Super Mario Bros 3 is the classic platforming action game. Not "a" classic platforming action game, note: the classic platforming game, a refinement of a process that started in the legendary Super Mario Bros.
By now, the classic Mario Bros gameplay model should need no introduction, but just in case: as either Mario or Luigi, the player races through a series of levels, leaping from platform to platform, evading or attacking enemies and collecting coins and power-ups. As the game progresses, new twists appear that demand quick thinking, precise timing and dogged persistence. By making it to the end of each world and defeating the Koopaling who controls it, the brothers will eventually get to the eighth world where they'll battle the fearsome Bowser to rescue Princess Toadstool.
Earlier Mario Bros games established the basic gameplay model, but Super Mario Bros 3 introduces several new twists. For starters, players have some choice about how they tackle the different levels in a world; there's a world map for them to move around on, although some levels need to be defeated to unlock certain areas. Mario and Luigi also have some new abilities, including the power to slide down slopes. They can also pick up and throw some blocks, an ability reminiscent of the throwing mechanic in Super Mario Bros 2.
New power-ups grant Mario and Luigi the power of flight, improved swimming, the ability to throw hammers and even the power to turn into a stone statue. The statue's ability to attack straight down at enemies on the ground became the "ground pound" attack which is part of most subsequent Mario games.
Super Mario Bros 3 is a classic of the platforming genre, combining charming, colourful graphics, a cheerful soundtrack and challenging but fun gameplay. A smash hit when it came out for the Nintendo Entertainment System, this game is widely regarded as one of the greatest platforming games of all time. The simple control system means that this is an easy port to the PC -- like all NES games, it uses four directional arrows and two action buttons, one for jumping and one for any other action Mario can take.
Although Super Mario Bros 3's graphics and sound aren't as sophisticated as a modern game's, there's no denying that this classic of the genre is still a wonderful way to waste a few hours. But watch out -- while charming, this game can still be frustratingly challenging.