All Super Mario games are great. This is pretty much a fact. Can we really name a single Super Mario game that was terrible? NO. Because there has never been one.
But a lot of misinformed people seem to take a stance that Super Mario Land isn't great. And that it's maybe too weird for its own good. But I'm here to show that those people are wrong. And to prove it, here is my Top 10 List of why Super Mario Land for the Gameboy is awesome, and why it's one of Mario's best adventures. Let's-a GO!
It's the first thing you'll notice! Mario games have always had great music (Super Mario Sunshine being a possible exception) and Super Mario Land does not disappoint. Fun, unique, bouncy themes accompany each world. They definitely have a "Mario" feel to them, while at the same time are totally new and different. The Chai Kingdom's theme in particular is the most unique theme out of the franchise, but there's no denying it's catchy rhythm. This game's music is great, and sounds even better in stereo sound via the Gameboy's earbuds. (stereo sound was a thing unique to the Gameboy back in the day. The NES was all monaural, yuck!)
Anyway, the music is great and one of the game's standout features. What else would you expect from expert Nintendo composer Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka? Check out some samples:
There was even a remix of the Underground Theme in 2008's Super Smash Brothers Brawl on Wii. Such a treat for old-school Gameboy gamers!
(song really kicks in at around 0:23!)
This game takes you places you've not seen before, nor will you again. (probably) There is not just your normal "Ice World" or "Fire World" or "Desert World." Oh wait, there is actually a desert world. Never mind about that.
But check these places out!
Easter Island-inspired world!
The China-inspired Chai Kingdom!
UFO landing near water in the Muda Kingdom!
Sarasaland was far more varied than the original Super Mario Bros., and in some ways even gives Super Mario Bros. 2 a run for its money. And that's not even getting into the really unique stages. For those, join me over at spot #8.
The Sky Pop!
Mario's a flying ace!
Man, things got taken to whole new heights when Mario hopped into the Sky Pop and started laying waste to his enemies with mid-air combat! This was a great change of pace from the usual platforming, and introduced the first time Mario was able to fly. It's just a joy to control, and Mario's flying abilities allow for some really unique level design.
It's a shame Mario apparently left the Sky Pop back in Sarasaland. I have a feeling that Bowser's flying Clown Car from Super Mario World would be no match. And at the very least, it could have been helpful against the Air Ships from Super Mario Bros. 3!
The Underwater Stage is actually fun!
Mario's a Steel Diver!
Speaking of Mario's vehicles, I would be remiss to not mention the Marine Pop. I only make the distinction between this and the Sky Pop (despite them controlling and playing practically the same) because the Marine Pop takes a terrible truth about gaming and throws it out the window. What am I talking about? I'm talking about the underwater stages in video games. Where you're forced to stop your running, jumping and coin-collecting, and partake in some slow, awkwardly controlled swimming stages.
Maybe it's just me and my anecdotal evidence, but by and large swimming stages are like, the least fun stages out of all platforming games. The best we can hope for is great music while we paddle along (thanks DKC!), submerged in H2O, somehow without the need to come up for air. But Super Mario Land says "screw all that" and gives Mario a killer submarine that is fast, responsive, and comes with an unlimited supply of torpedoes. Awesome!
...I'm not sure where Mario got this from, though. Maybe it was Slippy's prototype for the Starfox Team's Blue Marine?
All this stuff we first saw in Super Mario Land. Later this stuff became canon in the console games, but we were first introduced to these baddies/obstacles in Mario's Gameboy debut. We even got new enemies like gigantic jumping spiders (which I assume came from Australia), flying totem poles, exploding Koopa-Troopas, and undead fish. Not to mention nearly unkillable kung-fu ghosts. Mario games nowadays rarely introduce new enemies, and even when they do they are far and few between. But Super Mario Land was chock full of 'em. And it's kind of a shame we haven't seen a return from a lot of them.
The Super Ball!
Totally new and completely unique power-up!
