2015 marks the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. 3, which arguably still stands as the best game in the legendary Mario series. It’s almost impossible to explain how much bigger, deeper and more varied Mario 3 was than any other Mario game or platformer that had come before. As a kid, the game felt like an endless well I’d never see the bottom of. Due to my rampant warp whistle abuse, there are still Mario 3 levels I’ve never completed. Hell, there’s probably a few I’ve never even seen.
Here are a few things you may not know about the biggest, best, most ambitious platformer of the 8-bit era. Grab yourself a P-Wing and hold on tight…
1. The game was made easier for us wimpy Westerners. Super Mario Bros. 3 was a hard game, and that final world in particular seemed impossible at times, but it turns out that it was actually significantly softened for us bumbling Western gamers.
A lot of tweaks were made to the American version of Mario 3, but the most significant change was to the power-up system. In the Japanese version of the game, getting hit while wearing a suit or carrying a Fire Flower meant that you reverted all the way back to shrimpy, non-super Mario. Even if you were wearing a Kuribo’s Shoe! That’s just cruel. In the American version, you instead reverted to Super Mario. Basically, you could take up to three hits in the American version, but never more than two in the Japanese version. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it makes a pretty huge difference, particularly in those crazy final levels.
2. There was going to be a centaur suit in the game. Yes, Mario was originally supposed to have a power-up that turned him into a half-horse centaur. I won’t be held responsible for whatever fan fic, slash fic and/or pony fic results from this revelation.
Too sexy to exist.
The original idea was to base all of Mario 3‘s new power-ups on fantasy creatures, so in that context, centaur Mario actually made total sense. In the end, though, only Tanooki Mario, based on Japan’s mythical, giant-testicled flying raccoon dogs made the cut.
Yes, I said giant-testicled.
Mario’s butt-stomp suddenly makes a lot more sense.
3. The Mario 3 cartridge contains a special NES-boosting chip. Super Mario Bros. 3 looks much better than almost any other game on the NES, and it wasn’t just because they whipped the programmers extra hard for this one. Mario 3‘s cartridge actually contained the 8-bit equivalent of the SNES Super FX chip.
Mario 3‘s special chip allowed for diagonal scrolling, animated titles, more complex graphics and a permanent status bar at the bottom of the screen. A number of other later NES games, like the pretty fantastic-looking Kirby’s Adventure, also used Mario 3‘s special chip.
4. Boos are based on Mario 3 director Takashi Tezuka’s wife. Boos, introduced in Mario 3, are one of the most unique enemies in the Mushroom Kingdom. Face them, and they shy away, but turn your back, and they’re on you like Bowser on Princess. It’s kind of an odd design choice. Since when are ghosts afraid of people?
You’d think Mario would know not to turn his back on these guys by now.
Well, it turns out that Boos are based on the wife of Mario 3 co-director Takashi Tezuka. According to legend, Tezuka’s wife was normally a shy type, but would let him have it about his workaholic habits behind closed doors. So, Tezuka basically snuck a “take my wife, please” joke into Mario 3. I doubt most marriage counselors would recommend immortalizing your wife as a chubby, irritable ghost, but I haven’t dug up any information about a Tezuka divorce, so maybe this little factoid just never made it home.