Review: Super Mario 3D Land

A new world has opened!

Console: Nintendo 3DS

The launch of the Nintendo 3DS in early 2011 was rough. There were a lot of questions surrounding the 3D gimmick, how it could be harmful to your eyes. The lack of any killer titles didn’t help much either. Sales weren’t good but Nintendo did, luckily, have an ace up its sleeve. A brand-new Mario title, built specifically to leverage the glasses-free 3D gimmick. The rest, as they say, is history. Super Mario 3D Land became the console's first noteworthy game. The first step in turning the 3DS’ fortune around. 

 

Well over a decade later, 3D Land is a bit of a forgotten title. General audiences confuse it with Super Mario 3D World more often than not. Shame, as the game is a really fun Mario title that, if you have a 3DS, is worth consideration. 

Let’s dive in. 



During a storm, the Tail Tree on Princess Peach's castle grounds is stripped of its leaves. These Super Leaves are stolen by Bowser who uses them to grant abilities such as limited flight to his minions. Bowser uses these new powers to once again kidnap Princess Peach, spurring Mario into action and starting the cycle Mario players know all too well once more. 

 

Mario games don’t have much in story and that’s no different here. I do have to say that I like the presentation. Every time you enter a new world, you get a picture of what Peach is up to. It’s fun. It also shows Bowser has a sick sense of humour. Allowing Peach to escape only to hunt her down again. Yikes!

 

The gameplay of Super Mario 3D Land is an odd one. The game mixes gameplay from both 2D and 3D Mario games. This boils down to the game playing as a 2D Mario game but with a Z-axis and the move set of 3D Mario thrown in. The game thus plays very similar to 2D Mario, just with an extra dimension that gave the designers some more room to play with. Literally. From levels that swirl around to small sandboxes to mazes, the 3D gives rise to much more level variety than your typical 2D Mario allows for. It makes it easier to judge your position and the dynamic camera angle, well, makes the levels feel more dynamic. 

 

The 3D effect does a lot but it’s not perfect. The game relies on this gimmick a bit too much. There are buttons on the touchscreen that change the camera angle, meant to help make the game just as playable in 2D (like on the 2DS) but it’s not a complete fix. The game just doesn’t play as well in 2D as it does with the 3D on. I recommend using the Tanooki suits hoover's ability to help you line up your jumps and get over perspective related mistakes. 


The game has a few of these ‘forced-perspective’ moments. Without the 3D you think it was just blocks stacked like a pyramid (r) but the 3D (and the switch) allows you to see the truth (l).


Wrapping up: the levels are well designed and fun. Stomping on enemies, picking up neat power-ups such as Fire Flower and the Tanooki suit and getting to the goal as fast as you can. They’re not very difficult (the game even gives you invincibility items if you die in a level too often) nor long but the game packs some nice replay value with the collectables, a set of special words and speed-running. 

 

In the graphical department, the game looks like you’d expect. The standard 3D Mario looks, like nothing special to see here. The same goes for the soundtrack. It's standard fare for Mario. Fun and energetic but not very distinct from what has come before and after. Bland, but good nonetheless.  

Conclusion

I can see why, looking back at the game well over a decade later, it was a big factor in making the 3DS successful. Super Mario 3D Land is a well-crafted and fun Mario game whose 3D touch gives rise to some well-designed levels. With more content than you’d expect and a low bar for just picking up and playing it. 

 

It’s big issue however, its blandness, has kept it from being a very memorable game. It gets confused a lot with 3D World, which smartly took the 2D/3D bland while ditching the hindering 3D effect. It’s not a must-have Mario game but if you’re looking to grow your 3DS library before the EShop closure it’s not a bad one to pick up. 

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