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Super Mario 3D Land (Nintendo 3DS) Review
Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS
Review by 
9.01/10 from 49 user ratings
The 3DS lid opens… the glow of the screen fills your eyes… and you see that familiar italian mug you know and love but it's in 3D. It's a sight to behold because while that right there is merely a start-up screen… the game you're about to play… is so so much more.

From the easy to learn game mechanics to the fun presentation, this game is one polished Nintendo product. If you've ever played a Super Mario game before, a 2D one specifically, then you know how to control this title. While it's got a look of something more like Super Mario Galaxy, it feels and plays a lot more like a Super Mario Bros. 3. There's a lot of subtle touches and call backs to that game specifically too which were quite nice. Surprisingly, despite the "Land" in the game's title, there were very few actual Super Mario Land references if really any. Please someone feel free to correct me if I'm wrong but I don't remember anything specific like that. The presentation is polished and great looking from start to finish. The graphics are crisp and clean and only the occasional aliasing problem seen on many other DS titles. In between each of the game's eight worlds are little vignettes which showcase a particular 'postcard' from the captured Princess Peach. They look glorious in 3D and really remind me of what something like Paper Mario 3DS might look when that releases next year. I want to quickly thank Nintendo for allowing us to eventually save those things to our SD cards for outside-the-game viewing. They'll be a nice quick showcase of the 3D effect to family and friends this holiday but also, they just look nice.

One problem I had with the title, though the problem was too minor to really bother me much, is that like with other titles sometimes dark areas have a randomly double-vision viewing to them, as if the 3D slider was adjusted when it wasn't. Also, sometimes when I played I would find myself tilting the 3DS slightly naturally and that would throw off the 3D, usually at key moments. This of course is actually a problem with the 3DS' small viewing angle and not the game itself, but I bring it up to note that the game is best played while you have steady arms and hands. I found that laying on my stomach on a floor or bed was a good way to go.

Speaking of the 3D effect… it's prominent and beautiful in this game. To use a pun I'm sure everyone in the gaming media has used,… the 3D adds so much depth to your experience. I'm not even quite sure how they did it but Nintendo really seems to have a strong understanding of the visual realm of which the 3DS works in. There were some levels, especially in the latter half of the game, where I thought to myself, "Damn, they just know." I say this because the camera and the experience was so tightly controlled that it felt great and the 3D allowed me to have unique moments of glee with various discoveries. Very rarely, if at all, is the camera even a problem. The levels that have unique camera angles are specifically designed to be that way so the camera in my opinion is one of the tightest in any mario title. Back on the 3D aspect of the game, I would say it was designed to be pretty integral to the experience and gameplay. I tried playing some levels without it and while it is definitely possible, you're going to find some added challenge in your platforming because of that. Early on in World 1 for instance, there's a segment where spiked balls swing over a bridge pendulum style. Without the 3D, your guess is as good as mine as to if one will hit you or not (unless you pay attention to their shadows). With the 3D on, it's way apparent and thus simple to traverse. So while the game could be played with 3D off, it's absolutely intended to be played with the 3D on at all times. If you don't, you might want to carry an extra Tanooki Leaf with you. The thing is… this is the kind of game you naturally want 3D to be on always with. I might try to do a 3D off run of the game sometime just to see how different it feels but I'm working on the 'post-game' content right now and plus, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword comes out in a matter of days… I won't be replaying this from the start once that drops.

The first level in the game is a rather standard level but I promise you that things only get more interesting from there on out. Your first level is a classically green and simple level but it quickly teaches you the ropes and the new power-up. As the levels continue on, you'll see more and more retro throwbacks or uniquely designed themed levels and such. The level design is wonderful and there's not a single level I didn't enjoy or think was well designed. Nintendo developers are honestly the kings of platform game design and yet again it shows. When it comes to placing Star Medals, they are often in fun or creative places. The hunt for Star Medals (or Coins) is something that I've never looked forward to more than in this game. I was addicted to finding each and every one. I did so on my first run through because I refused to move on without hunting for all three in the level. In one particular level, I found something I liked. When I was in World 2-2, I only found one of the three Star Medals. Determined I went back in for more and remembered seeing an object that had looked suspicious… I didn't have the correct power-up to affect that object but when I went back I used it on that seemingly bland set piece. Low and behold, it lead me right to the second Star Medal. I am amazed at how Nintendo puts these details in their games and forces the player to pay close attention to what they see in order to seek out everything. The levels aren't arranged by themed worlds but are in fact randomly scattered in that regard. I found that I much preferred this because it kept things constantly changing. Instead of doing four snow-themed levels in a row, I was able to have a breather from that theme before finding it again. So when it returned, I was delighted to see it again. World 7-4 was a particular favorite of mine as it reminded me of one of my favorite levels from Super Mario 64 and one of my favorite Mario Kart tracks from Mario Kart DS.

