There are so many classic games in the Mario canon that very few can be short listed as being a viable candidate for the best game in the series. Super Mario Bros. 3, however, is one of those games. Out of all the 2D Mario games, it arguably has the best level design and pacing, taking place across eight distinct worlds with different themes, power-ups, and enemies to contend with.
Not only was it lauded by critics upon release, it became a fan favorite and one of those games that people return to again and again. Holding a special place in gamers hearts, everyone has a favorite world, level, enemy to stomp and power up to utilize. This fan adoration and critical acclaim is mirrored in the tens of millions of copies of the game sold worldwide, as well as its multiple re-releases on platforms such as the Super Nintendo, Game Boy Advance, 3DS, and Wii U.
One of the things that players love the most about this title is the amount of little Easter eggs and secrets that are contained within it. Every world has a shortcut within it, there are hidden passages within a litany of levels, and random mini-games scattered throughout the game give you new power-ups and bonuses.
That being said, even the most ardent Mario player would be unlikely to have discovered everything within the game. The number of layers and somewhat random nature of events within the game mean that many of these things would have been missed. Here, we are going to look at some of those hidden secrets!
25 Hide Behind Scenery
One of the most common fan theories about Super Mario Bros 3 is that the entire game is just a play. Meaning that the levels, worlds, enemies, and power-ups merely stages and props for the protagonist Mario, his brother Luigi, and their cast of friends and enemies to use.
This feature, which is easy to miss, backs up this idea.
If you stand on a white block and hold down, you will "disappear" behind the scenery. Way to break the fourth wall, Mario!
24 Warp To World 8
Super Mario Bros. 3 is, like most Mario games, easy to pick up and play, yet challenging to complete. Given that the spikes in difficulty have waned over the years, this relatively old 2D Mario game is certainly no exception to this rule. So, if you're too impatient to trudge through all the levels in all eight worlds, why wait! The warp whistle allows you to forego much of the game and warp your way straight to the final stage!
23 White Mushroom Houses
There are many mushroom houses scattered throughout the game in plain sight and are, therefore, practically impossible to miss. These "levels" give respite to players, while also providing them with extra lives and power-ups which can help ease their journey as well as help them survive it. Lesser known are the white mushroom houses, which can only be accessed by getting enough coins in specific levels. These houses can give you rare, special items such as p-wings and anchors.
22 An Easy Swim
The second level in the final world of the game is a tricky one. It requires Mario to take on a fleet of Bowser boats, a challenging proposition for sure.
However, there is a way to ease the difficulty that doesn’t require a glitch or cheat.
If you simply swim underneath the boats, you can avoid your formidable enemies and their weapons and float your way to the end of the stage. You still have to face the boss on the final boat to complete the level though. Well, you can’t have everything…
21 Different Letters
The airship battles are some of the most iconic not only in the game, but in the entire series. Defeat Koopa Jr. end of the ship and you will receive a thank you letter from the King. A kind gesture, to be sure, but what you may not know is, depending on what you are wearing, you can receive multiple different letters from his royal highness. Don the Tanooki suit, frog suit, or hammer suit, and the note of thanks you receive will be a little bit different!
20 Throne Room
Ah, the throne room! Where you are rewarded by the king for your chivalrous good deeds. And now, thanks to players who are able to access off-screen content, we can now pull back the curtain (remember how its all supposed to be a play!) and see beyond what we were meant to. Now, in fairness, there’s not much to see here, just a black and white background. But, if go above the throne room, you jump into the outline of the letter which Mario receives from the king congratulating him!
19 Not Just An Object!
Every world map in Super Mario Bros. 3 is different. These maps are filled with level ports, mushroom houses, and castles.
They’re also littered with scenery related to the world, like pyramids in World 2 or cactuses in World 1.
And these levels are just there for scenery, right? Well, no. Actually, some of them can be activated like a level, with a variety of results: it may bring you to a mushroom house, it may turn the world map into a crazy, glitchy mess of a level. Or, it may just crash the game. Oh well…
18 Slip Sliding Away
By itself, the slide attack which allows Mario to glide along a surface after gathering momentum could be missed by the more casual or non-observant Mario fans. As cool as it is, it cannot be used while wearing the hammer suit. Or can’t it? Well, the answer is: kinda. When sliding down a steep surface (like a cave entrance), Mario can turtle up while wearing the suit, tricking the game into allowing you to engage in a slide!
17 We Built The Pyramids
Coming at you with more glitches here, the interactive pyramid scenery which we talked about above can, in one instance, be activated with no risk of making the game go bonkers! When you go into the level, there is a brief moment at the start where you must scale part of the pyramid to access a door which takes you to the level proper. However, again if you go beyond the perimeters of the map which were meant to be viewed, you come across a secret stash of coins and a shortcut to the end of the level.
16 Extra Lives Galore
Extra lives are an essential survival mechanism in Super Mario Bros. 3. In the second level of world 1, there is a glitch where, if you stand over a pipe wearing the raccoon suit at the beginning of the level, rows upon rows of goombas will emerge from it.
Jump on one and fly into the air, glide back down and smash another one and you will gain an extra life.
You can do this as much as you like until you are satisfied with the number of lives you have, get bored or, somehow, miss your target.
15 Yet More Lives!
This one takes place in the fourth level of world 3. About halfway through the level, you’ll come across a group of creepy Lakitus. Grabbing a turtle shell, you need to launch it between two question mark blocks, sending it back and forth. Eventually, those stupid turtle skeletons will drop directly into the path of the shell, allowing you to rack up the lives while sending those nightmarish former fouls back to their graves where they belong!
