Top 100 NES/Famicom Games List: #3
Arguably the most beloved console of all time, the Nintendo Entertainment System, commonly abbreviated as NES, is now well over 25 years old. With over two thousand games produced worldwide for the legendary hardware, the NES, despite it’s age, has an eternal staying power. As retro gaming continues to grow in popularity, more and more gamers flock to Nintendo’s first home console to get their gaming fix.
Welcome to the final top 10 countdown for my personal picks of the greatest games to grace the NES and Famicom. I will be posting one update per day on my march towards the number one position. This has been a long time coming, and I want to thank you, my readers, for all of your support.
Now then, as before, I am ranking every game on its overall difficulty using a simple scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is brain dead easy and 10 is….well, Battletoads. A 5 on this scale means it’s average difficulty with perhaps some challenging elements, but nothing the average gamer should get stuck on for too long.
I’m also including many links to videos and other online information sources. Links are indicated by orange words. Please open these links in a new tab/window so you don’t have to navigate away from this article.
part 1, #100-90
part 2, #89-80
part 3, #79-70
part 4, #69-60
part 5, #59-50
part 6, #49-40
part 7, #39-30
part 8, #29-20
part 9, #19-11
Final top 10: #10
Final top 10: #9
Final top 10: #8
Final top 10: #7
Final top 10: #6
Final top 10: #5
Final top 10: #4
So without further ado, here is entry #3!
Bowser has returned to the Mushroom Kingdom and now with the help of his seven Koopaling children, he tries to conquer it again. He sends his Koopalings (Larry, Roy, Lemmy, Wendy, Iggy, Morton, and Ludwig) into seven parts of the Mushroom World to steal the Mushroom Kings’ magic wands, and with the wands, transform the Kings into various creatures. Princess Toadstool sent Mario and Luigi to go and stop the Koopalings and turn the kings back into their normal form. At the end of each world, Mario and Luigi fought one of the Koopalings, and after the match was over, the brothers took the wand from the Koopaling and turned the king back to normal. In addition to that, Bowser has kidnapped Princess Toadstool as well. It’s up to Mario and Luigi to get back the magic wands, defeat Bowser, and save the Princess all before the day is done.
A lot of people would name Super Mario Bros. 3 as the best game on the NES and a strong contender for best game of all time. It will undoubtedly come as a shock to some that I’ve placed Mario 3 in the third overall position. Afterall, what could possibly be better than this illustrious gem? Well, you’ll just have to wait and find out.
Super Mario Bros. 3, in no uncertain terms, is a masterpiece and like Zelda, it’s timeless. It represents some of the best gaming on the face of the Earth and is an an absolutely timeless game that can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of age or gender. I feel the best way to describe what makes Mario 3 grand is to break it down into a few core elements:
Super Mario Bros. 3 wouldn’t exist without Super Mario Bros. lying the groundwork for it. Every element of the brilliant original game, from basic jumping to warp pipe secrets, returns in Mario 3 with more upgrades and refinements than I could possibly list. Just a few of them include enhanced dashing, the ability to jump higher after jumping on a foe, larger, expanded levels, the ability to scroll to the left, and brand new power-ups to compliment the original ones. Chief among the new power-ups is the Raccoon Leaf, which leads me to the next point.
Flight and Level Design
One of the key gameplay elements introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3 addressed something kids all over the world dream of – flying.While it admittingly looked pretty damn silly, when Mario adorned the Raccoon Suit (or later, Tanooki Suit) he could dash to build up speed and take off into the air flying upward for short bursts. By doing so, Mario could fly above enemies and reach secret areas otherwise inaccessible. This concept changed everything about Mario’s level designs. Each area would now been to be designed both vertically as well as horizontally. Not every stage in the game really allowed for flight, but those that did helped shape Mario 3 into something truly special.
The original Super Mario Bros. included the Super Mushroom, Fireflower and Starman powerups. Like in nearly every other aspect, Mario 3 expands the item list by including the power ups from the original game alongside nine brand new ones: the Leaf, Tanooki Suit, Hammer Suit, Frog Suit, Music Box, P Wing, Cloud, Anchor, Magic Flute and Shoe. Each would serve a unique role to aid players. Another important new feature added for Super Mario Bros. 3 were the Toad Houses, which would grant Mario a random item for use before any stage of his choosing. Some suits, such as the Frog Suit of the Fireflower, aren’t ideal for every situation, so this system allows you to keep them in reserve until you need them, sort of like a predecessor to Mario World’s duel item system.
Unfortunately, some of the game’s best and most awesome powers are far too infrequent. You’ll get the Hammer Suit or the Kuribo’s Shoe only a handful of times throughout the entire game. Even more disappointing, you can’t complete multiple stages with the shoe – just like the awesome UFO power in Kirby’s Adventure, Kuribo’s Shoe is taken from Mario upon successfully finishing the stage he got it in. Even so, these power ups are awesome while they last.
