The Story of Super Mario Bros. 3 | Gaming Historian

The Story of Super Mario Bros. 3 | Gaming Historian

(upbeat guitar music) – [Narrator] It was February 1990. Nintendo of America was about to release one of their biggest games of all time, Super Mario Bros. 3,
and the hype was real. Super Mario Bros. 3 came out
a year and a half earlier in Japan, and even in
a time before internet, North American gamers knew all about it. Throughout 1989, magazines
printed previews and teasers. A major Hollywood movie
showed off the game. Some stores even sold import or bootleg versions of the game. But Super Mario Bros. 3 was more than just another game in the series. It proved that Nintendo
and Super Mario Bros. were not a fad. And even with competition
from other companies, Nintendo was still the
king of video games. This is the story of how
one game captured the hearts and minds of an entire
generation of players. This is the Story of Super Mario Bros. 3. (video game beeps)
(upbeat synth music) By the summer of 1986, Mario
fever had officially hit Japan. (lively guitar music) (kids speaking in foreign language) Nintendo’s Super Mario
Bros. for the Famicom was a smash hit, selling more
than three million copies. The country’s bestselling book was “Super Mario Bros.: The
Complete Strategy Guide,” which contained tips and
tricks on how to beat the game. The Mario Bros. theme
song was given lyrics and released as a single, “Go Go Mario.” (upbeat synth music) – [Narrator] Super
Mario Bros. even shifted Japan’s public perception on video games. – [Man] “Before Super
Mario Bros. came out, “even the parliament
had taken up the issue “of the influence of
video games on children, “and newspaper articles
were mostly negative. “But Mario’s bright
atmosphere cleared away “that prejudice against the Famicom.” Hiroshi Imanishi, Nintendo. (contemplative guitar music) – [Narrator] The game
caused a sales explosion for the Famicom system. By June of 1986, Nintendo had sold more than 6.5 million units. One out of every five households
in Japan had a Famicom. And with Super Mario
Bros. enormous success, a sequel was never in doubt. Super Mario Bros. 2 was
released on June 3rd, 1986, less than a year after
the original game’s debut. Nintendo released the game
on the Famicom Disk System, a new add-on for the Famicom that would play games
using proprietary disks. They were cheaper to make
than standard cartridges and could hold more data. Nintendo hoped that all
their future big releases would be dedicated to the Disk System. A sequel to the most popular Famicom game would help drive sales. Super Mario Bros. 2 would
become the bestselling game on the Disk System, selling
more than two million units. But players were hungry for more. The game felt more like an expansion pack than a true sequel. Visually, Super Mario Bros.
and Super Mario Bros. 2 were almost identical. It was also an extremely difficult game, which was a turnoff for new players. Nintendo even advertised it as such, slapping a “For Super Players” label on the game’s packaging. And players weren’t the only
ones who wanted a true sequel. Research & Development 4, the team behind the first two
Super Mario Bros. games, were ready to provide the Famicom with the ultimate Mario game,
so Nintendo got to work. A team of over 10 people at
R&D4 would be responsible for making Super Mario Bros. 3. Their leader was Shigeru Miyamoto. If Mario was Nintendo’s Mickey Mouse, Shigeru Miyamoto was
Nintendo’s Walt Disney. He created Mario back
in 1981 and, since then, had seen his character become
the face of the company. Miyamoto took a step back during the development
of Super Mario Bros. 2. He had recently become a father and was involved in too
many projects, but now, he was ready to throw himself
completely into a sequel. He would oversee almost every aspect of the creation of Super Mario Bros. 3. Miyamoto’s right-hand man, Takashi Tezuka, was named the game’s director. Tezuka joined Nintendo two
years earlier at the age of 24, and was instrumental in
the design and development of Super Mario Bros.
and The Legend of Zelda. Following that, Tezuka was given his first director job
on Super Mario Bros. 2. His work on that game, while
facing a tight deadline, proved he was more than
capable of doing the job. But Super Mario Bros. 3 would
prove to be a challenge. Toshihiko Nakago was the main programmer. He began his career at Nintendo in 1983 by porting arcade games to the Famicom. Nakago proved invaluable when
he helped Miyamoto and Tezuka bring their ideas to life by programming The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. Working alone as the
composer was Koji Kondo. Before Kondo arrived at Nintendo in 1984, music and sound effects were
handled by the programmers. Kondo was one of the first members of Nintendo’s dedicated music staff. Along with veterans,
Research and Development 4 had a group of young designers and programmers eager
to prove their value. Among them was Kensuke Tanabe, a new hire who not only had to design levels for Super Mario Bros. 3,
but was also directing his own game, Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic, Kazuaki Morita, a programming whiz who helped program Super
Mario Bros. at the age of 19, Katsuya Eguchi, a graphic artist whose talent caught the eye of Miyamoto. He was brought on as a level designer. And Hideki Konno, a designer
who had dreamed of working at Nintendo ever since he
started playing Famicom games. With his team assembled,
Miyamoto could begin production on his ultimate Mario game. But making this new game
would require a lot of power. Luckily, it was available. Although Super Mario Bros. 2 was released on the Famicom Disk System, new advancements in cartridge technology quickly made the Disk System obsolete. Chip prices were coming down, and storage capabilities were increasing. Internally, Nintendo developed MMC chips, multi-memory controllers, which greatly expanded the
