Review: Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 [Game Boy Advance]

One of the best GBA titles, especially if you've got an e-Reader


Super Mario Bros. 3 was one of the most influential games of all time. At the time of its release on February 12, 1990, it had a lot of hype running for it, with a notable amount of that coming from the at-the-time recent film, The Wizard. The game was sold out in nearly every store that sold video games for months after the release date. Several years later, the game was remade on the Super Nintendo in the package Super Mario All Stars with beautiful 16-bit graphics and sound.

Now fast forward to October 2003. The game was rereleased on the Game Boy Advance, the bestselling handheld at the time. While it was nowhere near as highly hyped as the original, it still brought a considerable percent of Mario fans to the title, along with new gamers who had yet to experience Mario 3. And with that, I begin my review.

Story: 9/10

Bowser captures Princess Peach for the second time (third to Japan) and locks her away in his castle. He also sends his seven children to the seven lands between Mario and himself to wreak havoc. They capture the kings of each land and transform them into animals. Mario and Luigi, being self-centered, go off to save her.

Gameplay (Super Mario Bros. 3): 10/10

Mario 3 consists of the same classic “kill the enemies and finish the stage” formula used in the first Super Mario Bros. Run and jump your way to the end of the stage before the time runs out. On the way, collect coins strewn about in an attempt to exchange 100 for a 1-up (extra life). Items are thrown into the mix to help you pass the levels unscathed. Warp pipes take you to different places, underground chambers, or around the screen. But look out for the Venus Fire Traps and Piranha Plants that live in them! Koopa Troopas walk around (along with the one-squish Goombas) waiting to be bonked by Mario and be turned into a shell-shocking weapon. The ends of stages also have a roulette game in which you receive a card. Receive three cards and get an extra life; receive three matching cards and win a few more lives!

There are quite a few power-ups in the game. The classic Mushroom makes Mario large and vulnerable to one additional hit. Fire Flowers enable Mario to shoot fireballs at enemies, killing most of them with a single hit, except those impervious to flames. The Raccoon Leaf lets Mario fly and float through the sky and across pits. Starmen make Mario invincible. There are a bunch of other power-ups that can be used in the stages, while some, like the Music Box, can only be used on the map screen.

Speaking of the map screen, it was probably the most innovative thing to hit any Mario game. It allows you to select which stage you want to play next and advance only to certain stages based on which ones you defeated before. Mushroom Houses and Spade Panels also add a little bit of fun to this area. Inside the Mushroom Houses lives a Toad, who will let you pick a free item to add to your inventory. The Spade Panels allow you to play a little slot machine style of game—match up a symbol and win a prize of two to five lives. Hidden N Spade Panels let you play a matching game where you can win prizes of items. Inventory items can be used at any time on the map screen, but power-ups are only usable in the stages.

I'd also like to mention that this game actually retains the multiplayer aspect from the original NES version. When selecting a file, you can choose either Mario or Mario & Luigi. It plays where one player takes Mario and the other takes Luigi. After completing a level (or dying), you pass the GBA to whoever is playing Luigi for them to take their turn; after their success or failure, the system goes back to you. Even if you didn't start with two players, you can continue a save with two, as well as vice-versa. The game did leave out the three minigames you can play, but one of them is on all of the Super Mario Advance cartridges.

After beating the main storyline, you can go back and play all the levels you missed the first time around and collect loads of items from the Mushroom Houses. As an added bonus, each world you finish completely comes with a “Clear!” label.

Gameplay (Mario Bros.): 8/10

The arcade classic, Mario Bros., returns in this game. Packaged as the “Multiplayer” option on the title screen as well as the second game option on the game selection screen, this game lets you play as Mario (or Luigi or Wario or Waluigi), attempting to clean the sewers of all the enemies. This is done by bumping the platform they're standing on from below to flip them onto their backs. You can also use one of two POW blocks to bump the whole stage. Once they're paralyzed, it's your chance to kick them! You'll get monetary rewards for getting rid of them, too.

