Super Mario Bros. 3: Chasing airships in arcades, pizza parlors and at the movies

Published October 3, 2017

Many gamers’ first hands-on experience with Super Mario Bros. 3 was playing it on a friend’s NES or, for the very fortunate, ripping the shrink wrap off your very own Game Pak’s cardboard box.

Mine was actually in an arcade at Knott’s Berry Farm. It was a fleeting flirtation with a game I had, thus far, only ogled in previews on the pages of Nintendo Power magazine. I don’t think I even finished that familiar, yet warped, World 1-1 before I was dragged away to be reminded that we were on an expensive theme park vacation.

Mastering flight with the Raccoon Suit's tail? Forget about it!

Then there was The Wizard, a movie starring Fred Savage, Beau Bridges and Christian Slater, which seemed to exist only to market Nintendo’s later generation of NES games and accessories. Our favorite video game lyricist, Brentalfloss, explains:

But despite all the movie hype, magazine previews and amusement park arcade teasers, my most vivid memories of playing Super Mario Bros. 3 don’t have anything to do with any of that, nor even taking my own life in my hands after convincing Mom to drive us to the rough side of town’s Kmart to grab the last available copy on release day.

My most indelible early recollection of SMB3 was playing the game, over and over again, at Pizza Hut.

After that California vacation where I first encountered the game in the back corner of the busy old-timey arcade, we returned home to Phoenix to find our local Pizza Hut had a Nintendo "PlayChoice" arcade machine, or something like it, containing various NES titles – and this was one of them.

Needless to say, we spent a lot of time (and quarters) at that Pizza Hut.

By the time the game came out for the NES, I had mastered Mario's new flying ability, whistled my way to the Warp Zone, and more.

At the cusp of the last decade of the century, a time when arcades were already falling to the power of the home console, Super Mario Bros. 3 had a pixellated place in both worlds.

About the blogger:
Digital, social and print media pro. Nerdvana's founder, curator and editor.

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3 comments on “Super Mario Bros. 3: Chasing airships in arcades, pizza parlors and at the movies”

  1. Eerily similar experience here brother. I was happy enough just to be going to Pizza Hut courtesy of school’s “Book It” reading promotion program. I was in complete shock to walk in the restaurant lobby and see not only a Nintendo PlayChoice cabinet, but one with this game in it weeks/months before US release. I can’t remember now whether I’d already seen “The Wizard”, but I know I saw that in January ‘90 (a form of “porn” for this 13 year old mind). High of my life. I would’ve done anything to have had the chance to play it like you appear to have (did manage to score a NES copy either upon, or shortly after, release - Toys’R’Us)...

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