Unlike the four basic area types of the original Super Mario 1, Mario 3 really mixes things up with grassy fields, deserts, underground caverns, underwater, snow and ice covered mountains and many others. It wasn’t anything unique to Mario 3 as many other games were doing similar tricks by 1988, but each of the themed worlds really helped make each new area unique and interesting. Even stages within the same theme would be very different from one to the next, as some would be designed for ideal use of the game’s flight mechanics while others would be best suited for running on foot, and others still would be auto-scrolling and require careful timed jumps. They say variety is the spice of life, and that concept is alive and kicking in Mario 3.
Visuals & Audio
Of all the major improvements from Mario 1, the visual design of Mario 3 is the most obvious enhancement. Mario 3 has easily some of the best spritework to appear on the NES. Absolutely everything has a cartoon quality to it from the common enemies to each of the background tiles. The game pushes the color pallet in interesting ways to always produce contrasting colors so everything is easily recognizable and as a result, screenshots pop out at you like few others do. While yes, there are a few technically superior looking games on the NES and Famicom, Mario 3 is one of the most artistically beautiful games of all time, and I truly believe it will still look appealing in another twenty years.
The soundtrack for Mario 3 is among Koji Kondo’s best works. Throughout the entire game, there is really only two overworld stage themes, a single underwater, underground and castle theme, but given how many other little jingles there are such as battling against bosses or on the map screens of each world, Mario 3 is a true treat for the ears. Every single one of the tracks in Mario 3 are incredibly catchy and iconic. You only need listen to the music for a few minutes to understand that Mario 3 was something special on the audio front as well.
With such great music, it’s only natural that there were many remixes made over the years. This megamix is one of my personal favorites.
Replay Value and Challenge
On top of everything else, Super Mario Bros. 3 is also a timeless game with a near infinite replay value. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I’ve played Mario 3 from start to finish only to do it again in a few weeks. It’s a fairly lengthy game compared to many other NES platformers, and it also achieves the perfect difficulty balance in my mind – It isn’t so easy that you’ll breeze right through it, isn’t so far that you’ll give up in frustration, and isn’t so predictable that most experienced players will find absolutely no challenge it in over time. Absolutely anyone can find something to enjoy about this incredible platformer, no matter if you are a seasoned pro or have never played it before.
In 1989, Nintendo’s popularity had reached the point where Mario eclipsed Disney’s Micky Mouse as the most popular cartoon character in the world. Riding so high above the competition, it only made sense that a movie about this incredible phenomenon would be produced, and that winter, kids all over North America went to see what is either the worst or best gaming movie of all time, The Wizard. Although it was slammed hard by critics and an absolute a commercial failure, its hard not to find cheesy, camp value in this cult classic gaming film that was so much a part of the NES era.
The film was about three young kids who travel across the country competing in a national videogame tournament that very likely inspired the creation of the Nintendo World Championships 1990. Heavily sponsored by Nintendo, the movie was crammed with product placements including the infamous Power Glove. What does any of this have to do with Mario 3 you ask? In the film, the contestants who made it into the finals had to compete in a brand new game they had never before seen, and wasn’t out to the public.
That game was Super Mario Bros. 3. It is impossible to understate how exciting this was and how much hype was generated by the game’s inclusion in the film. Most games of that era were lucky to get a TV spot and a few magazine advertisements. Mario 3 really had the film structured around it. There were kids that would go to see The Wizard solely because of Mario 3. When Mario 3 was finally released in North America, it would go on to sell over 18 million copies worldwide, and as of 2011, Super Mario Bros. 3 remains the highest-grossing non-bundled videogame of all time, having grossed $1.7 billion, adjusted for inflation.
In 1990, a new cartoon series following the success of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show was launched called The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3. Like it’s predecessor, most of the scripts written for the show had very little to do with the game – only the characters seem to be the same. Nevertheless, I have many fond memories watching this show as a kid. It’s campy and cheesy of course, but there’s just something fun about it.
Over the years, Super Mario Bros. 3 has been remade twice: the first time was Super Mario All-Stars for the Super NES and again on the GameBoy Advance in Super Mario Advance 4. Both versions feature standard visual enchantments and a few bug fixes, as well as battery backed saving, something the NES/Famicom version lacked.
The recent Super Mario 3D Land for the Nintendo 3DS features the return of the Tanooki Suit to Mario games since its appearance in Mario 3. In 3D Land, there are actually two Tanooki suits – the standard version and the silver one, which allows Mario to turn into a statue as he could in Mario 3.
Mario 3 was heavily promoted and is perhaps the most famous game of all time, spanning a movie, cartoon show, remakes, boardgames, t-shirts, toys stuffed animals and much more. Even today it continues to sell well as one of the most downloaded games for the Wii Virtual Console.
Finally, I want to leave you off with the iconic, memorable, and completely ridiculous Mario 3 commercial that us kids were exposed to in the early 90s so we’d all run to our parents and beg for Mario 3. Enjoy.
Mario 3 North American commercial.
Stay tuned for #2! Feel feel to leave your comments and memories about this one below. See you again soon!