As for the game's difficulty, I definitely died a bit throughout my play-though. Sometimes an enemy got the best of me or I missed a jump. Occasionally if you don't remember to get enough momentum a jump falls short. This can be a bit frustrating admittedly but it wasn't something that really hurt the game too much for me. You get used to the physics quick and adapt. From platforming challenges to enemy difficulty, the game is pretty laid back for a lot of the game. I felt a true challenge pop up periodically but as many other reviewer's say, the game amps itself up a bit near the end. Still, even when a level wasn't too difficult, every single level is pure fun. So I wasn't bothered. Plus the enemies are so varied level to level that you just plain won't get bored.

With the enemies in this game, you'll see a lot of your standard fare. You'll stomp Goombas and kick Koopa Troopas. You'll burn Piranha Plants and crumble Dry Boneses. The new or non-standard enemies are a blast to tackle. The bees are a particular favorite of mine. I love how when they notice you they get this angry determination on their face and then chase you down rather slowly but adorably. The Boomerang Brothers are a tricky bunch and there's some Blargg love in some of the lava-themed levels. The bosses are reminiscent of a mix of Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. 3. They weren't too challenging but they'll definitely keep you on your toes. There's no tricky patterns to figure out and the rule of three always applies, but it's fine because honestly, the levels are the meat and potatoes of this game, not the boss battles. Well… I suppose not entirely. The first boss battle is a fun throwback, as one might expect even but I didn't even realize I was in the throwback until I saw the button I had to step on. It was a new take on that and I enjoyed it.

Skipping ahead to the very end,… the final sequence of the game will wow you I think. Damn if Nintendo hasn't yet again one-upped themselves. If you thought that the final sequence of New Super Mario Bros. Wii was exciting, then you will find that and then some in this game… then you'll have some more. It's by far one of my favorite platforming challenges and final boss battles ever. It will get your blood-pumping and test your skills thoroughly but in a completely fun and fair way.

There are two more things I feel I need to touch upon with this review. First are the power-ups. Items and power-ups have always been a staple of the Super Mario Bros. series and this game doesn't try to change that. The inclusion of the Tanooki Leaf is a fun one indeed. It's easily my preferred suit of choice. Seeing Mario clad in a Tanooki Suit running into Bowser's Castle at the end of World 1 is cute as hell and yet I wouldn't wanna mess with him. Even cuter is when you do the Mario Squat-Walking as a Tanooki Mario. It's cute as hell and that little raccoon-dog waddle helps you in various nooks and crannies to collect 1-Up Mushrooms and the like. However, the Tanooki Leaf also makes things a little un-even feeling once in a while. It's got it's good and bad points. The good is that it's fun and useful, allowing you a lot more time before landing and thus you're able to make corrections mid-jump. The downside is also that same point though. Earlier on at least, it almost feels like a crutch, kind of like how the hover function of the water pack from Super Mario Sunshine is considered. In the end, I'd still much rather have it than not but I wonder how hard the game would be if I refused to use that Tanooki Leaf.

Lastly I wanted to mention the music of this game. The music, as with previous handheld Mario titles, is fun and quirky and classic-sounding. However, it's a bit of a let down considering the lack of themes involved. The original Super Mario Land theme was nowhere to be remixed or found (unless it's somewhere after beating the main game and I haven't come across it yet) and to me that was a missed opportunity. If you're going to have the world Land in your name, please just reference the theme of the game you're referencing. You'll hear a lot of the same couple of songs over and over because they coincide not with individual levels, but individual themes in levels. So the water levels have a song and so do the basic land levels or the snow levels or the lava levels. Luckily these themes are all enjoyable in their own right and due to varied level design, the songs never get stale either. That said, I still wish for more. Nintendo music is a beloved staple of my normal life and I would always prefer more classic tunes to sing or listen to after the game is over. My favorite of the themes though was easily the Snow Level Theme. It was very Mario-esque and fitting and in my opinion, I feel like it's a theme that could come up again in the future during Mario Orchestrated Concerts or future games. It's pretty special in this reviewer's opinion.

