hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Super Mario 3D Land

Review: Super Mario 3D Land

12:00 PM on 11.09.2011 // Jim Sterling
  @JimSterling

Always bet on Mario. It's a given that Nintendo rarely fails when dealing with its mustachioed mascot, and there's no denying that when a Nintendo system is in trouble, everybody's favorite plumber can bail it out. 

The 3DS is in need of some competitive games with Christmas around the corner, and once again Nintendo has gone to its pipe-delving hero, cap in hand, looking for help. That help has arrived in the form of Super Mario 3D Land, an all-new platforming adventure that shows off the 3DS's capabilities and provides a game with real name value, just in time for the holiday season. 

That's what Mario does. He's the fixer.

Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)
Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: November 13, 2011
MSRP: $39.99

Super Mario 3D Land bears very little resemblance to the Super Mario Land games that once brought unique and weird ideas to the Game Boy. With its 3D perspective, it visually resembles titles like Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy, but in many ways, the game feels more like a spiritual successor to Super Mario Bros. 3 than any other established title. 

It's not just because the Tanooki Suit has made its welcome return. The game features many levels inspired by the NES classic, including a variety of airship boss stages in which players must duck and weave through familiar fire traps and Bullet Bill cannons. Furthermore, Boom Boom has returned as a recurring boss fight after debuting in Super Mario Bros. 3

There's an almost anachronistic flavor to Super Mario 3D Land, a game that bears the name of a Game Boy series and the visuals of modern games, but features gameplay strikingly similar to a classic NES title. Only Nintendo could pull off such a Frankenstein's Monster of nostalgic platforming and make it work -- for indeed Super Mario 3D Land works beautifully. 

As always, the core of the game is familiar and simple. Mario must navigate a series of stages crammed full of unique traps and environmental puzzles, before grabbing a flag pole at the end. As mentioned, the Tanooki Suit has returned, allowing Mario to glide in the air with the aid of a raccoon tail in a manner just as endearing today as it was in 1988. Fire Mario is also back, and players are allowed to store up to one power-up on the touchscreen for use if they lose their currently equipped ability. 

The old-school transformations are great fun, but there's an all-new ability tossed into the mix for good measure. Boomerang Mario should be rather self-explanatory, gaining the ability to toss boomerangs that can destroy enemies or collect items. As well as giving Mario a cute Boomerang Bro costume, it's a very useful item -- not least for the fact that it can destroy enemy projectiles.

A handful of all-new enemies rounds out the fresh gameplay additions, including Tanooki Goombas and ink-spitting Piranha Plants that cover the camera in black gunk and make platforming more difficult. The fun is intermittently punctuated by cleverly mapped boss battles in which Mario must make it past Bowser's fireballs and hit a Skull Switch to destroy his platform and drop him into lava -- just like he did in the NES titles. 

There are eight main worlds with at least five courses apiece, and they feature some amazing level design. Every single course plays differently from the last, and some of them are outright inspired. One stage, in which platforms made of wood pass through saw blades that constantly rearrange their shape, stands out in particular. That is just one example of the kind of inventive platforming seen in 3D Land, and it's terrific to see Nintendo prove just how versatile the genre still is. 

Some of this ingenuity has gone into exploiting the 3DS's 3D abilities, with a few bonus stages turning platforms into optical illusions that can only be fathomed with 3D enabled. Stages that look flat and simple might have deceptively placed blocks with positions that cannot be determined on a 2D screen. These mandatory sections don't last very long, but having 3D enabled at all times certainly helps navigate levels, since it provides a better sense of where best to jump and land.

One would also miss out on various stages designed simply to provide some gratifying 3D imagery. While I usually find it gauche to have 3D entertainment that shamelessly throws stuff at the camera, Nintendo must be complimented on doing it in a way that amuses and never intrudes on the gameplay itself. If Nintendo's great at one thing, it's in forcing a gimmick down our throats so well that it doesn't feel forced at all. In Super Mario 3D Land, the 3D is undoubtedly a complement, not a detraction. The added depth makes platforming more intuitive, and the visual effects are simply fun to watch. 

Despite having eight worlds plus eight special worlds with a more satisfying difficulty bump, Super Mario 3D Land is still a rather short game, and many players will also feel much of it can be too easy. There's definite replay to be had in collecting special golden coins hidden throughout the level and some stages are just too fun to play merely once, but this definitely isn't the most epic of Mario games. And due to Nintendo's "No Child Left Behind" mentality, it's also impossible to fail. If you die enough times, the game provides an invincible Tanooki Suit that lasts for the entire level. This can be ignored by those wanting a challenge, but some players may feel a little patronized at having Nintendo try to hold their hand. As someone who loves Kirby, I've certainly no right to complain about it.

The biggest issue with Super Mario 3D Land is that, as fun as it is, it feels more like the beginning of something more rather than a full experience. It seems like a mere taste of what Nintendo can do -- an admittedly delicious taste, but one that still leaves a bit of a gap once finished. It feels like it was prepared to tantalize 3DS owners without giving them lasting satisfaction, to demonstrate that good things are in the handheld's future and that more games like this will come if they stay loyal. I would not go so far as to call the game a tech demo, but it certainly acts like a whirlwind tour of Mario's new 3D world, rather than a full vacation. 

