The 15 best video games of the 1980s

14 of 16

3. Super Mario Bros. 3

Released: 1988 (Japan) / 1990 (North America)

Platforms: NES, SNES (as part of Super Mario All-Stars), Game Boy Advance, Wii/Wii U/3DS Virtual Console

This one might court a little bit of controversy by putting it only in third place, but we think you’ll agree with our picks for the games that surpass it. Moreover, we didn’t want to overload the list with Mario Bros. titles, which means that given the choice between Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3, we’re going to opt for the improved version, much like how Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is here instead of Castlevania.

That all being said, Super Mario Bros. 3 knows what it’s about in every way, giving Mario the opportunity to transform into more than just a larger version of himself or his fiery self, thus expanding the challenges available. (Look, if you don’t like Tanooki or Raccoon Mario, we’re not sure what we can do for you.) Moreover, the Koopalings provide variety in boss fights instead of just fighting Bowser again and again.

If you don’t want to go all the way back to the NES version, the Super Mario All-Stars version brings an SNES graphical sensibility to the game. But even in its NES incarnation, Super Mario Bros. 3 looks good, proving that even the 8-bit consoles got better as developers had more time with them to coax more out of the machines.