My memories of 3E itself are pretty vague (it felt like D&D and there was a computer character-builder), but so many good things for the hobby came out of the OGL that that's what I remember. We played a lot of Mutants & Masterminds, for instance.
I had some fun with basic but when I moved away from my original group the only games I could find were AD&D, and it was a slog of crawling down dungeon corridors poking things with poles and spending large amounts of time discussing how to get around traps and across ravines (like 40 - 50 minutes because no one would agree on a course of action.) And being told no to all my character ideas. Drove me out of the hobby for a while.Never saw that effect myself. I had lots of beginners in every edition, although 5e is the easiest for me as it has the logic of 3e/4e and the simplicity of BECMI if you keep the options simple.
Never had these problems before, honestly. All the AD&D games that I did over 20 years were heavily customised by house rules, and a lot of the optional Gygaxian options in particular in the DMG were never looked at. Level and class limits were mostly ignored or wished away. As for thieves, they were great and they received a lot of love (in particular magic items). I was actually annoyed by 3e turning them into DPS machines that had to do their damage each round, and I still regret the real thief who had to be clever to do his sneak attack only when absolutely sure and with good preparation, but who could at least bring down the boss (especially very dangerous enemy MUs) in one strike if lucky, or at least inconvenience him enough so that he fled or changed tactics: "No matter how subtle the wizard, a knife between the shoulder blades will seriously cramp his style." (if you have not read Steven Brust' Jhereg series, do it now, it's incredible in particular for a high level D&D feel, including great ways to deal with resurrection and teleportation).
I agree that current rogues don't feel quite right, but those original thieves died a lot. And were so bad at their jobs, it's a wonder any of them actually stayed alive or out of prison long enough to go adventuring.