Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of the best games on NES, if not the absolute best. Some of its secrets have entered the collective consciousness of gamers, to a point where most people who have ever owned an NES still remember the location of all the warp whistles, or where to find a Hammer Suit. This information is useful, but it has become common knowledge. You might not even remember how you learned that you could go behind the scenery by crouching on a white block; it has always been a part of you, absorbed into your subconscious through years of dedicated playing.
If one keeps digging past the usual tips and tricks, they might be surprised to find that Super Mario Bros. 3 is still chock full of treasures to be discovered, techniques to master and glitches waiting to be taken advantage of. We have assembled a list of what we believe to be the best lesser known things that can be performed in SMB3. These are for the advanced player: just looking at this list will not take you from zero to pro, but it might be enough to take your game to the next level, or at the very least, they could be neat party tricks to break out the next time you and your friends are gathered around an NES Classic.
Do people play retro games with friends anymore, or is it just me? Anyway, take a look at these, and start practicing!
15. Finish The Game In A Flash
Speedrunning is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the community surrounding the hobby sure has a knack for taking a game apart and finding the shortest possible route from the start of a game to its ending. For Super Mario Bros. 3, it has been determined that the best possible time was around three minutes give or take, depending on if the run is tool-assisted or executed by human inputs only.
This kind of sprint requires the player to take advantage of multiple glitches, most of which involve killing certain enemies to fill up the game’s memory with desired values which can get it to load up the ending where Mario saves Peach. A French speedrunner named Kirua has been nice enough to put together a tutorial, so for anyone who has ever thought of doing this, realizing your dreams is within your reach!
14. For Single Use Only
The Hammer Suit just might be the coolest thing about Super Mario Bros. 3. Its only weakness: Hammer Suit Mario cannot slide down a slope like his other forms can. Instead, he will simply retreat into his shell if a player presses down on the control pad.
That was the universal understanding, until hackers found a sprite of a sliding Hammer Suit Mario hidden in the game. Eventually, they found the only place where it is applicable: Level 6-10, where the player must free the hammer suit from the giant “?” block, and start a slide that brings Mario in the suit’s path. Hammer Mario will continue the slide in his new form, only for the sprite to disappear forever at the bottom of the slope… or at the very least, until the next playthrough.
13. The Fortress Skip
Fortresses play an important role on the world map: clearing them opens up previously inaccessible paths. They also happen to be some of the toughest levels in the game, full of lava and invincible enemies. So if you can, why not skip the headache?
Enter the spade mini-game: this card matching game appears on the map after every 80,000 points the player collects. So, if you time yourself right, given that the game will appear on the next available level on a map, it is possible to spawn it on a fortress. At that point, finishing the spade game will trick the game into thinking the fortress has been cleared, thus allowing the player to continue. Keep in mind that doing so will not unlock the paths associated with the clearing of that castle, so only use this trick if the level is optional (like World 3, for example).
12. Infinite Lives!
Super Mario Bros. 3 is a very generous game in terms of extra lives, but you never know when bad luck can hit, so it never hurts to have a few more in the bank.
To get as many extra lives as your heart desires, level 3-4 is the perfect place to set up this little operation: when you get to an upside-down pipe with a fire-spewing Piranha Plant, start by killing the plant as well as the Goombas patrolling the area. Next, keep moving until you meet a Lakitu, then lure it back to the pipe. Finally, get a shell from the Koopas on the left, and throw it between the blocks under the pipe. If you stand on the platform overlooking the action, Lakitu and his terrible aim will throw Spinies in the pit, in the way of the bouncing shell, narrowly missing Mario. Just stand by and watch the lives add up!
11. A Gigantic Basket Of Free Wings
As someone who has finished Super Mario Bros. 3 too many times to count, I must admit that I had never heard of this little fact until today. After all, finishing the entire game in one sitting using traditional methods still takes a considerable amount of time, which means that I never feel like replaying the whole thing again once the credits roll.
Still, did you know that after watching the end credits, if you wait for the game to return to the title screen and start a new game, you will have 28 P-Wings in your inventory? At this point, this is basically a free pass to skip every single one of the toughest levels by taking to the sky, out of reach of most of Mario’s enemies. There’s not much point to it, but it’s a nice gesture from the developers.
10. All Stars, All The Time
The end of most levels in Super Mario Bros. 3 is marked by a slot machine-style square that will give the player a card to add to their collection. The card will be either a mushroom, a flower or a star. If the player collects three identical cards, they will be awarded a different number of extra lives depending on which type of cards they collected, with the stars being worth the most. So how can one make sure to get a star every time?
The secret to getting a star card is to first get a running start. Once Mario is at full speed, it is imperative that he hits the bottom left corner of the square at a perfect 45-degree angle. If those conditions are satisfied, then you will see that luck has nothing to do with this as you collect your star card over and over again.
9. The Key To The Treasure Ship
Everyone knows of the existence of the white treasure ship, filled to the brim with coins, which appears at random on the overworld map. As it turns out, its appearance is not random, but getting it to appear voluntarily can be a bit of a hassle and necessitates a lot of calculations.
The requirements to conjure the ship concern the player’s coin total at the end of a stage, as well as the score. The coin total must be a multiple of 11, and the tens digit of the score must match the coins total. For example, 22 coins and 12920 points would do the trick, as would 66 coins and 32460 points. It’s nice to know that you can visit the ship any time you want, but with such a complicated key, the question is, is it really worth it?