Famicom’s capabilities. Developers made games never
before thought possible. Miyamoto credited MMC chips as the reason the Famicom lasted so long on the market. Super Mario Bros. 3
utilized the MMC3 chip, which allowed better
graphics, screen splitting, diagonal scrolling, and more memory. (video game beeps)
(upbeat synth music) With this new power, Tezuka
was ready to try something new. – [Man] “We made Super Mario Bros. 2 “by changing the original
game’s difficulty “and stage design, but we
couldn’t do that again, “so I wanted to change everything.” Takashi Tezuka. (video game beeps) – [Narrator] R&D4’s first new idea was to change the perspective. They experimented with making a Mario game using an isometric view,
but Miyamoto wasn’t a fan. “With a diagonal view
from slightly overhead, “you lost your sense of
distance to the ground. “So I told him that development “would be difficult,” he said. R&D4 scrapped the idea and went back to the standard side view. (video game beeps)
(upbeat synth music) Nintendo referred to Super
Mario games as athletic games, games where players could move freely, run fast, and jump high. “It’s a type of game that
is easily approachable “for younger, inexperienced players, “but can also be played
by experienced hardcores “without getting tired
of it,” said Miyamoto. (mellow guitar music) This game philosophy reemerged. R&D4 began brainstorming new ways to make Super Mario
feel even more athletic. They could let Mario slide down hills, pick up and kick objects,
and even fly through the air. Graphically, Mario
could not stay the same. The first two Super Mario
games looked too similar, so R&D4 gave the Mario
universe a complete makeover. Nothing from the first
two games carried over. Every single character, enemy, item, and environment was brand-new. There was a cutesy
aesthetic to the graphics, thanks to director Takashi Tezuka. In the previous Mario game, he added eyeballs to many objects. He did the same thing
in Super Mario Bros. 3. “He wanted to add eyes to
just about everything,” said designer Katsuya Eguchi. Colors were bright and varied. Trees and bushes danced on screen. The visuals had a theatrical element. A curtain rose to introduce the game. Hanging platforms and blocks
bolted to the background resembled set pieces. Mario finished each level
by exiting the stage. R&D4 put these new visuals
in an all new world as well. Now, Mario had eight new areas to explore, each with their own visual theme: Grass Land, Desert Hills, Ocean Side, Big Island, The Sky, Iced Land, Pipe Maze, The Castle of Koopa. The designers cranked out levels. Hideki Konno didn’t remember
the experience fondly. “We laid tracing paper over graph paper “and painstakingly drew levels
every day,” he recalled. Once finished, the designers
brought their levels to the Map Room, a long
narrow room where programmers took the sheets of graph
paper and programmed map data. It was a long process. Designers had to wait a whole day before seeing their creation on screen. And even then, there were
plenty of bugs to work out. To connect all the levels, the development team
added an overworld map. Levels were no longer
played in a linear order. Now, players could choose their own path to the end of each area. (video game beeps) (mellow guitar music) How did Research & Development 4 come up with these new worlds? They may have gotten inspiration from the most magical place on Earth. In 1987, Shigeru Miyamoto
and other members of the Research & Development
4 team needed inspiration, so they took a trip to the United States. (engines rumbling)
(vehicles honking) They visited several places,
including New York City, San Francisco, and Disney
World in Orlando, Florida. (fireworks crackling) Disney World had several unique areas, and it felt like a fairytale land. Super Mario Bros. 3 was similar, with its eight different colorful worlds. Cinderella’s Castle sat
in the center of the park, connecting everything together. (kid screams) It was similar in Super Mario Bros. 3. The white castle in each world helped guide the player along, and was the key to
getting to the next area. No one at Nintendo has ever confirmed that Super Mario Bros. 3 was
inspired by Disney World, but the similarities are interesting. (video game beeps)
(upbeat synth music) New graphics and levels weren’t the only addition to Super Mario Bros. 3. R&D4 added new power-ups as well. (mellow guitar music) One of Miyamoto’s ideas was
to have Mario ride a dinosaur. He had wanted to do it since
the original Super Mario Bros. But technical limitations
prevented it from happening. To compromise, director
Takashi Tezuka pitched the idea of Mario transforming into
animals rather than riding them. It was a good idea. Mario could get different
power-ups and suits that would transform him into animals with their own powers and abilities. The super leaf turned Mario into a raccoon and gave him the power to
hit enemies with his tail and fly completely over a level. But the ability to fly was
initially too powerful. Head programmer Toshihiko
Nakago voiced his concerns. “If we had gone with
that, all of the obstacles “and the objects on the ground
that we managed to create “would have been wasted,” he said. But Tezuka insisted they come
up with a way to make it work. To compromise, the programmers
made some restrictions. Mario could only fly if
he took off from a runway, and even then, the flight was temporary. The frog suit let Mario
jump higher and swim faster, but he slowed down when
using the suit on land. The hammer suit gave Mario the ability to throw hammer projectiles and protect himself
with a fireproof shell. There was also the Tanooki suit, based on a mythical Japanese creature. It was identical to the raccoon suit, except it also let Mario
