There's been a lot of talk of this new Switch Online service lately. People seem to be underwhelmed with the idea of paying for online access on a Nintendo console. And the Netflix-style catalog of old games included with the service? Nobody seems all that impressed. Except me. I'm totally the kind of dude that this service is made to excite. See, the last Nintendo console I had bought was a Wii. And I the closest I had to retro games on that thing were two Virtual Console games (Super Mario Bros. 2 and Sonic The Hedgehog - the Master System version!) along with the Kirby compilation. So what I'm saying is that for me it's been a long time since I've really dabbled in classic NES games. For me it was really back when Nintendo was reissuing their back catalog via the Gamecube's Animal Crossing NES games, or the GBA's various ports of NES and SNES classics. Y'know the crazy of these new mini plug-n-play consoles that come preloaded with a bunch of games? Not for me. I hate the idea of a bunch of extra hardware with limited functionality that I'd have to swap in and out of limited HDMI ports. But I love the idea of a growing catalog of old Nintendo games to revisit - ones that now have save states, online multiplayer, and the ability to play them portably!
I'm going to say that my first taste of Super Mario Bros. 3 came the same way as probably the vast majority of Americans at the time: The Wizard. Yup that 'classic' road trip movie starring Fred Savage is often referred to as a ninety minute commercial for Super Mario Bros. 3 (and the Power Glove). But I mean... at the time Super Mario Bros. 3 was pretty much the biggest game in the world, right? I mean look at the fucking graphics! This was a game released in 1990. It is still shocking to me to realize that we went from Super Mario Bros. to Super Mario Bros. 3 in the course of just five short years. This was all on the same hardware - and yet the advancements are mind blowing.
I was the second person I knew to actually get a hold of a copy of the game if I recall correctly. The first was this girl down the street from me who had the infamous "uncle who worked at Nintendo." I'm not making this up. I mean, I have no idea if she really had the uncle, but that was the story. What I do know is that she had this game MONTHS before the rest of us did. Although, I say months... who knows. Time seems to work much differently when you're a kid. I managed to get my copy also through an uncle. See back in 1990 games were still kind of considered "toys," so street dates weren't really a big deal. And stores would just get a copy of a game whenever they got it, not necessarily on a specific release date. "Sonic 2sday" in 1992 would be the first time I can remember being aware of a release date. Then we had "Mortal Monday" in 1993 and after that it just seemed commonplace. Anyway, there was this store called Bennies - a chain of very small department stores in New England - and my uncle was friends with someone who worked there and asked that they call him as soon as SMB3 arrived in stock. It seems funny looking back that I obtained such a classic game from a store that was basically where you'd go to buy things like leave bags or bicycle pumps.
Anyway, back to Nintendo's new Switch Online service which was announced during a Nintendo Direct to be launching the following Tuesday. I was excited. I put that shit on my calendar. I KNEW for a week in advanced that okay... next Tuesday night I'll be playing some NES games. Again, this probably meant more to me than dudes who currently had other consoles beyond an Xbox One and a Switch. But my desire to simplify the hobby in recent years meant I was selective about the hardware that I'd buy games for.
So Tuesday came and... crickets. Finally it was announced that the eShop would go down and update along with the system firmware with a projected launch of around... eleven o'clock at night! What? How is "an hour before midnight" even a Tuesday launch? Why not just push it back an hour and call it a Wednesday launch? Ugh. I was annoyed. But I kept trying randomly throughout the night, and magically found that the NES games were working around ten o'clock instead. So I was able to play for about an hour before bed that night. The first game I fired up? Super Mario Bros. 3!
But full disclosure: SMB3 is not my favorite of the series. If we're talking the old 2D games then Super Mario World is hands-down my favorite. If we're limited to just the NES games then I'm one of those weirdos who things Super Mario Bros. 2 (Doki Doki Panic) is the most fun. But I decided to start with SMB3 because it's iconic. If I hadn't really played an old school Nintendo game in a decade then a Mario one seemed like the one to go with. And certainly I'd pick 3 over the original. Also, I had been just recently reading through Game Informer's Top 300 games issue and SMB3 was the #2 game on the list (and highest ranked NES game), so hey why not?
My first hour replaying Super Mario Bros. 3 that night was great. I was actually slightly amazed at the muscle memory. It's like I totally KNEW these early levels inside and out even though I hadn't played them - or even thought about them - in quite a few years. I can remember playing SMB3 on GBA back in like 2009, so we're talking about a decade or so now, and yet I was flying through the levels in the first two worlds. On a nostalgia level, I found myself on the verge of tearing up at the "Kings" music that plays before and after taking on a Koopa Kid. That might be the prettiest music in the whole franchise in my opinion.
Thank goodness for save states (or "suspend points") by the way. It's amazing to me that this game wasn't released with a save option of some sort back on the NES. I'm not sure how a game of this length would be expected to be ran through in one sitting honestly - speedruns aside. I played a bit more over the next night, and still found myself feeling pretty familiar with the levels for the most part. I was still having a blast with the little card matching games and Tanooki suits and frog suits and P-Wings and the whole nine yards.
Then I got to World 7 which is either known as the Plant World or the Pipe World. I'm too lazy to be certain, and it really doesn't matter - you know which world I'm talking about. Anyway, the thing is that I feel like the difficulty spikes hardcore in World 7 and stays that way through World 8. It all came rushing back to me. When I was a kid I must have been way more patient than I am now. I also used warp whistles, haha. But thing is I was running into levels where I'd actually run out of time just trying to remember how to complete them - this after breezing through the first six worlds with very little difficulty. So I don't know, it just kind of doesn't feel like something I feel like continuing to play right now. It's as if I squeezed out all the fun parts, and now I'm all set. Not to mention that my Switch still has nineteen other NES games on it right now that I could be messing with instead. So at the end of the day, my opinions still seem to hold: SMB3 is a great game, but I find SMB2 way more fun, and I still think SMW is the best.