All in all, Nintendo is an old dog of which you can always teach new tricks. They've been around for ages, essentially causing the "big bang" that revitalized a dying industry. While the industry is a whole lot healthier these days, Nintendo and specifically their Mario Bros. titles constantly innovate and bring immense pleasure to the gaming world. If I had a nickel for every time Nintendo gave me an endorphin high from their Mario titles, I'd be able to personally fund the development of the next one. Despite this being one in a long line of Mario games, there is plenty of reason to head back to the Mushroom Kingdom to save that damn princess all over again. While the music isn't too plentiful and the earlier portions of the game a little simplistic in the difficulty, there is no reason to not own this game. This is the game that finally takes away anyone's reason to not own a 3DS in the first place. It justifies the 3DS' existence if other games hadn't already. Releasing within the first year of the 3DS' life cycle, one can only hope that a sequel is on its way at some point. Despite all the content the game has to offer, I already want more and more.

Dammit Nintendo, you did it again.

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Posted: 11/16/11, 06:12  - Edit:  11/17/11, 02:48
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Dang, that was fast. Sounds dope though, super dope. I'm having a lot of fun with this game.

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 06:19
Excellent! And very timely. I'm loving this game to death, especially the special levels.

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 06:33

Absolutely me too! So so good!

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 06:35
A bit higher than I'd give it at this point. So far it's a 9/10 on my 20 pt scale. But we'll see.

edit - I do agree that the use of 3D is masterful. I haven't seen another game yet do it better.

I also agree that the music is disappointing. Was there even one original tune in there besides the theme we've been hearing in every trailer?

And I agree that the final boss fight is phenomenal. The best one since NSMBW, probably. Nintendo really doesn't skimp on those. I wish every boss fight had been that thrilling...

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 07:11  - Edit:  11/16/11, 07:16
@Guillaume How far along are you on the special stages?

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 07:17

I only did the first two stages, and found all of the star coins with ease on the first try. Of course, I really know Nintendo game design at this point, so that helps. I would have to disagree with Fink's assessment that Nintendo has been learning new tricks. If they have, they aren't showing it enough, in my opinion.

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 07:24
@Guillaume I think the tropical stages are original. I think the underground theme may be a fresh remix, but it was probably in Galaxy 2. The Bowser stage theme is also new.

But yeah. I love the main level theme but other than that the music on the whole is underwhelming. I kind of felt that way about New Super Mario Bros. as well.

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 07:52
Crazy fast review for a crazy good game. I was initially worried that I'd feel a little underwhelmed by SM3DL, but I quickly fell victim to its charms around the 2nd or 3rd world. Guillaume and I are often on the same page, but I have to say that I'm feeling the love with Mario's 3DS outing. Currently at 7-1 and struggling to pace myself better. Nice job on the review!

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 08:40

Hey now! Don't get me wrong! I got addicted to the game and 9/10 is a very good score! (this shows the ratings I gave, right?Not yours?) And I would not have given SMG2 a 10 before I did the green stars, anyway, so there's still time for me to rate SM3DL higher...

I'm just a bit underwhelmed by the star coins. But again, this is just a result of me starting to wise up on Nintendo's old tricks, I'm sure plenty of people don't find the star coin locations intuitively.

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 08:48  - Edit:  11/16/11, 08:50
Good review. Of course I would have just given the game a 10. I can only assume that since you was underwhelmed with the music, -.2 had to come off the score.

I actually like the music. I mean, its typical Mario-type music. I have no qualms at all with how the game sounds. Sure, alot of the same tunes repeat, but I really don't play Mario games for their soundtrack.

Actually, I think Nintendo named this game, Super Mario 3D Land, not cause its somehow related to the very first Gameboy Super Mario Land, but probably to let people know that he game is back on 'land' and not out in outerspace, as in the Galaxy games. Cause there are no references to the original Gameboy game, or at least not to the point I am at.

I don't see why Nintendo just didn't call this Super Mario 3D....unless they thought us common people would think it was just a remake of an older Mario game, but if that was so, wouldn't the game be called, Super Mario Bros 3D.

Or, maybe Nintendo wanted the word 'land' in there cause the GB titles had land in them as well. I still stick by my orig. theory, about Mario being back on land and not in space.

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 08:50

I wouldn't worry about it. 9/10 is a great score! I mean, if that is what you feel the game is, its your right. I can understand why you or someone else would feel this way, esp. as fast as you breezed through the game.