14 N-Panel Simplified
You would be forgiven for thinking that the staff at Nintendo were battling gambling habit during the development of this game. The prevalence of cards, mystery boxes, and games of chance all point towards someone who's spent as much time at the blackjack table as they have at level design. The N-Panel is no different and, while it can be frustrating, the house needn’t always win. All you have to remember is that the cards at the bottom right-hand corner are always star, flower, mushroom. You’ll be clearing those panels in no time!
13 No Damage
In the final boss of the game, you fight (of course, who else) Big Bowser! However, in a weird glitch, you will be unharmed by the lower part of Bowser’s body.
That means that if you duck when he unleashes his ground and pound attack, you will be unaffected!
Even better is if you are playing as Baby Mario, you can run into and through the shelled evildoer without sustaining damage, where normally that would be an instant end for Mario junior.
12 Free The Chomp
The chain chomps in Super Mario Bros 3. are some of the most disconcerting enemies in the entire game. With their enraged faces and erratic movement, get to close to these foes at any angle and it means an instant loss in power up and a demise for Baby Mario. The only thing that puts you at ease as a player is the fact that they are on a chain, limiting their reach. Frighteningly, though, if you hang around and goad these lunatics for longer than 175 seconds, they will break free and go after you!
11 World 3 Door Glitch
Super Mario Bros. 3 is full of bizarre levels, its also full of levels which seem to have randomized sequences which, like the card games, rely as much on chance as anything. The Fortress level in world three is a great example of this. A level which sees you falling through space, landing at random doors which will either send you back to the start or lead you to he grey pipe which progresses you through the level. But, if you go through door three and then door four, you’ll go straight to the level’s end.
10 You’re A Star!
At the end of most levels in the game, Mario approaches a floating box which has a changing set of “cards” within them.
When you jump at it, whatever card is in it when you do is the one you get.
If you get three “star cards” in a row, you’re given five extra lives (as well as a big fanfare and light display). But if you run at it full speed and hit the bottom left-hand corner, chances are you will get a star, and thus five lives every three levels!
9 No Balls
The final Bowser showdown is a pivotal moment in any video game. The final challenge which test’s Mario’s skill and secures the release of his beloved princess (until the next game comes out, anyway). There is a way to make it easier though, enter the castle with a P-wing, make it to the end intact where Bowser is, fly to the top right-hand corner, and follow a path into a secret room. Come back and, low and behold, Bowser will be unable to shoot fireballs at you. Shooting blanks sucks, eh?
8 The Missing Link
A prevailing fan theory is that the Mario games are simply a retelling of the Zelda games. The concept of the ordinary hero setting out to rescue a princess against all odds from the grasp of a supernatural, overpowered foe who kidnapped her is shared by both franchises. And while rescuing a princess from the clutches of evil is an old story, the presence of a flute, which is strikingly similar to Link’s recorder, is far less ambiguous. For mutual fans of the series, it surely raised a few eyebrows when and if they discovered it.
7 Hammer Ship
A complicated one here. The wandering hammer brothers, which roam the world map, are a challenging distraction from the typical levels you normally engage in.
However, there is a way to turn these brief enemy encounters into lucrative treasure ships.
But it’s a bit strange. You need to collect a total of coins that is a multiple of 11, and then complete a level with the countdown clock on an even number. It sounds like an obsessive compulsive’s dream!
6 World 3
As mentioned earlier, Super Mario Bros. 3 is a game that’s easy to pick up and play initially but gets significantly harder the further you progress. World 3, known as “Water World,” is a prime example of this. But the difficulty spike isn’t purely in the levels themselves, but also the maps design, needing players to hop on a canoe across the ocean to reach the final level. While some may manage to navigate their way there, most would be unaware that the islands in the world are modeled after Japan’s islands.
This is a really cool Easter egg that’s a lot of fun for fans, the only draw back is that it only works with the Japanese version of the game. If you are wearing a Tanooki suit and you come across a kuribo shoe, turn into a statue just before jumping inside. As a result, Mario will turn grey and enemies will be unable to touch him. This ability is very similar to the star power, only without the psychotic music and the false sense of security which usually leads you to falling down a hole.
4 Easier In The West
Ever played through Super Mario Bros. 3 and thought: “Wow, this is really easy!” Probably not, but what may shock you is that, as challenging as the game is to complete, the version that we’ve played in the west is actually easier than the original Japanese version!
In the western version, if you have a power up and get hit, you regress back to big Super Mario.
In the original, however, getting hit no matter what your power up sends you all the way back to your tiny Baby Mario form!
3 Extra Lives… Again!
Another level here with the potential to allow you to cheat the system and gain a litany of bonus lives! In the level 4-1, you will come across three turtles in three different locations (a cloud, a block, and a row of bricks) but in close proximity to one another. Only possible by wearing a raccoon or tanooki suit, you stomp on one, making it retreat into its shell, then glide to the next one, doing the same thing, then to the third. Repeating the process, you will continuously rack up points and, eventually, lives too!
2 P-Wings For All!
The P-Wings are one of those cool, weird, wacky items you come across in Super Mario Bros 3. Basically, they allow you to (while wearing the tanooki or raccoon suit) fly for an unlimited amount of time without coming back down (for one level), allowing you easy access to hidden areas and, often times, an easier path through the level. If you start a new game after beating it without restarting your system, you will be given 28 P-Wings, giving you a huge advantage on your second playthrough.
1 Hidden Levels
It is not uncommon for video games to have things hidden in their coding that didn’t appear in the finished product. Usually, these are unfinished parts of the map and things of that nature, and are only uncovered by the most dedicated of players.
Super Mario Bros. 3 has these too, and actually contains an array of additional levels.
While many are unfinished, inferior ones, some are actually alternative versions of those in the finished game. You can also find other cool extras like unused mini-games as well as graphical components that didn’t make it.