremely difficult to navigate on its own, but this castle tests all your skills in a huge way from Bowser statues shooting lasers at you, to gigantic lava pits, to fireballs piercing the air at a rapid pace.  It is such a stressful level, but in an epic way.  The fact that you're almost at the end just increases the excitement.  And did you know that there are two different routes you can take that will change the way you fight Bowser?  One route takes you to the easy room, where Bowser is suspended above a large brick platform where you just have to make him fall through...but there is a harder room where the gap you have to make him fall through is much narrower.

So, those are my picks for favourite Super Mario 3 levels.  What ones were your favourites?  And what other features of the game did you love?  Let me know in the comments below!

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