Super Mario Bros. 3 is Super Mario Bros. 30
The Mario family's sibling rivalry rages on for thirty years of Battle Game
Thirty years since its release, Super Mario Bros. 3 is still the best Mario game and its barely-discussed Battle Game is still hugely enjoyable. With the recent launch of Nintendo Switch Online I've had a chance to revisit it alongside the same friend I grew up playing it with on original hardware all those years ago. We near-instantly slipped back into the same pattern as in days of yore; we'd clear one level then just slam-dunk right into the Battle Game and sabotage each other for hours, yelling and laughing the same exact way we used to when we were six year-olds. Battle Game is timeless. Battle Game is forever. Battle Game. Battle Game never changes.
It's brilliant. A take on the original arcade classic Mario Bros., it pits Mario and Luigi – player 1 and player 2 - against each other in a first-to-five race to clear out enemies in that traditional Mario Bros. way; hit the platforms from underneath to flip 'em, then run into the downed monsters to kick 'em off-screen. The meat of the thing lies in the other player's capacity to mess with you – downed monsters can be righted again with a cruelly-timed leap, or players can jump on and barge one another around. The “POW” block at the bottom of the screen is a consistent thorn in player's sides. It's simple stuff but the scope for bastardry is colossal.
If this was all the Battle Game had to offer it would be enough, but there's more. Admittedly it's a little more thin; there's a variation that's simply a large pipe extending upward in the centre of the screen, spewing coins and fireballs in turn. Mario and Luigi are either side of it and the first to collect five coins wins. The final variant is rather like the balloon-popping minigame that later turned up in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, with the brothers competing to kick “?” blocks hoping to be the first to located, again, five coins.
The real draw is that Mario Bros.versus mode, which is absolutely timeless. Noting this, Nintendo brought it back and built on it in Super Mario Advance and its sequels. But those aren't thirty years old yet. Why, they're only (checks) seventeen years old!? I am staring unblinking into the maw of Hades.