Daniel P. Barron

Super Mario Bros. 3

Saturday, March 18, 2017 

SMB3 is a two-player game like chess is a two-player game. It's meant to be played competitively. A player wins and a player loses. I have to say this because every time I've played against someone, they freak out the first time I suck them into a PvP battle and steal their turn. Then there's a 50/50 chance they'll just stop playing altogether. But if you manage to play through to the end, victory is determined by points. You know that number in the corner that goes up when you collect coins? As it turns out, coins are a sort of consolation for wrong-play. Most of your points come from time! When you finish a level via the card-box at the end, any remaining seconds on your timer get converted into points. The faster you complete a level, the more points you get. That is the first principle of SMB3. Run through levels as fast as possible. Any coins and powerups you find along the way are incidental; a nice bonus. This is a sort of guiding principle of course, because sometimes it is advantageous to sacrifice time-points for some strategic powerup.

The game can be described as consisting of three phases. The phases relate to whistle aquisition. The whistle is the most powerful item in the game. If you have two of them, you probably win. Let's assume you are equally matched against your opponent; that is, he also knows what he's doing. Neither of you will let the other get his second whistle. This provides us with a convenient place to slice up the game into phases: getting the whistles, playing some world(s), and the unavoidable World 8. dun dun dun!!!

The Whistles

There are two whistles in World 1. The first is in Level 3, and that's the one you want to get. That's because Level 3 has a pink note block which allows you to cycle through repeatedly, gathering coin and powerup points in place of the time-points you won't be getting. i The second whistle is in the castle, and although you can get lots of points with the skeleton turtle and a racoon tail, it pales in comparison to the points in Level 3. That said, Level 2 allows for the same dynamic ii of point gathering found in the castle, and if both players are equally versed, this phase should be a toss up point wise.

There's another whistle in World 2, and neither of you will get it. But the fact that it is there to be had will dictate your actions. You can force your opponent to use his whistle iii in order to prevent you from getting a second. So then it's a race to that boomerang bro behind the rock pile! That means you have to first beat the hammer guy who has the hammer item thing. Except there's two of him! And it's impossible to know which is which; they dance around each other, out of sight.

World 7 (Probably)

Whoever is forced to use their whistle will probably choose World 7 as the destination. It's a matter of taste. If you want to have a longer game, pick 5 -- shorter, pick 7. World 5 is my favorite, iv but it's probably not worth having to also go through 6 (the icy one!) -- bleh. It's worth noting that a longer game means more variance in points, and if you are lagging behind, you might need this extra time to catch up. But if you're already so far behind, it's not likely the extra worlds will work in your benefit.

You will be playing World 7 for sure, v and there's a very crucial point within. The half-way castle has a reset, a p-switch, and is made almost entirely out of bricks. Whoever gets this level will likely win the game. If you still have your whistle, you can relax a little. If it becomes clear your opponent will get the castle, summon that magic tornado! This is doubly important if he's also got a p-wing. You can forget about winning if Luigi gets to fly around collecting coins for three minutes straight.

World 8

Is there anything on a video game console more frightening and intimidating than World 8? It's dark, it's mean, and you cannot avoid it. Litterally! The world has a sort of fog-of-war where you can't see beyond a few spaces. Some levels snatch you into them if your timing isn't just right. There's a whole preamble to the world where every level is a quasi castle/hammer bro. This is all to really drive home the point that if you're gonna be dying you shouldn't even be playing. It's relatively easy to avoid death in the worlds leading up to this one.

World 8 must be played, no matter how the whistles were used. The general strategy in a competitive SMB3 match is to secure a lead in points, and then finish the game quickly before your opponent has time to catch up. The lead must be substantial -- at least a level's worth of points; a couple to be safe. Even if your opponent is lagging in points, he can win if he beats Bowser. There's time points, vi and the king himself gives a decent payoff, assuming he's killed with fireballs or hammers.

There is a quasi-level just before the castle. It is there for a very specific reason; one which dictates placement of levels throughout the entire game. This hammer bro style non-level is exactly one space away from the pipe. That means whoever beats it gets their player token one space away from the pipe. Why should that matter?

PvP Battles

The bane of bad player's, who have come to expect a one to one ratio of level play, existence. When you beat a level in SMB3, a token is placed on the world map in its place. If your opponent wanders over this token, you have a chance to challenge him to a battle. Even if he's much better than you, it's a situation worth avoiding -- that is, having to trade a 100% chance of playing a level for a ~50% chance.

Now if you plop yourself down on that token, you're getting challenged for sure. But if there is a bit of runway leading up to it, you can get a running start and skip right over him. And in most instances, this is the case. PvP battles are kinda rare, especially if both players know where not to stand. Some levels/bonuses are situated on little dead-ends which force you to battle on your way out. That's the trick in World 1, to catch noobs. There is a mushroom hut on a dead end; you shouldn't need this powerup, especially if it means risking your next turn!

Sometimes the dead end is unavoidable, like in the final stretch of World 8. The map is designed in such a way as to force one last PvP battle before the last level. This battle is the whole game in a way, because if you are equally matched, you will get to this point with about the same points, and whoever wins will surely win the game. Killing Bowser is a victory lap at this point; his castle isn't particularly hard to beat.

  1. That's because getting a whistle is a sort of cheat -- an alternate ending to the level. And while we're on that topic: the only way to get time points is by jumping into a card-box at the offical end to a level, or by defeating a bowser-kin. It is for this reason that most hammer bros and similar quasi-levels should be avoided. ^
  2. If you can find a monster that spawns within the time it takes you to fall from a previous bounce, you can bounce perpetually, gathering exponentially increasing points. The bad player will keep on bouncing until he starts getting 1-Ups. The pro will stop the bounce just before the 1-Up, and start over. You get 8000 points on the last bounce; that's like half a level's worth of time points! ^
  3. Since the magic tornado takes both players to the world selection map, whatever level you were about to reach will no longer be accessible. ^
  4. Where do I start? Tanooki suit ; shoe suit or whatever it's called ; cool beanstalk-to-other-part-of-world aesthetic. Which reminds me, it may be the case that World 5 must be skipped in a competitive match, or at least another whistle must be used before that beanstalk castle is reached. The stupid thing doesn't end your turn! It's possible to keep going back into it over and over, never letting your opponent get another turn. It's truly an infinite loop. What a cool world! ^
  5. The only way to skip past World 7 is by using a whistle from the warp screen (which you got to by first using a whistle) -- ie: you'd need to have two whistles, and what kind of oppenent would let you have that!? I guess one guy could whistle into World 7, and then the other whistle to World 8, but you'd need to touch down long enough to see those pirana plants dancing to the music. ^
  6. A lot of them too. There is a glitch in Bowser's castle that lets you skip past most of it, involving a pretty simple crouch-jump onto a power-up block that forces you through the wall when you stand up. ^

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