This week in February 1990, the groundbreaking Super Mario Bros. 3 released in North America on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Despite releasing nearly two years after its release in Japan, near the end of its console’s life cycle, and competing against the 16-bit SEGA Genesis, Super Mario Bros. 3 quickly became one of the best-selling games of all time and a fan favorite in the Mario franchise.
In an unprecedented marketing stunt, Super Mario Bros. 3 made a notable unveiling at the end of the film The Wizard, in which a young prodigy competes in a video game competition. The game’s appearance in the film built a hefty amount of anticipation in the states and fans were eager to get their hands on it.
Remember that at this time Mario was not the icon he is today. Super Mario Bros. 2 had come out in North America two years earlier, but the bizarre entry in the franchise was just a reskinning of Doki Doki Panic. Many of the most important staples of the Mario franchise we know today made their first appearance in Super Mario Bros. 3. The game solidified the series in video game canon and would go on to inspire numerous game developers even to this day.
It’s not an overstatement to call Super Mario Bros. 3 one of the most important games in the series. It was the first entry in the series that gave Mario the power of flight by wearing the tanooki suit, a distinctly Japanese cultural artifact. It also included the Frog Suit, Kuribo Shoe, the world map, and of course the Chain Chomp, which designer Shigeru Miyamoto described in Nintendo Power as a creature inspired by a childhood “bad experience” with a dog.
Perhaps most importantly, Super Mario Bros. 3 was one of the first games to feature an immense amount of hidden depth. For example, the white block glitch, which triggers when crouching for five seconds on a white block, allows Mario to slip into the background of the level, behind the enemies and terrain. This little secret entered into schoolyard mythology, and before long it was blowing the collective minds of a generation. There were mysteries to be discovered in games. They could lie to us, hiding new worlds behind simple objects.
Nearly thirty years later, Super Mario Bros. 3 continues to inspire game designers the world over. Eager to pay homage to the classic yourself? You can build your own Super Mario Bros. 3 levels right now in Super Mario Maker on the Wii U.
Elsewhere in February 1990:
- Paula Abdul sings with a cartoon cat: Featured on her debut album, “Opposites Attract” didn’t hit it big until 1990, when the single topped the Billboard charts in February. Abdul teamed up with The Wild Pair and produced a bizarre Who Framed Roger Rabbit? style video in which she danced with the animated MC Skat Kat. Do yourself a favor and check out the video below.
- Driving Miss Daisy takes home four Academy Awards: On a more mellow note, the charming film Driving Miss Daisy was owning the box office this weekend. The story about the growing relationship between an old Jewish woman and her chauffeur is a delight and a poignant commentary on race. The film earned nine Academy Award nominations, taking home Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Makeup.