transform into a statue, granting temporary invincibility. Miyamoto loved the Tanooki suit. “Even though I knew it wouldn’t make sense “to non-Japanese players,
I was so excited about it “that I left it in,” he said. At one point, someone pitched the idea of Mario turning into a centaur. It got rejected. With new power-ups came a cast of enemies for Mario to defeat. The usual suspects were still around: Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Hammer Bros. But there were a ton of new faces as well: Boom Booms, Spikes, Big Bertha. A few enemies were based on staff members’ personal experiences. The Chain Chomps came
from Miyamoto, who had a bad experience with a
neighbor’s dog as a child. Boos were supposedly based on director Takashi Tezuka’s wife, who was normally a shy woman but got angry when he worked late. The seven Koopaling bosses were modeled after the young designers
at Research & Development 4. It was Miyamoto’s way of
rewarding their hard work. Along with new power-ups and
enemies, new items were added that Mario could use
throughout his adventure. The idea was to give
less experienced players more opportunities to
get past tough levels. The music box put Hammer Bros.
enemies on the map screen to sleep, allowing Mario to sneak past. A warp whistle, taken from
the Legend of Zelda series, let Mario skip ahead to new worlds. It also served as a way to get around not having a battery
save on the cartridge. A hammer broke obstacles and revealed shortcuts and secrets on the map. Jugem’s cloud, also
known as Lakitu’s cloud, allowed players to skip a level. The P-Wing allowed Mario to
fly completely through a level, a holdover from the
original raccoon suit idea. Through the flurry of changes,
Miyamoto had to ensure two major concepts were
present in Super Mario Bros. 3. The first was that players
of all skill levels could enjoy the game. New players could find
plenty of one-ups, coins, and power-ups scattered
throughout the early levels. Mini-games and Toad Houses were
placed on the overworld map, giving players even more
chances to earn items. As the levels got harder,
players would be well-stocked. The second major concept was making a game that was fun for two people to play. In the original Super Mario Bros., players would take turns
when the other died. In Super Mario Bros. 3, players got a turn after each level was completed, and could either work together or compete for the high score. A battle mode was added as well, based on the 1983 Mario Bros. arcade game. Implementing all of the new moves, graphics, levels, power-ups, and items took a toll on the entire staff at R&D4. They were exhausted. (reflective guitar music) Miyamoto would sometimes
work through the night. He kept a close eye on his designers and wasn’t afraid to make
them fix the smallest detail, even if it meant delaying the game. “If it’ll make the game
even a little bit better, “Miyamoto-san’s always been unhesitant “about making changes,” said
designer Katsuya Eguchi. Director Takashi Tezuka
recalled the struggle. “It wouldn’t come together
well and dragged on,” he said. Perhaps no one struggled more than the lone composer, Koji Kondo. (upbeat synth music) Two years earlier, he composed one of the most iconic
jingles in video game history, the Super Mario Bros. theme. Now he had to make the theme
for Super Mario Bros. 3. It was a tough act to follow. “I couldn’t figure out how to change it “from the original Super
Mario Bros.,” he said. When he made the first
Super Mario Bros. theme, Kondo simply made music that
went along with the gameplay. This time around, he focused on genre. Kondo worked in lots of percussion, resulting in a reggae sound. By the end of development, he
had composed multiple songs and had Miyamoto and Tezuka
help him pick the best ones. By the spring of 1988, the game was finally starting to come together. (mellow reggae music) Miyamoto was not bluffing when he said he wanted to make the ultimate Mario game. Super Mario Bros. 3 took what was great about the previous installments
and added more moves, more power-ups, more
characters, and more challenges. It was also chock-full of secrets. Many of the new features,
such as auto-scrolling and the overworld map, became
staples in the franchise. It took Research & Development 4 more than two years to
make Super Mario Bros. 3. It was also expensive, reportedly costing $800,000 to develop. At the time, the game was the biggest and most labor-intensive Famicom
title Nintendo ever made. For comparison, the
original Super Mario Bros. took up around 320 kilobits of memory. Super Mario Bros. 3. was 10
times larger, at three megabits. (contemplative guitar music) When the game was finally ready to be released in the fall of 1988, the video-game landscape
in Japan had changed. A new contender in the
console market, the PC Engine, was introduced a year prior by NEC and boasted more colors
and better graphics. It was outselling Nintendo’s Famicom. Another company, Sega, was
getting ready to introduce its own new console,
the 16-bit Mega Drive. All of a sudden, Nintendo
had to play catch-up and begin developing a
new console of their own. Miyamoto’s ultimate Mario game had to be more than just a sequel. It had to buy Nintendo time to develop their new 16-bit machine,
and prove to the world that they were still
the king of video games. (dramatic synth music) (announcer speaks in foreign language) Video previews of the game
debuted in September of 1988. Players wouldn’t have to wait
long to try it out themselves. (upbeat guitar music) On October 23rd, 1988, Super Mario Bros. 3 was released in Japan. It was clear that the
game was a labor of love. Included inside the manual was a note from Research & Development 4. – [Man] “To Super Mario players, thank you “for purchasing Super Mario Bros. 3. “In response to the requests
