The gameplay is a return to the style of Super Mario Bros. after the vast departure of the North American version of Super Mario Bros. 2 . The heroes can again jump on many enemies to destroy them, as well as take on many different forms by acquiring special items.
However, despite the familiar gameplay, Super Mario Bros. 3 is still a different game from its predecessor. More puzzles, enemies and secret areas were added to enhance difficulty.
Rather than simply move forward in the game in a linear fashion, Mario travels the Mushroom World via a map, which often splits into different paths, giving the player more of a choice of which levels to play. Now the player could know what to expect while entering a level: for instance, a level situated near or on a body of water would most likely have aquatic elements. Furthermore, the player could skip levels entirely, allowing there to be greater control over the gameplay. While on the map, Mario can acquire special items through " Toad Houses" and battles with Hammer Brothers , which are saved in an inventory, and can be used in between levels.
Furthermore, smaller mechanics are changed. For instance, as in Super Mario Bros. 2 but not the original Super Mario Bros. , the player can travel backwards in a level in case he had missed a special area or item. Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced the further ability of the screen to scroll diagonally (in Super Mario Bros. 2 , it can sometimes scroll vertically and sometimes scroll horizontally, but never in both manners at once).
Also, due to the increased difficulty, a luxury was given to the player in the U.S. and PAL releases: if he had one of the "special" powers (Fire Mario, Raccoon Mario, Hammer Mario, Tanooki Mario, etc.) and then took a hit, he would revert into Super Mario, allowing for an extra hit. This is contrary to the original Super Mario Bros. and the Japanese release of Super Mario Bros. 3 , where if a player had been hit as Fire Mario (or any other power-up mode), he would revert to regular, small Mario. This game play mechanic was not used in the original Super Mario World , but it was used in the later Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World for the Game Boy Advance , and New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo DS .
A stripped-down version of the first Mario game in the series, the 1983 arcade release Mario Bros. was also included as a 2-player minigame.
The final island group in World 3 is shaped like the islands of Japan , with a gold coin in the approximate location of Tokyo and the castle in the approximate location of Kyoto, where Nintendo is based.
Note that the original NES release included the Japanese names. It was a re-release that came out slightly later that initially changed the names. The Super Nintendo and Game Boy Advance versions also use the original names with the exception of World 3 and World 8. In both the SNES and GBA version, "Ocean Side" was changed to "Sea Side", even in the Japanese version. In both the English NES first release and the English SNES version, "Kuppa" in World 8 is changed to "Koopa", which is the more common spelling. The English GBA version renames World 8 to the generic "Bowser's Castle." Some versions refer to World 2 as Koopahari Desert . Also in the GBA version, "WELCOME TO WARP ZONE" is shortened to "WORLD 9 WARP ZONE" because of the Game Boy Advance's screen resolution.
If Warp Zone is excluded as a set of stages, the entire game has a total of 90 accessible levels (as well as fifteen " lost levels " only accessible by hacking the game or using two Game Genies ). It is therefore considered the largest classic Mario Brothers game of all time, having more than Super Mario Bros (32 levels), Super Mario Bros. Special (32 levels), Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (also known as Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan; 52 levels) and Super Mario World (72 levels). It is often mistakenly assumed that Super Mario World has 96 stages, but that number includes the 24 secret exits in the game.
Like the original Super Mario Bros. , Mario can use several different items to give him power-ups. These are acquired through various points in levels, Toad Houses, Princess Peach's letters and other events.
Items that returned from Super Mario Bros. :
Starman : Mario gains temporary invincibility. He is impervious to death by any means except lava, bottomless pits, getting stuck in a scrolling-screen level, and running out of time.
Super Mushroom : Mario doubles in size, can break bricks by hitting them from below, and can take one hit without dying.
Fire Flower : As Fire Mario, he can throw fireballs that bounce across the ground.
1-Up Mushroom : At various points in levels, Mario and Luigi can find special mushrooms called 1-Up Mushrooms, which grant them an extra life. Super Mario Advance 4 's e-Reader function also came with four 1-Up e-Cards - one for a single 1-Up Mushroom (only acquirable through Wal-Mart ), another for a 5-Up Mushroom, another for a 10-Up Mushroom, and a special promotional card, the 100-Up Mushroom.
Coin : Worth one point apiece. Collect one hundred for an extra life.
Items and forms new to Super Mario Bros. 3 :
Super Leaf : A Super Leaf transforms Mario into Raccoon Mario. He can use his tail to bat enemies. This power-up , like the "Tanooki" suit, is based on the Japanese tanuki . By wagging his tail, Mario can descend slowly from a jump and by getting a running start, Mario can fly briefly. It also grants Mario the ability to break bricks, activate question mark blocks and defeat several enemies that cannot be stomped, such as Spinies and Piranha plants.
Frog Suit : Transforms Mario into Frog Mario. Movement on land is hindered, but swimming is greatly facilitated and accelerated. Also allows Mario to swim against the current and into secret underwater pipes. By holding an enemy shell or item, Frog Mario can walk normally, circumventing the land movement hindering.
