Super Mario Bros. 3/Controls

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Action NES SNES GBA Wii (Virtual Console)
GameCube Controller Wii Remote Classic Controller
Move D-Pad D-Pad D-Pad D-Pad D-Pad D-Pad
Run B B or Y B B 1 b
Jump A A or X A A 2 a
Squat D-Pad (down) D-Pad (down) D-Pad (down) D-Pad (down) D-Pad (down) D-Pad (down)
Pick up item B B or Y B B 1 b
Pause Start Start Start Start plus plus

While the above table provides you with a glimpse of the most common uses for each button, the fact is that each input has several functions, which are described in more detail below.

Direction pad

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Use the direction pad to guide Mario and Luigi on the map, and throughout each world.

Press and hold Up to climb up vines. Press up when standing in front of a door to enter the door. Hold up while pressing A below an upside-down pipe to investigate whether you can enter it from below. Hold up while pressing A to hop out of water.
Press and hold Down to climb down vines. Press down to squat (except for Frog Mario). Press down while standing above a pipe to try and enter it. Press down while standing on a slope to slide to the bottom (except for Frog Mario).
Press Left or Right to walk in the respective direction. Hold down the B button while doing so to run. Pressing left and right can alter the direction you are moving through the air. As Frog Mario, you can swim in either direction without the need to press A.


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A button
  • The primary use of the A button is to jump. The longer you hold down the A button, the higher you will jump. If you hold down the A button while landing on an enemy, you will perform a super jump, and bounce even higher.
  • If you are running fast enough as Raccoon or Tanooki Mario, you can tap the A button to fly into the air. When falling down as Raccoon or Tanooki Mario, tap the A button to flap your tail and slow down your descent.
  • The A button is also used for swimming. Tapping the A button makes Mario or Luigi swim forward in whatever direction they are currently facing. If you are Frog Mario, you don't need to use the A button to swim, but Frog Mario will swim even faster if you tap A.
B button
  • The primary use of the B button is to enable running. When you move to the left or right while holding B, Mario and Luigi will pick up speed. If you run continuously, you will fill up your speed meter at the bottom of the screen. If the meter fills up and the P mark begins to flash, Raccoon or Tanooki Mario can take off and fly into the sky using their tails.
  • Holding the B button while running also allows you to pick up items and vulnerable enemies, like immobilized turtle shells. You will release the items as soon as you release B.
  • The B button is also used to attack your enemies; As Fireball Mario, press B to throw a fireball. As Raccoon or Tanooki Mario, press B to spin around and slap enemies with your tail. As Hammer Brother Mario, press B to toss a hammer.


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Understanding how to use the controls will help you, but understanding how to combine them to perform powerful techniques is even more useful. The following is a list of techniques that will help you on your journey to rescue the Princess from Bowser's clutches.

Pick up and Kick

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In the past, you could only kick a shell that was left behind by a defeated turtle. Now you can pick up the shell and run with it to any location before releasing it and kicking it into your enemies. After stomping on a turtle, run into the shell with the B button held down. Mario or Luigi will scoop the shell up into their hands. Keep B pressed to run around with the shell, and release B to kick the shell in whatever direction Mario or Luigi is facing. Be careful; some turtles come back to life while you're holding them, and that can damage or kill your player.

File:SMB3 kick technique 1.png File:SMB3 kick technique 2.png File:SMB3 kick technique 3.png File:SMB3 kick technique 4.png
D-Pad (right) + B D-Pad (right) + B release B

Fly and Float

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File:SMB3 Raccoon Mario flying.gif

This is the first Super Mario Bros. game where Mario and Luigi can literally fly into the sky without any assistance. To do so, they must be in Raccoon or Tanooki form first. Then they must find a good stretch of ground to run across. Keeping the B button held down, run in one direction until the P meter at the bottom of the screen fills up. When the P is flashing, and the alarm sounds, press and tap the A button to rise off the ground and fly up into the sky. Without a special item like the P-Wing, this effect is temporary, and the P meter will stop ringing after Mario or Luigi have flown for a while. Then they will begin to fall back to the ground. But you can slow the speed at which they fall by continuing to tap A, so that the flapping of their tails keeps them from falling like a stone.

File:SMB3 fly technique 1.png File:SMB3 fly technique 2.png File:SMB3 fly technique 3.png File:SMB3 fly technique 4.png
D-Pad (right) D-Pad (right) + B D-Pad (right) + A tap A

Tail smacking

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Raccoon and Tanooki Mario have other uses for their tail besides flying. By tapping the B button, they will spin around and send their tail flying. This can be used to strike enemies which are standing right next to Mario or Luigi. It can also be used to smash bricks and coax the contents out of "?" blocks. You can even spin around with your tail in mid-air. Try it out on many things.

File:SMB3 spin technique 1.png File:SMB3 spin technique 2.png File:SMB3 spin technique 3.png

Hill sliding

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Another technique that appears for the first time in this game, is the ability to slide down hills and wipe out enemies below. Whenever Mario or Luigi are standing on a slope, you can press D-Pad (down) on the direction pad, and they will begin to slide down the slope. Any enemies that are struck while sliding are instantly knocked out of the way.

File:SMB3 slide technique 1.png File:SMB3 slide technique 2.png
D-Pad (down)

Pipe exploring

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In the first Super Mario Bros. (as well as the Lost Levels), Mario could explore the interiors of particular pipes by standing on top of them and pressing D-Pad (down). Not only does this technique continue to work in this game, its use has been expanded. Now you can explore certain pipes that are hanging upside down. To do this, you must jump up towards them and hold Up on the D-Pad as you approach them. If you hit the pipe correctly, and the pipe leads somewhere, you will rise up into the pipe and be taken to a new destination.

Tried and true techniques

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The following techniques are older techniques that could be performed in previous versions of the game, but are worth mentioning just as a reminder:

  • Head bump attack: When an enemy is walking on bricks above your head, it is possible to attack them by jumping up and striking the bricks that they are standing on top of. You can also use this trick to change the direction of Mushrooms.
  • Sliding shell attack: When you kick a turtle shell, run after it and you will receive an increasing number of points for every enemy it crashes into. You may even receive extra lives if you hit enough enemies. Just be careful of the shell hitting something and rebounding towards you.
  • Swimming through water: In order to swim, you need to hold down a direction on the direction pad and tap the A button. It's important to remember that you can hop out of water by pressing and holding Up on the D-Pad, and tapping A when you're near the surface of the water.