To understand the greatness of Mario 3 we must first understand the original Super Mario Bros that came before it. Imagine yourself as a kid in March of 1986 sitting in front of your NES playing SMB for the first time ever. You would have no idea what you where in for. (and if you were me you weren’t born quite yet) Still, the game gives you everything you need to know as you need it.
You start out on the left side of the screen facing right. If you move right then the screen follows, if you move left then you go nowhere. Good, now we know where to go. Now we see our first enemy. If we continue right we’ll collide with him so we jump for the first time. We could avoid him or we could jump on him, it doesn’t matter as long as we survive. Now for some blocks. As tiny Mario we can’t break any blocks but we can hit a “?” block and get a mushroom and get big to break the rest.
From that point we know everything necessary to beat the game. The first level also introduces: fire flowers, starmen, pipes, hidden areas, pits, hidden 1up mushrooms, coins, and more. After the first level the only things we see for the first time are new enemies, lifts, lava, Bowser, warp zones, and water levels. The first level has almost everything there is to see in the game.
Mario 3 takes the opposite approach. At every turn you get something new. That’s why I’m able to promise a 200 part series without panicking. The original SMB can be considered a tutorial for SMB3. The linear nature of SMB is lifted in SMB3 and without the learned background we might stumble. Good thing we know how to dive right in.