of so many Mario fans, “Super Mario Bros. 3 is the newest game “in the series that we’ve created to be “so much more fun than anything before it. “There are many puzzles and traps “along your way through this journey. “What sorts of wonders are
waiting for Mario and Luigi? “Enjoy finding out the answer. “Yours faithfully, the Mario Staff.” – [Narrator] Super Mario Bros.
3 was an enormous success. Famitsu magazine, a popular
publication in Japan, gave the game a score of 35 out
of 40 and called it amazing. Micom BASIC Magazine
praised the game as well, calling it “the culmination of the genre.” By the end of 1988, there was
a supply shortage of the game. For five months straight,
Super Mario Bros. 3 was the number-one selling
Famicom game in the country. Super Mario mania once
again swept over Japan. Merchandise flooded stores. The game’s soundtrack was released on CD and cassette, which featured remixes and arranged versions of
Koji Kondo’s compositions. There was even a cartoon. The “Amada Anime Series:
Super Mario Bros.” was a retelling of three fairytales, featuring characters
from Super Mario Bros. 3. While Japanese gamers enjoyed everything Super Mario Bros. 3, the rest of the world waited. (contemplative guitar music) It would take more than a year for the game to reach North America. Europe had to wait almost three years. All that waiting led to
the most anticipation for a video game ever. (reflective guitar music) Nintendo wasn’t only succeeding in Japan. They were in control of the North American
video-game market as well. In 1988 alone, Nintendo
raked in $1.7 billion in revenue and had a whopping 80% share of the video-game market,
dominating rivals Atari and Sega. In just over two years since launching the Nintendo Entertainment
System nationwide, they had sold more than
10 million consoles. – [Man] “It’s a mania. “The kids of America are
saying, this is great. “We’ve got to have one. “For boys in this country
between the ages of eight and 15, “not having a Nintendo is like
not having a baseball bat.” Rick Anguilla, Toy and Business World. – [Narrator] Nintendo’s success
was in large part thanks to the popularity of Super Mario Bros. Nintendo of America packed the game in their Control Deck Set. It quickly became their
most popular title. Fans were eager for more. In October of 1988, the same month Super Mario Bros. 3 launched in Japan, Nintendo of America released
Super Mario Bros. 2, only it wasn’t the same game
as the Japanese version. Nintendo of America’s
product analysis manager, Howard Phillips, who reviewed
new games from Japan, had famously rejected the Japanese version
of Super Mario Bros. 2. The game looked exactly like the first, and, more importantly,
it was too difficult. “I put down my controller,
astonished that Mr. Miyamoto “had chosen to design such
a painful game,” he said. Releasing the Japanese Super
Mario Bros. 2 in North America would not be a wise marketing
decision, so instead, Nintendo took another title
and made it a Mario game. (upbeat guitar music) Yume Kojo: Doki Doki
Panic, released in 1987 for the Famicom Disk
System, was also developed by Research and Development 4. Shigeru Miyamoto had worked on the game, and Mario 3 level designer
Kensuke Tanabe was the director. Graphically, it looked better
than Super Mario Bros., and it fit the mold of an athletic game, so Nintendo swapped out the characters of Yume Kojo: Doki Doki
Panic with Mario and friends and released it as Super Mario Bros. 2 in North America and Europe. Players were none the wiser,
and Super Mario Bros. 2 became one of the hottest Christmas items of the 1988 holiday season. It sold out quickly, but
popularity wasn’t the only reason the game was hard to find in stores. (reflective guitar music) That year, the entire electronics industry suffered a chip shortage. A new generation of
semiconductor and chip technology caused manufacturers to split
their production capacity. And demand was higher
than ever, with camcorders and portable telephones
selling like hotcakes. Prices skyrocketed. Chips that were $2 in 1987,
now cost $10 to $12 each. Nintendo was hit hard. To free up supply, they
discontinued a dozen games. And because Nintendo controlled all manufacturing,
including third-party games, it caused tension with their licensees. Companies were notified
that they would be getting fewer cartridges than initially ordered. Some stores took advantage, increasing game prices to $70 each. Analysts estimated that video-game supply would be up to 15% less
than market demand. When a reporter asked Peter Main, Nintendo of America’s Vice
President of Marketing, what they were doing about the shortage, he replied, “You mean,
besides hoping and praying?” In the meantime, Nintendo
of America had received a copy of Super Mario Bros.
3 from Japan for analysis. Internally, the company
knew the game would be huge. When product analysis
manager Howard Phillips played the game for
review, he was blown away. – [Man] “For me, when I saw it, “I thought this is not just another game, “and it’s not just a fun
and challenging game. “It was truly a quintessential
video game,” Howard Phillips. – [Narrator] However, a few
changes needed to be made. The game wasn’t as hard as the
Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2, but it still proved to be a challenge. In the Japanese version,
when Mario got hit while holding a power-up, he shrunk. In the North American version, Mario would stay big when hit. The names of enemies had to be changed as well, most notably the Koopalings. Dayv Brooks, a localizer
at Nintendo of America and an avid music fan, gave the Koopalings their names based on famous rock stars. When he set eyes on a
Koopaling with wild hair, he immediately thought
of Ludwig von Beethoven. Thus, Ludwig von Koopa. Wendy O. Koopa was inspired by punk rocker Wendy O. Williams. Iggy Koopa? Punk star Iggy Pop. Bespeckled Roy Koopa got
