Super Mario 3D Land

Another superb Mario game.
Cameron Nutter - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

A perfectly clean game that shows the true potential of the Nintendo 3DS, while providing some of the best gameplay seen in a Mario game since the days of the Super Nintendo.

I hadn’t played a Mario game in nearly a year and a half. Super Mario Galaxy 2 came out in the summer of 2010, and that was the last I saw of the Italian plumber until this winter in 2011, with the arrival of Super Mario 3D Land. Yes, you read that right. Not Super Mario 3D. Nintendo decided to get a little more creative with their names this year, opting out of simply adding a 3D to the end of all their games, instead giving them a little more personality, and in the case of Super Mario 3D Land, the title describes the game perfectly. The 3DS iteration of classic Mario combines multiple games, from the amazing 2D platforming of Super Mario World on the SNES, to the more modern 3D worlds of Super Mario Galaxy. Super Mario 3D Land has it all. And it was good timing too: Nintendo’s newest handheld console, the 3DS, hasn’t exactly had the brightest history so far. From delayed and canceled games, to a drastic price drop not three months after launch, nothing seemed to be looking good for the newborn handheld. But despite Nintendo pushing remake after remake into our faces, early adopters have been looking forward to the promise of a brand new Mario game since day one. And let me be not the first to say that Super Mario 3D Land was well worth the wait. The game gives life to the console and gives meaning to its existence. Without Super Mario 3D Land, my 3DS would still be sitting under a pile of clothes in the corner. The game is the first “must own” title for the 3DS.

Honestly, the screen shots don't do this game justice. It looks much nicer in person.

The New Super Mario Bros series always rubbed me the wrong way. Mario’s physics felt weird, and I could never get used to how he seemed to have two wet boots stuck to his feet. I missed the golden days of Super Mario World where Mario could jump incredibly high, and seemed to change direction mid-air without a second thought. So when I saw that Super Mario 3D Land would be, in part, a side scroller, I feared that it would take after the New Super Mario Bros formula. Thankfully, I was dead wrong. 3D Land’s controls are a hybrid of the original platforming games, and the newer 3D games, which is to say you control Mario in a 3D world, yet Mario is fast paced, and doesn’t suffer from the more “realistic” type of physics that were holding the Mario in the New Super Mario Bros games back. You even have to hold a button down to run! And it feels fantastic. Mario is fast and responsive, and it feels so good to jump around, smacking goombas in the head and jumping over giant pits. It’s the most original Mario game in terms of how it controls; no other game had such a brilliant mixture of 2D and 3D gameplay. Not to mention that 3D Land is the first time that the main feature of the 3DS, the 3D, actually feels like something more than a visually pleasing effect. Many times, the 3D saved my life on particularly harder jumps, because I was able to tell where exactly I was going to land. Switching the 3D off made it much harder to play, although I’m sure it would be no problem to play with it off if you weren’t used to the 3D effect.

But what good are amazing controls without fun worlds to run around in? Luckily for us, Nintendo has us covered there too. Super Mario 3D Land is filled to the brim with new and exciting worlds. Taking level designs from nearly every single Mario game of the past, 3D Land combines the best of all the worlds, and introduces new mechanics as well. It all combines to create a smorgasbord of levels that are all a delight to look at and even more fun to play. The worlds differ greatly as well, ranging from underwater worlds, to giant, collapsing castles, and all the way to beautiful worlds in the sky. If I had to give one small complaint about the gameplay, I’d say the Super Leaf. This throws Mario into the Tanooki suit that lets him hover around using the provided tail, which makes the game a tad too easy, even on more difficult levels. It seems like you can hover over even the most difficult spots in the game. Using it for a while, and then getting hit (making you lose the power), and having to finish the level without it is sometimes shocking, because you didn’t realize at first how tough the level is. It’s a very minor complaint because Tanooki suit is still a blast to play with, I just feel it makes things a little too easy.

My one main problem with this new Mario game, and probably the games only fundamental flaw, is the lack of a personality. In the majority of the Mario games, such as Super Mario World and Super Mario Sunshine, the world that Mario traversed in felt alive. There was personality in how the places looked, and how they felt to explore and conquer. There were certain themes that the games fell under, and whether it was a lava theme or a underwater theme, it all felt so personal and hand crafted. And while the levels in Super Mario 3D Land are certainly fun and very, very well made, there is a lack of that personality that other games had. You don’t have an exciting over-world to explore, and each section of levels have very little in common besides being called “World 1” or “Special World 8”. That amazing feeling in Super Mario World where every section of the game had a fun name (Chocolate Island) and a sort of overtone to it is completely absent in the newest Mario game, and it’s something that I felt pulling me out of the amazing level design more than often. It’s a shame really, because it is the one major flaw in an otherwise perfect Mario game.


You want to know the best part about this game? It’s good, clean fun for all ages. There is very little violence; the worst it gets is Bowser, the main enemy in the Mario games, falling into the lava and turning into very cartoon-y looking pile of bones. All the enemies that get mushed under Mario’s shoes just explode into little puffs of smoke. Apart from that, as far as I’m concerned, there is no other sort of negative content present in the entire game.

And making it even more accessible is the fact that the game is basically divided into two parts. Part one consists of eight different worlds, each filled with five levels, that are fun, but certainly not challenging for a veteran Mario player. They’re perfect for your smaller child or someone who might not be a experienced video gamer to just pick up and play and still enjoy themselves. After you beat those levels however, you’re introduced to a whole new world, which is where things start to get very interesting. You now have access to eight more worlds, and the levels progressively get harder and harder, until they’re challenging even the most skilled Mario player. The levels still keep their well designed patterns, so you never feel cheated when you fall down a pit, and when you finally do defeat a super hard level or boss, you feel immensely satisfied with yourself, like you really accomplished something.

Super Mario 3D Land is what Mario is all about. Not since the days of the Super Nintendo have I had such fun on a Mario adventure. It’s easy for anyone to pick up and play, while giving the more advanced gamers a serious challenge towards the end. And the best part is that there is such a miniscule amount of any sort of negative content, I’d let nearly anyone play it. This is a great game for anyone, and is one of the better Mario games in recent memory.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Answers Network.

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