Each stage gets progressively more difficult, adding tougher enemies and a greater amount of them. Later ones have fireballs flying across the screen. Every few stages, there is a bonus level where you must collect all the coins to receive an extra life. Bowser levels are also tossed into the mix, as well.

In the multiplayer version, it's far more fun; you have to attempt to knock your opponents out by tossing them into enemies while you collect five coins. If you die, you're out. They'll fall just as easily as the enemies when bumped from below or with the POW block. There's also a trash can in the center where you can get lucky and get an item (such as a Starman) that can help you out. The can also works as a strategy, because you're invincible while in there.

Graphics: 9/10

The graphics in this game, while they may be almost exactly the same as the Super Nintendo graphics, are still beautiful to look at on the GBA. Compared to the original NES version, the graphics look amazing. One thing has changed, however. The status bar was moved to the top to allow more to fit on the Game Boy Advance's tiny screen.

Sound: 10/10

The music in the game is the same beautiful soundtrack from before: all the classic Super Mario Bros. 3 tunes, remixed with what the GBA can do. If you loved the classic music, you'll love the new music. All the sound effects return, along with loads of Mario voices, reused from the past couple Super Mario Advance games.

Replayability: 10/10

Ah, the signature of the Mario games! Even after you beat the masterpiece, you can still go back to complete all the levels, and there are a lot of them. However, just for fun, you can go ahead and start a second file and play through it again. Why not get a friend to play co-op with?

e-Reader Bonuses: 10/10

If you own an e-Reader, there are a bunch of additional bonuses available. While you do have to be lucky enough to own one of these expensive devices, it might be well worth it. You'll also need some cards. These were available in small sets that resemble trading card booster packs, as well as two that came bundled with the game. (Those who bought it during a Wal-Mart special also received five more.)

There are three types of e-Reader cards for this game: item cards, level cards, and demo cards. I'll start off with the item cards. Any time you need a little boost in your game, you can simply connect a second GBA via Link Cable and put an e-Reader in it. The item scanned will immediately appear in your inventory. Several of the cards are item bundles, such as the full set of standard items or five Starmen. There is even a 10-up card in case you felt you needed some more lives! Another bonus is the classic cape from Super Mario World. And these cards can be scanned multiple times, making the game a cakewalk. Two special switches exist. One adds SMB2 vegetables to the levels while the other allows Mario's fireballs to turn enemies into coins.

Level cards, on the other hand, add new variety to the game. In World-e, you can add new levels scanned from cards. These levels are almost entirely new designs, intended to pique the interest of veteran players. One level is a new type of airship. Another level is a ghost house. In each level are several Advance Coins, just like the ones in Super Mario Advance. Some even include an elusive e-Coin to add to the gallery. Advance Coins unlock special Mushroom Houses, in which you can play three different minigames.

Finally, there are the demo cards. If you're having difficulty pulling off a trick in certain levels, just swipe one of these cards and the game will switch into autopilot, showing you how to do something like get a bunch of 1-ups or speedrun a level. That's about all the use that these cards have.

Unfortunately, only two of the four sets were released in the United States, with the rest being Japan only. So if it seems like some cards are missing, you are correct, because they are. Several levels, switches, items (including a 100-up mushroom), and demos weren't rereleased, unfortunately.

Other Extras

This game has a couple little extra features, such as a rumble feature if used with a GameCube controller on the Game Boy Player. There is also the sleep mode, activated by pressing Select+L+R, which lets you pause the game for a long time while using minimal battery. Finally, you can save any two level plays just by pressing the R button after finishing the demo. Saving is a strange case, though. After beating the game, you can save anytime. However, until then, you have to rely on saving only after castles and fortresses. Otherwise, the only saving you can do is quicksaving, which allows you to suspend your game and turn the system off; once you return to your game, the quicksave is erased.

Verdict: Buy

This game is worth every penny. Nowadays, this game can be found used for less than twenty US dollars. If you see this sitting on the shelf, definitely pick it up! This is one of the best games you can buy on the portable. If you own an e-Reader, this game will be worth it even more.

Final Quote

Mario: “Mamma mia!”