his name from Roy Orbison. Lemmy Koopa was inspired by the legendary Lemmy from Motorhead. But not all the Koopalings
were based on musicians. Morton Koopa Jr. struck
Brooks as a wise guy, a big talker, so he named the character after the talk-show
host Morton Downey Jr., a so-called trash TV pioneer. As for Larry Koopa? That name just seemed like a good fit. Meanwhile, industry insiders wondered, when would Super Mario Bros. 3, the best selling game in
Japan, come to North America? (reflective guitar music) Nintendo of America was in a bind. With a chip shortage,
they couldn’t even make enough games to meet demand. But experts predicted the
shortage would end in 1989. Super Mario Bros. 2 had just been released and was selling well. It would be premature to bring
over Super Mario Bros. 3. There was also the Game Boy,
Nintendo’s new handheld system. The plan was to release the
system in the summer of 1989. A game like Super Mario Bros. 3 might overshadow the
release of the Game Boy. Rather than simply wait around,
Nintendo took advantage. They planned to release the game in the first quarter of 1990. Historically, the first
quarter of the year had strong software sales. They would spend 1989 teasing the game and building a $25 million
advertising campaign. In January of 1989, 700,000
Nintendo Power subscribers saw the first tease of
Super Mario Bros. 3. (upbeat guitar music) And it was merely a sentence. In issue number four, an advertisement for the PlayChoice-10, an arcade cabinet that featured select Nintendo titles, mentioned that Super Mario
Bros. 3 was on the way. Nintendo teased it again
in issue number five, when they talked about
a contest to win a trip to the Summer Consumer
Electronics Show in Chicago. Players wrote in to Nintendo,
asking about the game. In issue number six of
Nintendo Power, a reader asked if Nintendo would ever
release Super Mario Bros. 3. The reply confirmed it was
coming to PlayChoice-10, but that “there are no immediate plans “to release it for use with the NES.” But in the Pak Watch section in the back, where Nintendo teased future releases, Super Mario Bros. 3 was listed. By the summer of 1989, magazines like Electronic
Gaming Monthly and GamePro imported the game from Japan and wrote up extensive previews with screenshots. For many North American players, this was their first look at the game. But by July, a few people were
playing Super Mario Bros. 3. On July 15th, 1989,
Nintendo released the game for PlayChoice-10 arcade machines. A Nintendo of America executive called it “the best we’ve ever
produced for the system.” Although there were far
fewer PlayChoice-10s than Nintendo Entertainment Systems, word seemed to spread quickly. Operators reported earnings
of PlayChoice-10 cabinets with Super Mario Bros. 3 had tripled. Meanwhile, in Nevada and California, Universal Pictures was shooting a film that would make Super Mario Bros. 3 the most anticipated
video game of all time. (mellow jazz music) In 1989, President of Universal Studios, Tom Pollock, was in a pickle. Their Jetsons movie wouldn’t be ready in time for the holiday season. Pollock had to come up with an alternative family-friendly movie. Throughout the year, he had witnessed the popularity explosion of Nintendo and thought a movie about
video games would be a hit. So Pollock met with Nintendo
marketing executives Bill White and Peter Main about a collaboration. His idea was a kids version
of the movie “Tommy,” a rock drama film about a disabled boy becoming a pinball champion. Nintendo couldn’t have bought a better ad. In exchange for using their
products in the movie, Nintendo received a licensing fee and approval over the
script and game footage. Bill White frequented the film
set to oversee production. “All we were worried
about was just making sure “that the game footage
was spectacular,” he said. The movie was called “The Wizard.” It told the story of Jimmy, a quiet boy who is obsessed with
getting to California. His half-brother, Corey, breaks him out of a mental institution
to get him there. Along the way, they
meet a girl named Haley. Corey and Haley soon discover that Jimmy is incredibly good at video games. They decide to enter Jimmy into the Video Armageddon
tournament at Universal Studios, and split the cash prize of $50,000. They set out for Los
Angeles, with their family and a bounty hunter at their heels. The movie was filled with
Nintendo products including games, the Nintendo Power Line,
and even the Power Glove. “The Wizard” was released
on December 15th, 1989 in North America. It was panned by critics. Roger Ebert called it “a
thinly disguised commercial “for Nintendo video games and
the Universal studio tour.” But that didn’t matter to any
kid who watched the movie. The biggest draw was
near the end of the film, when the contestants in the
Video Armageddon tournament played Super Mario Bros. 3. (audience cheers)
– So I give you, Super Mario Bros. 3! (audience cheers)
(video game beeps) (upbeat synth music) – [Narrator] For the majority of viewers, this was the first time they saw actual gameplay footage of
the latest Mario sequel. (mellow guitar music) Nintendo’s dominance in
the video-game market and its establishment in pop
culture continued to grow, and there were no signs of slowing down. In 1989 alone, Nintendo grossed $2.7 billion in retail sales. The NES was, once again, the number-one toy for
the third year in a row. The console was in 22% of US households, with 20 million units sold. The Game Boy, Nintendo’s
new handheld system released earlier that year,
was selling out in stores. Merchandising exploded with more than 200 licensed
Super Mario products. World of Nintendo departments popped up in stores around the country, dedicated to selling Nintendo products. Nintendo Power magazine grew
to 1.8 million subscribers. The Nintendo Power Line,
where players could call in for game tips, received