8. A Brand-New Statue
Turning into a statue using the Tanooki suit can be useful when surrounded by enemies. In some of the Lakitu-infested levels, it’s a real life-saver. However, Super Mario Bros. 3 hides a second type of statue which is far less useful, and far more glitchy.
By entering the secret room in world 7-8 as a Tanooki, it is possible to become the very special Grey Hammer Suit Mario. Simply release the Hammer Suit from the “?” block, then turn into a statue as the bouncing sprite catches up to Mario, and that should do the trick. The only problem: Because Grey Hammer Suit Mario is a glitch, you cannot enter the pipe to exit the room. Therefore, you must wait there and admire your sexy new look while the timer runs out. We’ll let you decide if it’s worth it.
7. Front-Flipping Mario Is The Coolest Mario
Do you like it when Mario does his front-flip jump as a Starman? Do you wish he could do it all the time? Turns out he can… for a price.
In levels 3-9 and 6-10, Mario is able to maintain his front-flipping form if you catch the secret vine of each level while the Starman power-up is still active. The somersault animation will go on, as long as Mario does not touch the ground, and until the timer runs out. You can even jump off the vine, as long as you grab on to it again before touching the floor. So if you are really into somersaults, you can become gaming’s version of Narcissus, admiring your jumping abilities until death takes you because you simply could not look away.
6. An Easy Bowser Fight
This one is a bit trickier, but it can make the final encounter with Bowser much easier. To enter Bowser’s secret room, enter the castle with a P-Wing, and make sure not to lose it. Once you reach a room with a statue that has a small gap between it and the ceiling, squeeze into that gap to walk through the wall. From there, keep advancing normally until you reach the door at the end. In Bowser’s room, fly all the way up and to the left, over the wall and into an identical copy of the previous room. The difference? This time, Bowser does not spitfire, so you only have to worry about his butt splash. Combine this with the crouching trick (Mario cannot be hurt by Bowser’s jump if he is crouching), and you have yourself one easy boss fight.
5. The King’s Speech
At the end of every world, once Mario has defeated the Koopaling and retrieved the wand, he will get a standard “Thank You” speech from the King. Every single King recites the same old boring message, devoid of creativity and sincerity. Still, there is one way to stimulate the Kings’ imagination, if not their individuality (even their speech variations are shared). If you are skillful enough to finish an entire Airship while wearing either the Tanooki suit, the Frog suit or the Hammer suit (and never once getting hit!), the standard royal speech will be replaced by a comment on Mario’s outfit. There is no bonus other than the modified greetings, but at least the King’s acknowledgment is proof that the accomplishment is significant enough to warrant a mention.
4. The Secret Of The White Mushroom House
The White Mushroom House appears out of thin air on the overworld map after completion of a level, and the prize inside is usually worth it: Unusual items such as P-Wings or anchors are waiting inside to be claimed by Mario. As with the previously mentioned Treasure Ships, the White Mushroom Houses can be summoned when special conditions are met. In this case, their appearances are triggered by collecting a specific amount of coins on a corresponding level. For example, collecting 44 coins on level 1-4, or 30 coins on level 2-2 will both activate these bonus levels. There is one White Mushroom House hidden per world, and the entire list is available here, for those of you who are not fond of the “trial and error” method.
3. Free The Chain Chomps!
Those who forgot to pause their game before taking a phone call might have stumbled upon this trick already. Remember taking phone calls? People at one point used their phone to actually make calls around the time Super Mario Bros. 3 was originally released. Anyway, players these days have very few reasons to leave their games unattended for so long, so discovering this easter egg accidentally would require a lot of patience and some unusual thinking.
If you are so inclined, it is possible to free a Chain Chomp of its chains, but doing so requires leaving Mario standing in front of one while it yanks its own chain exactly 49 times. On the 49th occasion, the Chain Chomp will break free and jump at Mario. It’s dangerous, and completely useless, but it’s there if you want it.
2. Under The Sea
This trick requires a very fast thumb (or one of those “turbo” third-party controllers), but if done properly, it allows one to skip every unpleasant enemy and cannonball hanging out on Bowser’s boat in world 8. At the start of the level, jump in the suspiciously-colored water and let Mario sink just a little bit. As you advance forward and under the boat, keep mashing that A button so that Mario consistently hits his head against the bottom of the ship. After all, the line between “slightly under the ship” and “drowning at the bottom of the stage” is a thin one, so you have to make sure to stay as close to the boat as possible. You will be able to jump aboard right next to the pipe which leads to the mini-boss battle, so you can keep your strength for what really matters.
1. Wall Jumping?
Most Mario veterans will assume that wall jumping was only introduced in Super Mario 64, but the maneuver was unofficially discovered much earlier. In Super Mario Bros. 3, some dodgy hit detection makes it possible, if slightly difficult, for Mario to use the advanced technique. This is possible because every surface in the game is composed of a bunch of tiles measuring 16×16 pixels. If Mario hits the edge of one of these tiles with some momentum, the game will register the sprite’s feet as standing on the surface, thus allowing Mario a short period of time to jump off of it. The timing is extremely tricky, but if done well, it’s a beauty to see in action, and it can create some new shortcuts which were never thought possible before.
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