I still think handhelds make games tougher for me. I've have fairly big hands and at 46 they are not as nimble compared to when I was in my teens, 20s or even 30s. Actually, last couple years I have been working with my hands alot and they stiffen up quite a bit. And also in the one thread I mentioned, at least for me, the circle pad is not as user friendly as I thought it would be. I really wish it was more like a small analog stick. I honestly cannot imagine playing Wii U games with the circle slider. YUCK! Hopefully, if Nintendo keeps the nasty circle slider on the Wii U's ipad-like controller, one can choose to use the wiimote/nunchuck setup.

Check out the Super Mario 3D Land-Discussion Thread for some really cool cheats, unlockables and easter eggs! I guarentee some of this stuff you will never figure out on your own. Well, what are you waiting for? Go! Everything you want and need to know is on page 9. Don't worry, its all spoil free, so you only know what you want to know!

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 08:57  - Edit:  11/16/11, 11:16

Yeah you nailed pretty much the reason I didn't give it a full on 10. Lacking a little in the music department and actually the lack of "Mario Land" references I did also find confusing. Though your reasoning about him being back on Land is a funny one and who knows, maybe you're right. A quick aside, I'll probably get the podcast explanation out today. This game and my day-job's work kept me from dealing with it sooner.


That final boss is an example of one of their new tricks IMO. Take that and pair it with how they integrate the camera and 3D effect to create a cohesive experience designed around it's purpose, that's another trick. A lot of the reasons for why I said that are found in the subtleties of the game's design.

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 14:11
I've slowly been playing the game this week, currently at World 6, and enjoying every single moment!

Awesome that you mention the returning enemies, there are some classic ones that are a joy to see again, like the Monty Moles. They're quite cunning when they suddenly pop out of the ground with little warning!

The 3D in this game is amazing in giving you a true sense of depth, especially for seeing backgrounds and objects far, far, into the distance. There have been several times when my heart was racing and I was genuinely nervous about maneuvering from platform to platform thousands of feet in the air, with the earth below me beckoning my demise. It's chilling.

DrFinkelstein said:
However, the Tanooki Leaf also makes things a little un-even feeling once in a while. It's got it's good and bad points.

I know what you mean, you kind of start relying on it quite heavily, even for relatively simple jumps, just because you may not be sure how accurate you're going to be. But also, apparently, some of the flag pole tops can't be reached without Tanooki's float?

For me, the music does not disappoint, a lot of the tunes are rather catchy and bouncy and are really starting to grow on me the more I play. But it definitely doesn't have the same impact as the Galaxy games' music did, that game is simply too hard to match.

Your score is right about where I would rate it, honestly.

Indeed, Nintendo does it again!

Guillaume said:
Hey now! Don't get me wrong! I got addicted to the game and 9/10 is a very good score! (this shows the ratings I gave, right?Not yours?)

Yes, it shows the ratings you gave, but you haven't rated Super Mario 3D Land yet. Oh, I think you want us to see how your current 9/10 compares to the scores you gave the other Mario games?

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 17:42
Damn, I hope I get a 3DS for Christmas now. Thanks for the review!

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 17:46
Hm, I figured you reviewed the game without finishing the post-game content. Think it might nudge your score up to a 10?

Or should this game be reviewed based on the first 8 worlds alone? And Mario Galaxy, on the first 60 stars?

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 17:47  - Edit:  11/16/11, 17:52
You guys and your contextual spoilers!

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 17:52

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 17:55
Great review, Fink!

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 18:03

I admit I'm not fully done with the final post-game content but I'm considerably through there and I doubt my flaws with the game (as minor as they are), will be fixed being they were mostly music related. If I'm wrong though then I shall eat my words! Alphabet soup style.


Thanks Ludist!


No sweat!


I found it hard to get some flag pole tops without a Tanooki, however I found a method that pretty much worked every time.

I would crouch and charge, then roll forward and leap off the edge of the platform. That should get you the height you might need.

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 21:02
I'm done everything and it was a blast! I'd probably give it a 9.4 or so.

As for Mario Land references... Hmm, how about the bouncy fireballs? Sort of a fire flower/super ball lovechild.

I am a fan of the music, but they do reuse too much. I really like the wintery/Kokiri Forest-like tune. Can't recall what levels it's in.

Posted by 
 on: 11/16/11, 21:26
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