140,000 calls a week. The excitement around Nintendo and Super Mario Bros. 3
reached a boiling point. Children asked for the game for Christmas despite not knowing when
it would be released. They didn’t have to wait long. (mellow reggae music) In January of 1990,
Nintendo Power subscribers received a brand-new issue. Inside was something
they’d been waiting for, an official preview of Super Mario Bros. 3 along with a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the game. History had shown that a preview
of a game in Nintendo Power meant the actual release
was not far behind. The very next month, in February, Super Mario Bros. 3 popped up in stores across North America at
a retail price of $49.95. There was a frenzy. Within two days, 250,000 units were gone, sold out everywhere. Nintendo couldn’t make
the game fast enough. Stores sold out within a day. “Every other call we get is about Nintendo “and Super Mario Bros. 3,” said one Toys “R” Us employee in Chicago. “We never know when we’ll get it, “but we’ll sell out as
soon as it gets here.” But for anyone that managed
to find a copy, it was easily one of the greatest games
Nintendo had ever released. – [Man] “If Super Mario
Bros. 3 was a movie “instead of a computer game,
it would be up for an Oscar.” Paul Franklin, The Courier News. – Mario, Mario!
(upbeat rock music) – [All] Mario, Mario,
Mario, Mario, Mario, Mario, Mario, Mario, Mario, Mario, Mario, Mario! – [Narrator] By March,
700,000 copies had been sold. Nintendo of America unleashed their $25 million advertising campaign. (mellow guitar music) Commercials aired on TV. There were cross-promotions
with other companies, including Popsicle and Nabisco. NBC aired a Saturday morning cartoon, “The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3.” McDonald’s released a
set of Happy Meal toys. Meanwhile, competitors released
new consoles to the market. Sega had just launched
their 16-bit Sega Genesis. And after the success of
the PC Engine in Japan, NEC brought it over to North
America as the TurboGrafx-16. But it didn’t matter. Super Mario Bros. 3 was
the talk of the schoolyard. Kids bragged about how far
they could get in the game or shared secrets about where to find warp whistles and new power-ups. The game was so big
and so full of secrets, Nintendo worried it would
overwhelm some players. So in July of 1990, Nintendo Power put out their first full strategy guide, featuring Super Mario Bros. 3. It had maps of every level,
information on every enemy and power-up, and revealed
every secret in the game. Fans of all ages were
obsessed with the game. One group of adult fans
loved the game so much, they ported it to the PC and sent it to Nintendo, hoping to secure a license. Nintendo was impressed
but declined the offer. That didn’t faze the team of John Carmack, John Romero, Tom Hall, and Adrian Carmack. They were excited about their work, and the following year, they
formed a company, id Software, the makers of Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. By 1991, Nintendo sold more
than eight million copies of the game in North America, grossing more than $400 million. If Super Mario Bros. 3 were a business, it would have ranked in the
top-10 US toy companies of 1990. At the time, it was the bestselling standalone
video game ever. (reflective guitar music) Before Super Mario Bros.
3, critics questioned whether Nintendo was just a passing craze. Electronic Arts President Trip Hawkins compared the NES to Cabbage Patch dolls. “This is a toy and that means
it’s a fad,” he claimed. After Super Mario Bros. 3,
there would be no more doubts. Nintendo reaped the rewards. Their estimated revenue
for 1990 was $3.4 billion, which gave them a
dominating 88% market share. In 1991, they surpassed Toyota as Japan’s most successful company. Nintendo earned $1.5 million per employee. But it wasn’t all roses. The Federal Trade Commission
investigated Nintendo on allegations of antitrust violations, such as price-fixing, in
order to beat the competition. Nintendo denied any wrongdoing
but was ordered to send out up to $25 million worth
of rebates to customers. The rebate took the form of a $5 coupon that consumers could only use
to buy more Nintendo games. In total, Super Mario Bros. 3 sold more than 17 million copies worldwide. When combined with re-releases, it’s estimated to have sold
more than 30 million copies. But it was bigger than just
money and sales figures. Super Mario Bros. 3 was further proof that home video games could
be huge, sprawling adventures, and even better than arcade games. Shigeru Miyamoto became a superstar. Celebrities like Paul McCartney and Steven Spielberg flew
to Japan to meet him. His success ensured he
would either produce or direct all future
big Nintendo releases. His next Mario game, Super Mario World, was a launch title for
Nintendo’s new 16-bit machine, the Super Famicom, also
known as the Super Nintendo. With the updated hardware,
Miyamoto was finally able to let his hero ride a dinosaur. Other companies took
notice of Mario’s success. Sega saw the power of a flagship franchise and began working on their own
mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog. His debut in 1991 on the
Mega Drive and Genesis created legit competition in the market, leading to the great
console wars of the ’90s. Even after Nintendo came
out with the Super Nintendo, people continued to play and
love Super Mario Bros. 3. It was listed in the top-20
NES games of Nintendo Power until the system was discontinued in 1995. When people look back on
their childhood memories with the NES, they almost
always, without fail, think of Super Mario Bros.
3, a game that felt nostalgic yet revolutionary at the same time, a game that lived up to
its unparalleled hype. (upbeat guitar music) – [Announcer] Funding for Gaming Historian is provided in part by
supporters on Patreon. Thank you.