Nevertheless, Super Mario 3D Land is a great little game that pretty much every 3DS owner should invest in. While it's nowhere near as intricately challenging as the old scrollers from which it draws inspiration. and it lacks the ambitious scale of Super Mario Galaxy, it is still packed with innovative gameplay and that unmistakable Mario charm. Its brevity and ease will be an issue for staunchly "hardcore" players, but it's ultimately too much fun for it to be a dealbreaker.

3D Land is a game in which Nintendo shows other developers how they've been doing it wrong since the 3DS launched, and provides a template from which future games ought to be built. Hopefully this is the beginning of a library of fine 3DS games that proves the system has got what it takes to succeed.



THE VERDICT

8.5

Super Mario 3D Land - Reviewed by Jim Sterling
Charming - Not perfect, but it's easy to ignore the rough spots when faced with so many engaging design decisions and entertaining moments. A memorable game that's hard not to like and recommend to others.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure JimSterling Tips
Destructoid reviews editor, responsible for running and maintaining the cutting edge videogame critique that people ignore because all they want to see are the scores at the end. Also a regular f... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our moderators, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Xbone journey continues! I thought I would like Dead Rising 3 well enough as a huge fan of 1/2, but I must say I find it's emphasis on hard drama laughable and the game fundamentally disingenuine. Guess I'm moving on to Forza Horizon 2.
TheDefenestrator avatarTheDefenestrator
I dig the feature in Until Dawn where, if you have the Playstation camera, it will record you briefly during jump scares for you to watch later. It's a really neat use of an underused peripheral. Too bad I'm dead inside and never react to them.
Shinta avatarShinta
[img]http://i.imgur.com/oZ7CQJa.jpg[/img]
nanashi avatarnanashi
Fallout Shelter: Impossible to Learn, Easy to Master.
Mike Wallace avatarMike Wallace
Not saying this is the case, but Kojima has gone on record as being a huge Mad Max: Fury Road fan. Konami decided to release MGSV on the same day as Mad Max TVG. They're trying piss on Kojima's lawn, man.
ooktar avatarooktar
Downloading Phantom Pain. ETA, 16 hours. Just in time for lunch tomorrow.
Mr Knives avatarMr Knives
OH WOW. Talk about a complete about face. After slogging through the horrid beginning and slow ass swap sequence this game picked up exponentially. So far, I'm enjoying the hell out of it now. All if forgiven. Thank you based Kojima.
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
Oh, joyful night. [youtube]https://youtu.be/6EfhAFA2yFE[/youtube]
techsupport avatartechsupport
After a summer of on-and-off casual play, I've finally reached lv. 34 in Destiny :')
nanashi avatarnanashi
also Fallout Shelter just made me utter this: "I have to get these pregnancies done.." life is trivial in this game!
Mr Knives avatarMr Knives
Let it be known that Metal Gear 2 for MXS has aged horribly and is no fun to play. In the midst of a MGS marathon, looks like I'm skipping ahead to MGS.
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
"Available: 31 August - This game will unlock in approximately 2 hours" HOLY SHIET! [youtube]https://youtu.be/9jK-NcRmVcw[/youtube]
nanashi avatarnanashi
-nudge nudge- hey Sony, discount Ys: I and II Chronicles and Ys: Seven on the PSP :D
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
Just out of curiosity, does anybody here still play Mario Kart 8 at all frequently?
Cosmonstropolis avatarCosmonstropolis
Neighbors ended up calling the cops. I hid under a cardboard box. Police officers were perplexed but went back to their patrol routes after a minute or so.
techsupport avatartechsupport
!a new MGS: Ground Zeroes update file auto dl'd and installed..the day prior to MGSV... hmm.. coincidence? OR... coincidence?
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
Just got an email from Nintendo saying that my Club Nintendo reward has been shipped and is on its way. Now it's the end of an era. *pours one out for Club Nintendo*
wutangclam avatarwutangclam
I've been thinking of starting up a criticism-minded "game of the month" type podcast. Would anyone be interested in something like that? If you'd wanna be part of it, let me know, I'm generating ideas and looking for contributors
CJ Andriessen avatarCJ Andriessen
Playing the most difficult strategy game ever: trying to figure out what order to beat your backlog in.
ChillyBilly avatarChillyBilly
Transient Ryu stays ripped by riding the rails and throwing other transients off of his rail cars - [IMG]http://i22.photobucket.com/albums/b321/Felth/homeless%20ryu.jpg~original[/IMG]
more quickposts


Contest!


destructoid's previous coverage:
Super Mario 3D Land


  May 01

Super Mario 3D World was designed with the New SMB crowd in mind

'There’s still a lot more room for discovery and invention,' says producer


View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:



Please contact Crave Online, thanks!



Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -