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After the tangential Super Mario Brothers 2, Super Mario Brothers 3 is a welcome return to the formula of the original Super Mario Brothers game. The game received widespread critical acclaim, and went on to become the biggest selling game not packaged with a console.
Platform games task you with getting from point A to point B. The world you journey through is usually based on different levels, and populated with enemies, switches and lifts to be negotiated. As you work through each level you pick up various collectables that accrue score, special abilities and access to hidden areas.
This was the first game in the series to introduce an overworld map where the player can choose their progression. This went hand in hand with geographically themed worlds (desert, grass, sea) to create a greater sense of place. As the player progresses they are rewarded with new environments, enemies and power ups that fit each of these worlds.
Each area is split up into much smaller levels that previous Mario games. This made the focus here is less on endurance and more on the player's ability to deal with a more intense series of challenges, before moving on to the next level. Even the end level encounters were split into various parts; mid-level airship encounters in miniature fortresses foreshadow the full encounter in the end of world castle.
Super Mario Brothers 3 is perhaps most famous for its wide range of power ups. These grant the player with special abilities that ease their passage through the platform based levels. Of these power ups the most popular is the Tanooki suite that enables Mario to fly and to turn into an invincible statue.
Super Mario Brothers 3 provides a platform gaming smorgasbord of different experiences. As with the Wii's Mario platform game Super Mario Galaxy, players here enjoy the ingenuity and execution of a wide variety of ideas rather than the longer more fleshed out play of previous Mario games. This experience made it ideal to come to the GBA as Super Mario Advance 4. The small levels and short playtime is an ideal fit for the pickup and play aesthetic of the handheld platform.
The shorter levels really only take a few minutes to complete, and therefore this is perhaps one of the best Mario platform games to play in short sessions. As the player progresses there are increasing incentives to take more time in each world to ensure they have obtained all power ups and extra lives. Even so this is a game that can easily be played in half hour sessions.
Although the high degree of accuracy required won't suite the very young, the super short levels and map structure of the game does lend itself to a younger audience.
Intermediate players who have enjoyed other Mario platform games should find Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Brothers 3 an interesting next step in the series. Its impressive variety of experiences and environments will remind more recent gamers of Super Mario Galaxy and possibly provide a nice portable companion title.
Experienced gamers will undoubtedly heard of Super Mario Brothers 3 and the Tanooki suite power up. Even if they have played other Mario platformers there should still be plenty here to challenge, surprise and enjoy here. Far from being a derivative next step between Super Mario Brothers and Super Mario Advance 2 (Super Mario World) GBA, it really is a substantial game in its own right.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: