Review: Super Mario 3D Land

Super Mario 3D Land 1

Mario dons the Tanooki Suit once again

Super Mario 3D Land is easily the best game for the 3DS. I know this statement does not mean much with the current lineup on the system, but this is the kind of game that will still be touted as one of the system’s best at the end of its lifespan. Is 3D Land perfect? No. But the fun and enjoyment I experienced while playing it far outweighed any of its flaws.

The game begins with the same story as the countless Mario games that precede it. You know it by now, and I don’t need to rehash it. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Not every video game needs to have elaborate stories. For this type of game, I just want to start playing and running through the levels not listening to back story. At the end of each world, you get a letter from Peach which contains a picture of her and her captors. The whole segment is cute, quick, and minimally intrusive.

For me Mario 3D Land hits a real sweet spot in its game play. While I do enjoy playing past 3D Mario games like 64 and both Galaxies, it’s the 2D titles that I always find myself replaying and loving. 3D Land manages to combine the best of both of these styles. The worlds are played in 3-dimensions, but are designed with the sensibilities from the 2D titles. Rather than being dropped in a big world and being tasked to search for a star, this game tasks you with running from one end of the stage to the next with the main goal being to reach the goal. The levels are quick and don’t overstay their welcome. In games like Mario Galaxy and Mario 64, if you didn’t enjoy a stage you were stuck playing through it multiple times to get every star. Here each stage requires only one run-through. This keeps the levels really fresh. The 3D contributes nicely to the game. It allows all of the environments to pop and helps in lining up your jumps.

Super Mario 3D Land ghost

Ghost houses return in 3D

Mario sports a nice collection of suits in this game. The tanooki suit returns alongside fire Mario and the all new boomerang suit. The internet has made a lot of this new tanooki suit being gimped, but I feel that it is a necessary evil. Flight is and has always been a borderline broken power in games like these. After you beat the game you can find a new improved tanooki with access to the statue power. The boomerang suit is a nice touch if not that fundamentally different from grabbing a fire flower.

The game feels a little on the short side. Experienced players will be able to blaze through the initial 8 worlds in quick fashion. After beating the game, new remixed versions of each level open up effectively doubling the length of the game. Between this plethora of levels and the hunt for those elusive star coins, there is enough action here to keep most players satisfied for a while.

Up until now I have been largely praising this title, but it is not without its faults. The most glaring is in the inspiration for this game. 3D Land is steeped in Mario nostalgia. Don’t get me wrong. I love Nintendo nostalgia and their stable of characters. However, 3D Land does not bring anything new to the table. The boss battles are inspired by both the boss battles from Super Mario Bros. and the mid-boss battles from Super Mario Bros. 3. Each stage culminates in a flag pole. There’s music notes from Mario 3, flip platforms from Mario Galaxy, the skeleton roller coaster from New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and ghost houses from Mario World just to name a few. All of these borrowed elements are stitched together into a very cohesive package, but at the end of the day they are still borrowed. There seems to be very little new material here.

Super Mario 3D Land flagpole

The classic flagpole returns

3D Land borrows a lot from its history. It takes all of these old elements and wraps them up into a beautiful and immersive 3-dimensional world to explore and play in. While Super Mario 3D Land may never live up to its older brothers’ legacy of amazing genre-defining titles, it is still the best game on the 3DS and an absolute joy to play. If you own a 3DS and not this game, exactly what game did you buy the system for? If you don’t have a 3DS this is a very compelling argument to take that dive.

This review is based on a copy of the game purchased by the reviewer.

Author: Patrick Wainwright

Patrick Wainwright has been a writer and contributor to since 2011. When not playing video games and publishing pieces, he tutors students in math and plays games of Magic the gathering.

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  • Nice honest review!!

  • Russ Walsh

    Ughhhh. I bought a 3DS for Mario and Cave Story and now here I am, cashless when they finally come out! Still, I’m excited to purchase this and Cave Story when I finally have the scrilla.