Tanooki Suit : Mario will turn into Tanooki Mario. In this form he can fly, just like Raccoon Mario; Mario can also become a statue of Jizo while in this form, rendering him temporarily invincible by pressing down and B . This suit is based on the Japanese tanuki . "Statue Mario" can be activated in midair and thus stomp many enemies that cannot normally be defeated, such as Lava Lotuses and Thwomps. "Statue Mario" can also defeat enemies that take multiple hits, such as Koopas, in one stomp.
Hammer Brothers' Suit : Mario transforms into Hammer Mario and can throw hammers, just like the Hammer Brothers. (The hammers are far more powerful than fireballs, as they pass through walls, and virtually any enemy can be killed by them. Bowser himself can be defeated with a single hammer.) Also, when crouching, Mario retreats into a shell, rendering him invincible to fireball attacks from above.
Goomba's Shoe (or Kuribo's Shoe , after Goomba's Japanese name): A giant, green boot, Mario can jump inside and stomp on Piranha Plants and Spinys to kill them, and walk across Munchers (long rows of indestructible Piranha Plants). His jumping ability is also augmented. This is available only in level 5-3, and is lost when the player clears the level. The only way to acquire this item is to punch the block the Shoe-wearing Goomba is standing on from underneath to force it out; stomping the Goomba will make both Goomba and Shoe fall off the screen.
P-Wing : Short for "Power Wing", the P-Wing turns Mario into Raccoon Mario and keeps his power meter (normally filled by a running start) constantly filled. Its most basic use is allowing the player to fly over entire levels unthreatened. If Mario is hit by an enemy while in P-wing state, he will lose both the Raccoon power and the filled power meter. The power meter is only filled for one level, but he will keep the Raccoon power even after the level.
These are sometimes given from Princess Peach after completing a world, or by gaining access to the White Mushroom house on certain worlds.
Jugem's Cloud (after Lakitu's Japanese name) (Map-only item): Using this item changes Mario's icon on the world map into a Lakitu cloud. Mario may now move past one uncompleted level. If Mario dies in the next attempted level, he will be sent to the previously completed spot on the world map, and the Lakitu's Cloud will have been wasted. However, should Mario have to travel through a world-map pipe to reach the level after the skipped level, Mario will only be sent back to the exit pipe. Levels which the player automatically enters simply by passing over them on the map, such as Hammer Bros. battles and the tanks in World 8, cannot be bypassed by Lakitu's Cloud; Mario enters the level anyway, and the item is wasted.
Magic Whistle : (Map-only item) Using a Magic Whistle takes Mario to the Warp Zone (World 9) map, where he must then choose a world to warp to. There are three Magic Whistles to be acquired in Super Mario Bros. 3 : one in 1-3, one in World 1 Minifortress, and one in a World 2 Fire Brothers duel. Using the whistle from World 1 allows access to Worlds 2, 3 and 4, using it in Worlds 2 through 6 allows access to worlds 5, 6 and 7 and using the whistle in Worlds 7 or 8 or the Warp Zone (World 9) allows access to World 8. Using a whistle in Warp Zone (World 9) instantly transports the player to World 8 regardless of the previous world. Note that the only purpose of World 9 is to get to the other worlds, and players can only get to it by using one of the Warp Whistles. According to Nintendo Power , the first person to find all three magic whistles was Anuj Shah.
Anchor : (Map-only item) Anchors can be found in even-numbered worlds' hidden white Toad houses (except world 8). When a player dies while attempting to complete a Koopaling Airship level, it relocates itself to a random vacant spot on the world map. If a player has skipped a level in the world (using Lakitu's Cloud or otherwise), the Airship's new location might be inaccessible without fighting the skipped level. Using an Anchor prevents the Airship from relocating.
Music Box : (Map-only item) This item changes the overworld music to a different theme, a shortened version of the original Super Mario Bros. theme, and puts all the Hammer Bros. and the Piranha Plants (in World 7) on the map to sleep for 2 turns, causing them to remain in the same place on the map. Mario can walk past the Hammer Bros. or Piranha Plants while they sleep without being taken to a battle scene with them.
Hammer : (Map-only item) This hammer can break impassable stones on the world map. A buzzer will sound if Mario attempts to use a hammer at a place without a rock.
There have often been disputes regarding Mario's special powers in the Mario universe, his super mushroooms always making him appear larger than life and the magic "leaves" giving him the ability to fly much like symptoms assocaited with cannabis. Mario has often been critized in some circles as promoting adolescent drug usages in the early 1990's.
Super Mario Bros. 2 (USA) featured a slot machine minigame, and Super Mario Bros. 3 built on this by featuring several different minigames which can be accessed from the map screen. There are two different game show-style bonus games, both hosted by Toad, which consist of a sliding matching game and a memory game where the player has to match up two of the same card without missing twice. Though not games per se, there are also "Toad houses" which give the player free items, as well as coin bonuses similar to those found at the end of beanstalks in the original Super Mario Bros.
A cut-down version of Mario Bros. is also used as a two-player mini-game in Super Mario Bros. 3. In two-player mode, either player can initiate the mini-game when both players are at the same place on the overworld map. The two players compete to earn five coins; the first one to get five wins the mini-game and gets to continue in the main game, although the loser can still rematch if they quickly react before the winner moves to a different spot on the overworld map.