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Super Mario 3D Land

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Super Mario 3D Land

Super Mario 3D Land

Image © Nintendo
Super Mario 3D Land for the Nintendo 3DS places Mario in third dimension, then goes one step beyond. It bolsters the classic Super Mario formula with the 3DS's 3D screen, and challenges the player to maneuver, fight, and solve visual problems in a truly 3D world.

Much like Star Fox 64 3D, Super Mario 3D Land successfully shows off the vision Nintendo has for the 3DS. The game merges 2D and 3D gameplay with barely a visible seam, and is packed with modern and retro Super Mario gameplay goodness. Some notable hitches keep the title from perfection, but there's no argument that Super Mario 3D Land needs to be in every 3DS owner's library.

Developer/Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Platformer
ESRB Rating: E
Compatible With: Nintendo 3DS

THE BASICS: Save the Princess -- Again

One dark night, an ominous storm rips through the Mushroom Kingdom. When Mario and his Toad pals investigate the damage the next day, they discover (via air mail) that Bowser, the King of the Koopas, used the cover of darkness to kidnap Princess Peach yet again.

It's not clear how Bowser got his claws on the Princess: presumably, she had gone for a lonely walk in the torrential rain. Regardless, it's up to Mario to travel through eight worlds to confront Bowser and save his friend.

Mario's primary method of disposing of his enemies has been to jump on their heads, and in Super Mario 3D Land, he pulls on his skull-stomping boots once again. There is, however, some variety to be had thanks to an arsenal of familiar power-ups. The faithful Mushroom and Fire Flower are on hand to help out, and the Tanooki Suit (a favorite from Super Mario Bros. 3) makes a return to help Mario glide courtesy of a raccoon tail. There is one new power-up in the bunch: the Boomerang Suit, which dresses up Mario as a reptilian Boomerang Brother and lets him hurl the popular aborigine weapons at bad guys.

It's easy to see what Nintendo was going for with Super Mario 3D Land. Even though the game combines 2D gameplay with 3D environments and 3D enhanced visuals and puzzles, it also flaunts its roots. For instance, Mario moves a little less nimbly than in most modern Mario games, and he has lost some of his newfound athleticism, like the ability to cling to a ledge after a close jump.


It makes excellent use of the Nintendo 3DS's 3D capabilities -- The Nintendo 3DS's critics argue that the handheld's 3D display capabilities are a gimmick at best. Super Mario 3D Land demonstrates that 3D does have a place in gaming--through puzzle-solving, through battle tactics, and through environment navigation. Nintendo knows how to use 3D to its advantage. Let's hope other developers are inspired to utilize the 3DS's unique hardware to its fullest ability.

It isn't necessary to play the game in 3D, however -- Not everybody can "see" 3D graphics, and some folks are simply not enthusiastic about playing games in 3D. Luckily, you can get through Super Mario 3D Land without ever turning up the 3D slider, which is fortunate given that Nintendo warns against kids under six viewing 3D images. Some puzzles and environments are definitely easier to navigate with the 3D turned on, but the game is perfectly playable without that added depth perception.

Great graphics -- Super Mario 3D Land is a very pretty game; it looks good and animates well. The environments are detailed and boast plenty of depth, but still manage a level of retro charm that's exclusive to Mario games. You'll explore sky realms, airships, underground tunnels, castles with moats of boiling lava, and more.

Considerable depth -- It won't take you too long to blaze through the first eight worlds in Super Mario 3D Land, though your playtime will vary according to your skill and whether or not you take the opportunity to hunt down every Star Coin. So what happens beyond World 8? Let's just say Mario's work is never done, and that the game has quite a bit more to offer beyond the first finish line.

Beginners can lean on the Golden Tanooki -- If you're having a particularly rough time with one level, you'll eventually be offered the option of grabbing a golden leaf, which will transform you into the invincible Golden Tanooki. Mario will become a big, glimmering teddy bear, and then nothing can stand in your way--not even Bowser's fire. It's a bit of an overkill as far as power-ups go, but the game never forces the golden leaf on you: it's your choice whether or not you want to grab it.


You'll miss jumps -- Regardless of whether you have the 3D imagery enabled or disabled, your eyes will still play tricks on you, and you'll occasionally miss jumps or just run right off the edge of a sky-bound stage.

Extra life overkill -- Super Mario 3D Land practically awards you 1UP's for breathing. Not a bad deal, but why bother with a life system in the first place? The abundance of lives up for grabs in the game ties into another problem:

A lack of power-ups -- There's a nice variety of power-ups in Super Mario 3D Land, but you won't come across them very often in the stages you play--certainly not as often as what's the norm for a Mario game. For fans of powered-up Mario, that's a bit of a disappointment.

It's linear -- Since Super Mario Bros. 3, there has been a certain amount of exploration in Mario games via a world map. These maps typically branch off and let you choose which levels to conquer, and some even hide secret paths and levels. Unfortunately, Super Mario 3D Land is a comparatively linear game. You must conquer most of the levels in the order they're presented. This can become especially tedious in circumstances that require you to collect a certain amount of hidden Star Coins before you can proceed.


Super Mario 3D Land is a successful title on several planes. It's fun to play, it works as a straightforward Mario game, and it shows off what the Nintendo 3DS is capable of, graphics-wise. It would have been nice to see more exploration and less linearity, but what's really important is that Mario 3D Land will show you and your Nintendo 3DS a good time.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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