My favorite platformer on the NES
The level design is very good and original, this is the game's strongest point and for a good reason. Whenever you think you have seen everything there is something new which shows how much the NES is actually capable off. I also liked how the world all had themes like desert or water, it's an old retro tradition I understand, but it never fails to be charming. If I have to name a downside it's that the levels always end in a black background which is weird considering everything else is very colorful, but that is nothing too bad.
Compared to the first Super Mario Bros. game, this one looks like it's on a completely new console, like this game was meant for the Super Nintendo, but somehow ended up fitting on a NES-cartridge. The graphics are much better (understatement there) and the colors are much brighter and enjoyable.
The new map which allows you to take multiple paths to reach the same goal is very interesting and adds more depth to the multi-player. The map is filled with obstacles and moving bonuses that the players can collect which make it feel like a part of your adventure rather than just a fancy menu where you select the level you want to play. My cousin and I have a strategy where I get all as many puzzles as I can while he does some of the harder parts of the level, but sometimes we just want to be competitive and steal the bonuses away from each other or die on purpose.
I like the many different bonuses the game has, the original Mario only had the flowers and mushrooms, but now you also have a leaf (that allows you to fly), a frog-suit that makes swimming easier and a whistle that works like a warp-zone. It's also nice that you can store power-ups and use them before you start a level, this way you don't have to find one while playing and risk losing a lot of lives in the process. You can now also find items by doing mini-games which can also result in finding more lives.
There is some pretty nice music in this game and while nothing tops the old Mario theme, it's still very refreshing after hearing that tune over and over again.There is still not a lot of variety, but enough to keep make sure you don't get bored of them too soon.
My biggest and foremost complaint is that this game contains no save-feature whatsoever, if you decide to stop playing for a while, all your progress is lost. This is not just a short, but hard game like the original Super Mario Bros., this game takes quite a long time, especially without the whistle. I never made it past the third world, simply because I don't want to play that much Mario in just one sitting, I want to take a break and play something else. I understand this was before saving became a standard part of every video game, but this one deserved to be an exception.
The Bottom Line
I hate reviewing NES games and especially platformers because they are just so simple and so many of them look the same that it's hard to come up with proper criticism. Even praising is hard because they all work and look the same. However Super Mario Bros. 3 is probably the best in the entire NES library, it looks great and it plays great, but above all it's designed amazingly well. The only flaw I noticed was that there is no save-feature, but that was common at the time and most people won't have any problem with it.
Super Mario Bros. 3 is a nice game for kids and maybe even their parents, some teenagers may also enjoy playing it, but they might consider it a bit childish. If you want to play this for nostalgia's sake, rest assured that it's still as great as it ever was.