100 thoughts on “The Story of Super Mario Bros. 3 | Gaming Historian

  1. Super Mario Bros. 3 is the game that made me fall in love with video games. It was only a matter of time before I talked about it. This video contains rare images, archival footage, and design documents! If you enjoyed it, please share. Happy Holidays!

  2. Great video, but I do have to note that KB and MB shown when describing the cartridge storage sizes are Kilobytes and Megabytes, respectively. It may have been intended as such, but they are pronounced as "Bits", and they are different to "Bytes".

  3. This game came out the year I was born and didn't end up playing it till years later when me and my brother discovered our inherited nes from our cousins under our parents bed. Along side Dragon Warrior became my favorite game on the system with countless hours played on the couch.

  4. It wasnt until the GBA game, that I figured out how to get the Treasure Ship to spawn. I just love videos like this. I never would've guessed ID software started out trying to port Super Mario Bros. 3. Sort of makes it full circle that games like Wolfenstein and Doom are on Switch now.

  5. So the reason Japanese dev's tended to dumb down their games for western audiences was actually the fault of Nintendo of America this whole time.

    Because a single old boomer that probably very rarely plays video games thought Super Mario 2 was too difficult and decided that we all suck at gaming as much as he does. That one decision probably trickled down for over a decade in video games.

  6. @42:40 Electronic Arts president Trip Hawkins compared the NES to cabbage patch dolls. "This is a toy, and that means it's a fad"

    I see that EA was always consistently a retarded, shitty company. They called video games a trend, now they can't help but scam as much money out of consumers with video games. Damn hack frauds.

  7. This is the second one of your documentaries that makes me cry, the other one being the one about the life of Satoru Iwata. Your work is truly amazing.

  8. I don't comment very often but I just want both Carusos to know that not only are these docs are 100% on par with or even surpass any video game docs, but really remind me of vh1's Behind the Music at their zenith.

  9. 28:19
    This is crazy, I remember as a young kid going to a store in Spokane to buy Legend of Zelda – it cost $79. We didn't have a lot of money, but my dad bought it.

  10. 47:57 I still tear up when I hear this part of the end song… just knowing you completed such an awesome adventure, or in this case, an incredible tribute to such a wonderful game.

  11. you can't really compare shigeru with walt disney. shigeru is an actual artist, he can draw and design, he's a creative guy. walt was a businessman and a branding/marketing genius, but he was not an artist, he had poor drawing skills, yet he took credit for everything.

  12. I've watched a lot of videos about the construction and design of disneyland, and you are SO right about that one! Walt / Other members made it a point that once you got in the park, you could ALWAYS see where the castle was, and it would usually lead people right to it. You can actually find videos of them constructing it and there's a giant used by the architects Right in the center of the castle (Which you can still see to this day!) and, another at the entrance to Disneyland.

    Really cool catch there man. I don't think it's coincidence at all. If I ever contribute to a game, I'm never forgetting this haha.

  13. Gotta assume that Howard Phillips' top-rated game is something that totally bombed and he's too embarrassed to admit it.

  14. Easily one of the best produced video game documentation I've seen. So much love and care and jolly vibes. We don't deserve you, Gaming Historian!

  15. Constant nights playing this reading code books fighting with brothers over the sticks blowing in cartridges ah the wonder years

  16. I was 10 when this game came out, and I remember being super hyped about getting it for my birthday. Still to this day my all time favorite game.

  17. I'm always excited to watch your videos. I loved watching the History International channel growing up(back while it was still good lol), and your channel reminds me of that but with video game topics instead. Great stuff!

  18. While I grew up with the Gameboy, by the time the NES was out in Europe, the SNES was released a few years after. I basically grew up with the GB and the (much nicer than USA looking) European version of the SNES. The NES at that time looked like the SEGA, console, boring, few colors, and lackluster games.
    The NES just looked pale compared to the SNES.

