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Super Mario 3D Land – Nintendo 3DS

Super Mario 3D Land – Nintendo 3DS

box artPlatform: Nintendo 3DS

Developer: Nintendo EAD

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: November 13, 2011

Genre: Platformer

Nerd Rating: 8.5/10

Reviewed by Steroid Gamer

Super Mario 3D Land can easily be categorized as yet another platforming game for the famous Nintendo mascot.  However, like many of the Italian plumber’s previous adventures there are more secrets to be discovered beyond the surface.  In the past, Mario platformers could easily be thrown into two categories, 2D or 3D.  This time around things aren’t quite as easy.  Even though the game has “3D” in its title, don’t let that fool you into thinking its “3D” in the same way as Super Mario Galaxy, or Super Mario 64.  The “3D” may come off as somewhat of a gimmick considering the platform, but Nintendo shows its creativity and expands upon the term “3D” and turns what might easily be a gimmick into so much more.

Who doesn't love these flip-switch levels?

Who doesn’t love these flip-switch levels?

The biggest difference in 3D Land compared to Mario’s other adventures is how creatively the 3D effects are used.  I know all of this might seem confusing, but bare with me for a minute.  In Super Mario 3D Land, levels are mixed between 2D environments, similar to Super Mario Bros franchise, and between 3D environments, similar to the Mario Galaxy franchise.  Then you add on the layer of “3D effect(s)”, you know, that special thing that the 3DS can do?  Play games in 3D?  If you aren’t already lost on the overuse of the word 3D let me add one more to the mix.  Almost every level in Super Mario 3D Land combines the Nintendo 3DS’s “3D effect”, 2D environments, and 3D environments together.  What do you get with all that?  What you get is one special treat that is easier to experience than to describe.  Some really amazing optical illusions are produced as a result of Nintendo’s newest concoction.  I could probably type an essay of words trying to describe it to you, but how’s about this.  Just play the game and experience it for yourself.  You won’t regret it.

Mario plays Halloween and dresses up as a Goomba.

Mario plays Halloween and dresses up as a Goomba.

Visuals in Mario games have never left players wanting more and always feature an assortment of varied themed levels.  Dusty desserts, icy landscapes, and lush greenlands are a few locations Mario visits in 3D Land.  The colored locations pop off the screen with vibrant shades stemming from all over the color spectrum.  As I mentioned above, the best part of the 3D Land cookie is the many optical illusions and mind tricks your eyes play on you.  Perhaps there is a block floating in the corner.  So you casually trout Mario over to the block and try to jump and land on top of it.  Much to your dismay you fall flat on the ground, or worse, to your death.  You may be wondering “What just happened?  Did I miss-time my jump?  Surely, this is something Mario can do?”  So, you continue on through the level until you reach our famous 3D block once more, only this time you examine it more closely, panning the camera slightly shows you that this block is actually FLAT!  “Holy Hell!” you might think.  But this is just one of the dozens of tricks that 3D Land might play on you.  My best advice: keep your eyes peeled.

Damn bees. Always on the chase.

Damn bees. Always on the chase.

The core gameplay is tried and true to the familiar Mario formula.  You run through levels stomping on Goombas, kicking Koopas, avoiding spiny shells and trying to jump to the top of flagpoles.  This may all seem like familiar territory, and to be honest it is.  Nintendo didn’t do a whole lot to “shake” things up in regards to the core mechanics.  Still, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that it doesn’t feel great to play.  The game might fall a little on the short side in terms of length.  There are roughly about thirty five levels or so, with some hidden of course, and they all play very fast.  On one hand, this makes a lot of sense.  Super Mario 3D land was developed for a handheld, so do you really want to play through levels ten minutes at a time?  I don’t think so.  The quickened pace of each level is perfect for waiting room visits or airport terminals.  However, you can probably breeze through the game in about 3-4 hours.

The shortened game speed isn’t purely just based on the length of the levels.  Hardcore Mario veterans will find 3D Land to lean more on the easy side.  In fact, the game isn’t hard at all and the few levels that provide somewhat of a challenge can easily be tamed with the gold Tankooki suit.  Gold Tanooki turns Mario invincible and appears at the start of every level after you’ve failed a dozen times.  While the Tanooki suit is optional, it takes a lot of restraint to resist grabbing it and blazing through a tough level.  This is really the only factor that holds Mario 3D Land back from being something special.  Just when the game starts to crank up the heat, the timer on the oven beeps and the game is over.  You can go through every level again if you want, trying to get all three of the star coins and collecting other goodies, but there isn’t much in-game incentive to do so.

This level looks even better with the 3D effect on!

This level looks even better with the 3D effect on!

I had an absolute blast playing through 3D Land, but found the game never really met my expectations of a challenge.  There is a good gradually pace of difficulty the only problem is the game ends once it reached a difficulty level I was ready for.  If you are interested in Super Mario 3D World (Yes, the sequel) I can gladly say that it does not suffer from the same fate.  If you enjoyed the extreme punishing challenges of 3D World’s later levels that’s great, but don’t show up to 3D Land looking for something even close to the same.  Perhaps 3D Land was made easier so it was more approachable?  I don’t really know that though, just a guess.

Another peaceful day for Mario to skip about.

Another peaceful day for Mario to skip about.

The tunes are as catchy as ever and the controls respond phenomenally.  Mario is as nimble as ever and you can be assured that any and all failure to beat a level in the game won’t be because 3D Land itself failed you, rather that you just weren’t good enough.  Platformers can be very frustrating at times if you don’t feel like the controls are as precise as they need be.  Fortunately, this wasn’t an issue with 3D Land.

Super Mario 3D Land may look, sound, and play like just another Mario game, and in some cases that isn’t an unfair judgment.  However, if you love the formula that Nintendo has been trotting out for years you’re in for yet, another delicious treat in 3D Land.  Nintendo uses the 3Ds’s “3D effect” to great use and provides plenty of tricks everywhere you look as a result of its clever visual design.  Even if you turn the 3D off you’ll still enjoy the game’s colorful visuals, but it is better to have the 3D on.  Super Mario 3D Land may be a short adventure running at around three to four hours.  Going back through and trying to reach 100% on every level may take you another two hours or so, clocking you in at around 6-8.  Still, 3D Land provides plenty of fun, addicting gameplay and is a great on-the-go game, as well as a perfect complement to the Nintendo 3DS.  It may not be the reason to own a 3DS, but if you already own the handheld, than Super Mario 3D Land may just be the best game to get.

A Mario game wouldn't be complete without some sort of lava themed level.

A Mario game wouldn’t be complete without some sort of lava themed level.

Written by Sean Collins

Sean Collins


Sean Collins (aka Steroid Gamer) started playing video games when he was 8 years old. His first console was a Nintendo 64 and his first game was Mario Kart 64. He fell in love immediately and has been playing games ever since.

My current systems include; N64, Gameboy Color, Gamecube, Wii, 3DS, PS3, Vita, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox 360.

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