SUPER MARIO BROTHERS 3, one of the most famous games Nintendo has ever produced, came out toward in the middle of the NES console's life cycle, and brought renewed life to the aging console. Like the original Super Mario Brothers, SMB3 became one of the biggest selling games ever. SMB3 also brought a lot of new innovations to the Mario series, many of which can still be found today. SMB3 regularly charts both player and critic polls as being among the best video games ever released.
Released [in at the end of 1988] October 3, 1988 in Japan, SMB3 became one the Famicon's biggest sellers. America had to wait for over a year from when Japan got it. Originally released in some Nintendo arcade machines before it even hit stores, the buzz soon spread about the game. This buzz was helped by the ninety minute commercial known as THE WIZARD (some people insist that it is a movie proper, but it's little more than a Nintendo advertisement) in which the climax of the movie - er, commercial - is the unveiling of SMB3, as well as revealing the secret location to the one of the warp whistles. America finally got its hands on the game in released February 12, 1990.
The game went on to sell approx. eighteen million copies, and when you include the reissues and rereleases with SUPER MARIO ALL STARS and SUPER MARIO ADVANCED, this figure swells to over thirty three million copies. And what makes SMB3 such a successful, highly regarded title? Read on.
For the second* officially released sequel to the biggest selling game of all time, Nintendo didn't pull any stops when it came to crafting this game. Returning to the familiar environments and gameplay of the original title, rather than the radical reinvention of SUPER MARIO BROTHERS 2, Nintendo greatly widened Mario's moves and gamestyle. The Fire-flower and starman return. Nintendo introduces Mario's famous raccoon suit, which enables Mario to fly briefly, and greatly opens up what is possible in level design. New suits and powerups also include the Tanooki suit, which enables Mario to become a stone statue, a Frog suit for swimming, and Hammer Brothers suit, which enables Mario to shoot hammers.
One of the biggest innovations was the inclusion of an overall game map, where Mario would move between levels. Nintendo also used the concept (in a much different setting with a much different effect) in ZELDA II: THE ADVENTURE OF LINK, though in that title the overworld was much more important and you had a lot more freedom. Here, the map served as a level grid in which to progress through the eight worlds. SMB3 returns to the eight world format of the original game, rather than the seven world format of SMB2.
The level design itself is where SMB3 truly shines. First off, Nintendo returned to the original game for its basic game mechanics but [induing] ensuring Mario has a whole new bag of tricks to beat the nasty Bowser and his koopa kids. While staying true to the overall atmosphere and play of the original title, Nintendo, over the course of eight worlds, features platforming levels that ingeniously use the game's new suits and powerups to fully integrate the player into the game's world. Each of the eight levels is themed. The first world is grass lands. The second world is desert (much like the second and sixth world in SMB2). The third is the water levels. Where the castle is on the overworld map for World 3 is roughly a map of Japan and Tokyo. The fourth world is the land of giants. The fifth is the Skylands. The sixth is frozen tundra, all ice. The seventh is Pipeland, and the eight is Bowser's world, featuring lava, tricky airships, and challenging levels.
SMB3 also introduces the seven children of King Kooper (whose the mother???), each of which rule one of the worlds and which at the end of each world you must fight in an airship. Other innovations include minigames, new enemies (many of which would feature prominently in later titles), and the aforementioned suits.
A good portion of NES games are notorious for being extremely difficult. Some titles are damn near impossible (BATTLE TOADS, NINJA GAIDEN III), and others are filled with cheap shots and just unforgiving, unreasonable difficulty (the original MEGA MAN). In fact, the original sequel to SUPER MARIO BROTHERS (known everywhere but Japan as THE LOST LEVELS) went unreleased in its original format stateside or in Europe for twenty one years due to difficulty and too similar to the original game. We only just now got the title via the Virtual Console on the Wii.
Fortunately, SMB3 has a very intuitive difficulty level. As each world progresses, so does the difficulty of the levels, which culminates in the last world of Bowser, which does have some hard patches. Overall, however, SMB3 has a medium range of difficulty, and while there are some tricky parts here and there, the game is not really that difficult and most players will be able to beat it given enough time. Not giving too much away, SMB3 also jokingly refers to the original title after you beat Bowser, with the first words out of Princess Toadstool's mouth is "Thank you Mario, but our princess is in another castle . . . just kidding." Strangely enough, they cut this joke in the SUPER MARIO ADVANCED reissue.