Speaking of new stuff, Mario not only faced off against all-new enemies, but he also got a brand-new power-up! The Super Ball! This crazy thing bounced off the ground at 45 degree angles with such velocity that nothing could stop it. It was a great weapon against Mario's foes, but it served double-duty by being able to collect coins as well!
Careful and skilled gamers were able to not only reach otherwise unreachable coins with the Super Ball, but also were able to take out high-flying enemies with carefully thrown balls at the right angles at the right time. It was almost like a 2D, action-platformer version of pool.
Seriously, nothing feels as cool in a Mario game than taking out a pesky, high flying Bun-Bun with a well-aimed Super Ball from far below. You just feel like a genius when you pull that off. (or maybe that's just me - I don't get to feel smart all that often)
You can play it anytime, anywhere! Except at night, probably. You had to be near a lamp or something. Or have one of those light attachment dongles. But still, this was awesome. No longer were you forced to be tethered to your TV, or have to fight friends or family over what you're using the TV for. You could game on your own time. Mario, anytime, anywhere. And way better than the Game & Watch version of Super Mario Bros.
Though the Game & Watch version of Super Mario Bros. was actually pretty good, too. But it ain't no Super Mario Land!
This is a thing I owned.
Hi, I'm Daisy!
Yup, this introduces the yellow-clad Princess that eventually hooks up with Luigi. I guess? She has since become a regular member of the Mario cast, and has shown up to go golfing with the gang, as well as playing tennis, soccer and go-karting. She definitely has her fans, and they can thank this game for bringing her to them.
You don't think she's a big hit? Go do a Google Image search for "Princess Daisy." Yeah. She's popular. If you're at work, I suggest keeping "Safe Search" ON.
Brings back classic Mario gameplay!
None of this vegetable throwing silliness introduced in Super Mario Bros. 2 on NES. Gameboy Mario brings the plumber back to his momentum-based platforming, Goomba-stomping roots. Complete with "?" Blocks, Super Mushrooms, free-floating coins and even defeating boss enemies by jumping over them and pressing a button behind them for an insta-kill. (except the last boss(es) but....quiet you)
This is one of the reasons I'm always baffled when people claim the Gameboy game as being weird for a Mario game. This is way more "Mario" than Super Mario Bros. 2 ever was (for obvious reasons we now know of) but you don't really hear people calling foul on the NES sequel. This is Mario doing what Mario does best, and they even added new stuff for him to do, too. Honestly, this is more Super Mario Bros. 2 than even The Lost Levels was.
Oh yeah I went there.
Just like the original Super Mario Bros. on NES, this game is a fantastic romp each and everytime you boot it up. And just like the NES original, gamers have been doing speed runs on this game for years. Can you beat these guys? You better bring your A-game!
Best of all, not only is it fun, and not only can you keep challenging yourself to see how quickly you can beat it... it never outstays its welcome. 12 stages, and you're done! Perfect for on-the-go gaming, and excellent for challenges against friends!
I would put the music at #1 myself. I wouldn't say it's one of the greatest, because it's not personally in my top 5 or whatever it would need to be in for the term "greatest" to have any meaning, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Super Mario Land is alright. My main complaint is just that it's way too short. You burn through it in an hour or two and yeah, you can replay it but I don't think it is particularly built for replay any better than any other platformer. Actually I prefer playing stuff like Super Mario Bros. 3 where every time you play it you can take a completely different path (until you get to World 8 again...)
Agreed. We all have to remember that Super Mario Land came out after Super Mario Bros. 2 but before Super Mario Bros. 3. This fact also helps my stance as to why this isn't such a weird game. At this point in time, the only exposure we've have to this franchise was the NES original, and the wonky (but totally fun!) sequel.
Three Mario games. Set in three different worlds. Fighting three totally different enemies/armies.