  19. Ah. I remember those days. The anticipation. I was an obsessed kid. Then one day, in a swimming hall in Finland, there it was. I could see it live with my own eyes and I could play it after inserting coins. It was like magic.

  20. 2015: story of super Mario bro’s 2
    2019:story of super Mario bros 3
    That means story of super Mario world/super mario bro’s 4 in Japan will come out in 2023

  21. Cannot believe this year will be the 30th anniversary of the Games release. I remember my mom getting me this game as a reward for a good report card. It was much better then SMB 1 & 2

  22. Hey buddy, I noticed your videos keep getting shorter and you rarely upload them anymore but you still get tons of money via Patreon. Why don't you do something more productive with the money you receive from your subscribers and invest in my museum? I accept donations via Patreon, PayPal and Streamlabs.

  23. Hey Norm. "WTF is it a Jugem's Cloud? Who the hell is Jugem?" is what your audience is asking. You left it out. Lakitu's Japanese name was Jugemu (many Japanese words Romanize without the trailing vowel), it was a throwaway name when the dev's said "Let's have a turtle with glasses throw eggs from a cloud." "What's his name gonna be?" "Uhh… oh hell, Jugemu for now." It's a reference to an archaic form of stand-up comedy, and a particular sketch about a boy with a ridiculously long full name, the first of which is Jugemu. They named the spiny eggs "paipo" from this same joke. Interestingly, the Kuribo's Shoe is named after the Japanese name for a Goomba, which is named "Chestnutguy" in Japanese.

  24. Fantastic doc, thank-you for all the effort you've put into this. So much archival footage I haven't seen since the late 80's. Bows in appreciation

  25. If you're interested in learning more about Super Mario Bros. 3, watch Gaijillionaire's 30th anniversary immediately following the Gaming Historian's documentary:

  26. Hey dude, I admire your gaming content on your channel! I work at BBTV as a Content Partnership rep and I would love to discuss business opportunities with you at an available time. Email me at [email protected] and we can connect at a convenient time for you!

  27. Gaming Historian, we would love you forever if you did a video on the Dragon Warrior / Dragon Quest series. Like this post if you agree!!

  28. My parensts got me SMB3 from a friend who lived 400km away from my house, and when we were driving back home, I spent most part of the trip reading the instrutions manual. LoL

    Great video dude, it almost brought tears to my eyes remembering those days. I was 13 when I first played the game.

  29. Great video, but why does it show Mario 1 when showing Mario 2? Ahh.. ok, Mario 2 is different than the Mario 2 I know. No… I don’t get it. Why isn’t there an explanation of the two different Mario 2 games? It’s not clear.

  30. I’m in some weird Mandela Effect reality where the Mario Brothers 2 games I know no longer existed? Ok, I finally got to the exploitation. It should have been mentioned earlier. Great documentary though! 👍👍

  31. “ Nintendo of America decided Japan's Super Mario Bros. 2 had gameplay too frustratingly difficult and too similar to Super Mario Bros. to be worth releasing into the recently crashed American market. Therefore, finally delivering upon the inspiration of the original prototype and creating a second official sequel, Nintendo cosmetically modified Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic to become the international release of Super Mario Bros. 2 (1988).”

  32. In 1990 for my 18th birthday my aunt drove me to a Toys'R'Us store in Brooklyn NY and its was my very first Pre-order video game and I got it from day one releases. I kept that order receipt paper in a shoe box and under my bed for months waiting. Finally got it on a Saturday morning and me and next door friend played the game almost 20 hours none stop. It was a good time. I got the Japanese version of SMB3 for the Famicom 2 month after it's first released seeing that I lived in NYC we get ton of Japanese imports and I go to any China town store and pick up Japanese games and systems. I even put the SMB3 game on my NES 2 Top Loader – @t

  33. Super Mario Bros. 3, IMO, truly MADE the NES. I was almost nine months old when it came out, but when I finally played it when I was about 3-4 from when my bro's friends brought it over and that game made me fall in love with video games. I am glad to say that I still have the NES (both Original and Mini) and it is easily the best NES game ever…Maybe the best Mario game ever (along with Super Mario World for SNES – my personal favorite). I strongly believe it helped the NES hold its own against the Genesis and the SNES around 1992-94. It made such an impact on many gamers and without this game, I wouldn't be the gamer I am today. I still love playing this game and many old-school games.

  34. This game sealed my life forever, bonding it with videogames for the rest of My life. The sensation I got after winning it for the first time was an experience i'll ever repeat. Thanks for this amazing work. You should actually sell these documentaries to Netflix, such a wonderful story. You are Indeed the gaming historian

  35. This is a great, great video, it brought me a lot of memories, thanks GH.

    Hopefully the story of SMW will come soon…

  36. I remember being 8 yrs old at the time but loving going to my friends and playing on master system and wanting a console so bad to play in my own home.
    Eventually after weeks looking through selling pages in the Evening Sentinal I stumbled across the Nintendo NES which never heard of before and my parents brought it for like £40 with this game included and the Legend of Zelda.
    Happy memories indeed.

    P.s I'm 37 now and have a 3ds which I Dust of from time to time 😉

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