Overall, SMB3 stands as one of the gaming industry's most outstanding achievements, and is one of the corner stones of the Mario Series. As much as I love SUPER MARIO BROTHERS 2, SMB3 really felt like the true sequel to the original game, and Mario went out with a blaze of glory on the original NES with this title. One of the greatest games ever.
*Though this is the second sequel to be released and that the general public knew about, this was actually the fourth officially licensed sequel to SUPER MARIO BROTHERS. The first, developed by Hudson Soft with Nintendo's permission, was a game called SUPER MARIO BROTHERS SPECIAL, which appeared on the obscure NEC PC-8801 in Japan only. This is the truly forgotten Mario game, the real lost levels if you will. Due to technical limitations, it does not scroll and the hit detection is rather off. Nintendo had nothing to do with its development. The second sequel is SUPER MARIO BROTHERS 2, released in 1986. This title was released only in Japan. The game was just like SUPER MARIO BROTHERS, but much harder. Howard Lincoln of HOWARD AND NESTOR fame (anyone who had Nintendo Power back in the 1980s knows what I am talking about) hated the title, so they took a Japanese game called Doki Doki Panic, changed some sprites, and in 1988 released the American version of SUPER MARIO BROTHERS 2.
[This was written separate from the review back in May 2012 about the Mario games' development history. Notably, Miyamoto said that "Super Mario World" began development with a team of sixteen people, and took about three years to make. As "Super Mario World" came out in November 1990, that means Nintendo began production on this game sometime in 1987 - the same year they were working on "Super Mario Bros. 3". On a game forum someone asked why Nintendo did not release "Super Mario Bros. 3" on the SNES, instead of the NES, and was complaining they should have released the game on the more powerful system. This was my answer:]
Let's look at some Mario history, shall we? SMB3 came out in Japan in October 1988. That means it was completed, finished, and ready to be published by that point in time.
If you look at the Japanese publication dates, SMB came out in 1985, Lost Levels came out in 1986, Doki Doki Panic came out in 1987, and SMB3 came out in late 1988. Given the fact the game was finished and released by 1988 I would hardly call that "late in the NES hardware cycle". Actually, the NES had only been out three years when SMB3 hit Japan, although the Famicom came out in late 1983. However all the heavy hitters for the Famicom came out in 1985 and beyond.
Essentially all Nintendo had to do at this point was release it on cart; the code was written and completed. If have a sequel to the biggest game for your console, and the sequel SMB2 is also a massive hit - why wouldn't they release SMB3 which was already completed and published in Japan? They had a massive financial interest in getting this game out.
There are very few differences between the Japanese SMB3 and the western SMB3 (namely if Mario gets hit with a powerup he goes to little Mario rather than Super Mario, ala Mario with a mushroom). There's nothing like the major differences between the Japanese and the Western versions of Zelda II The Adventure of Link.
All four 8-bit NES titles were completed in a three year period, 1985-1988 (and were published in Japan as well, though SMB2, there called SMB USA, came out in 1992).
I've read SMB3 took about two to three years to program, meaning Nintendo began work on it possibly by late 1985 (though that does sound entirely too early) but definitely by early 1987 and possibly even late 1986 given it was released in October 1988 and both Doki Doki and Lost Levels would have been finished (in the case of Doki Doki, it would have been closed to being completed if not already completed).
In comparison today, that would be like saying Nintendo should not have released "New Super Mario Bros. Wii" back in 2009 (three years into the Wii lifecycle) because obviously the Wii U is coming up and they should save it for a new system. The timeframe is the same. And according to your logic, for this generation we definitely SHOULD NOT have gotten Skyward Sword for the Wii, despite the fact it has had a five year development timeframe was began shortly after Twilight Princess came out..
I do find it strange that they had problems with Yoshi (which for the record Miyamoto has said he wanted to put in the original 1985 SMB). After all, Hudson's Adventure Island series, the same company responsible for the abomination that is Super Mario Bros. Special, the first ever sequel to the Mario franchise, were able to get ridable dinasaurs, and the 1993 Capcom title Little Nemo Dream Master had ridable creatures too.Then again, Adventure Island II came out in April 1991, two and a half years after SMB3.
Basically, I said all that to say you should research your Mario history more. When Nintendo began development on SMB3 (late 1986/early 1987) the Super NES was nowhere on the horizon, at least not publically. Even in late 1988 when the game was published, we were still over two years away from the Super Famicom which came out in Japan in November of 1990.
So that's why they didn't develop it for the Super Famicom.