It wasn't until Mario decided to "settle down" in the Mushroom Kingdom and all games began to stem around Princess Toadstool, Bowser, and his Koopa Army. And then Super Mario Land ends up looking odd because it doesn't feature Bowser or Toadstool. But that's only retroactively true. And even then, we still have Super Mario Bros. 2 being all weird with its veggies and Wart. (and yeah, it's all a dream, but it's still weird!)
This topic is actually making me want to play Super Mario Land, so well done, sir (as I know I'm one of those SML haters).
Super Mario Land may not have been incredibly weird at the time (because each game had been vastly different), but looking back it certainly is a lot different from the rest of the series because of the varied locales and the unique enemies (and SMB2 is pretty weird too, no argument here!). Honestly, I like the weirdness of it. It certainly gives the game a different feel from the other games.
My main issues with Super Mario Land are that the physics feel a bit different from the console games, the tiny sprites, its incredibly short length, and I just don't think the level design is up to par with the console games. Admittedly, these are mostly pretty subjective -- something I dislike someone else might prefer over the console games -- but for me, these issues are enough to knock it down a couple of pegs. I'm not saying it's utterly terrible, but I certainly wouldn't call it "one of the greatest Mario games ever". I'd definitely rank SMB3, World, both Galaxies, and 64 above it at the very least (and probably others).
Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins is similar in a lot of ways -- the physics are still a bit different and it's pretty short, but fortunately, it kept a lot of weirdness in it too. I think it's a pretty big improvement over SML1.
Even as a kid I assumed the Koopas exploded simply because the game couldn't handle a koopa shell being kicked. I also thought the super ball was a poor replacement for fireballs, but I was wrong about that.
I always loved the music and the varied lands though. Jumping on the kung fu guys as they hop over a pit is still satisfying.
I loved the game, and have beaten it innumerable times.
Really fun list to read through! Thanks, Grant. Although, you mentioned that SMB2 doesn't get flak, but it certainly does. Like, TONNES of flak.
Yeah, I can dig it. I'd rank it lower than those for sure, and even below 3DS's Super Mario 3D Land. It's a touch below NEW Super Mario Bros., but only a little bit.
I'd personally put it above the original Super Mario Bros., as well as The Lost Levels and definitely above Super Mario Sunshine. I may even put it above NEW Super Mario Bros. Wii...but I don't feel that's fair since I didn't really put too much time into the Wii game. But subjectively speaking, that's where it sits for me.
@Davoid I'm not necessarily comparing them game to game, just the replayability. Even the first Super Mario Bros. had a ton of warps and stuff so you could keep going back and going through it differently.
@GameDadGrant Did you... play the original Super Mario Bros. when it came out? At the time it was by far the absolute best video game ever made. It was heavenly. No amount of time can take that away.
I think Super Mario Land was a good launch title, but it's clear that it was one of the first Game Boy games ever made. Everything's so small, which can make it hard to spot some things, and the physics are really wonky, among other things. It's certainly not a bad game, but like the original Super Mario Brothers on the NES, it shows its age, and I wouldn't recommend the game to anyone other than the diehard Mario fans who are curious of Mario's roots.
Yes sir, I played Super Mario Bros. on the NES back in... 1986. Or maybe 1987. One of the two. I guess that's not *exactly* when it came out, but I think it was still considered "new" back then. And yeah it was a ground-breaking, genre-defining, bar-setting, industry revolution. Absolutely one of the best games ever made, and I'd even go as far to say it was the best video game ever at the time.
Subjectively though, I gotta put Super Mario Land above it. Just... personal preference, I suppose. I like the level design better in the Gameboy game. *shrugs*
Its considered a little difficult at times, but beatable which i love while some other mario games I've gotten way too frustrated at times. How does SML2 never get any love...that was a fun game too and I think gets more hate then the first game. and it gave us WARIO.
I had a Gameboy before NES so even though I had played Super Mario Bros. I count Super Mario Land as "my" first Mario game. It holds a very special place in my heart and probably makes me smile more than the original. I thank you for this awesome list, I would play it tonigth but that would be shirking my Backlaugust responsibilities.