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Super Mario Land – Game Boy

Super Mario Land – Game Boy

Super Mario Land boxartPlatform: Game Boy

Release (NA): August 1989

Developer: Nintendo R&D1

Publisher: Nintendo

Genre: Platformer

Nerd Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed by FrozenMallet

Mario fights a fire-spitting lion in this one. This was all I needed to see on the TV commercial when Super Mario Land debuted on Game Boy in 1989. Not that any of us at the time needed any motivation to get excited about this game. This was the first Super Mario game that was portable. Sure, the graphics were primitive, but in 1989 we had limited options when it came to where we could play our games. That means if mom said you were spending the day at grandma’s house and you wanted to play a Mario game it was either this or nothing. And we liked it. Well, we liked it in so much as we preferred it to nothing.Super Mario Land marioscreen

Super Mario Land on Game Boy was definitely different from the other Super Mario games but this was a time before the Mario games had a set style. There were only two Super Mario games at this point; the first trip to the Mushroom Kingdom to take on Bowser, and the fake Super Mario Bros. 2 we got in the United States, which sent Mario and company to Dreamland to take on Wart. These games were both different from each other in style and neither one had Mario going back to the same place to fight the same enemy.

So in a way, this was the style, in the fact that there was no set style. The story is simple enough though – an alien named Tatanga comes down to Sarasaland and hypnotizes all the inhabitants, including Princess Daisy. Presumably, Tatanga’s plan is to take over the throne of Sarasaland but the game doesn’t really tell you that unless you read it in the instruction manual. So even though Mario had already rescued Princess Toadstool (Peach) and even had the crazy dream where she helped him fight the giant frog, Mario decides to go risk life and limb to rescue another princess. And that is what all gamers love: a player.

Super Mario Land mariosubThis also makes Super Mario Land notable for being the first appearance of Princess Daisy, who later becomes a mainstay in the Mario games cast, showing up whenever Mario decided to play golf or enjoy go-kart racing. Although Mario is the brother who rescues Daisy, she becomes the love interest of Luigi in future appearances. Sarasaland is more similar to the Mushroom Kingdom than Dreamland in mechanics. Goombas still walk around and mushrooms still make Mario big. But watch out for the Koopas! Instead of being kickable to use against other enemies, the shells just sit there and after a few moments will explode. Also, the Flower gives Mario a kind of Super Ball that will bounce all over the place and collect any coins it hits, in addition to attacking enemies. The ball is pretty useful at times, but those times are only situational, so it is obvious why we never saw its return in another Mario game.

Super Mario Land mariolionSince Super Mario Land takes place in a different world, it stands to reason that the graphic style has changed this time around. Super Mario Land opens with the first world having an Egyptian theme, climaxing in the third level with Mario entering a pyramid to fight the above mentioned fire-spitting lion. The fourth world has a distinctly Asian theme, even down to the musical style, which is completely unlike the music in any other Mario game that I have played.

I found the control to be a little slippery, although this could be attributed to the age of my Game Boy or the fact that my hands have grown a bit in the last twenty-five years or so. Holding the little gray brick just isn’t as comfortable as it used to be. I hadn’t played this game in at least twenty years until I decided to revisit it for the purposes of this review. Despite this, my first time playing I was able to make it all the way to the second to last stage without having to use a continue. Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I’m some kind of super gamer, shaped by years of gaming. Which could be true but, the simpler explanation is just that this game is easy. That and Super Mario Land only has four worlds split up into three levels, each bringing the total to only 12 stages, making this the shortest Mario game. Adding to the ease is the bonus game that can be accessed after every level. Each level has two exits, one Mario can just walk to or one at the top of the screen Mario has to get to by navigating moving platforms, or something along those lines. The bonus game gives Mario the chance to get either a flower power up or one to three extra lives.

Super Mario Land finalbossSuper Mario Land may be a short game with a simplistic difficulty but it did have its moments. Did I mention that Mario fights a fire-spitting lion? Also, on the third level of the second and fourth worlds are the vehicle levels. Piloting the submarine and plane turns the game into a simplistic side-scrolling shooter. These levels add some variety in the middle of the platforming levels. Despite these variations in gameplay, Super Mario Land started showing its age even before Super Mario Land 2 came out. The graphics, while a reasonable starting point are just so primitive. At least the music is nice in the first world. After that, the music ranges from passable to just plain annoying.

Even if this game hasn’t aged like a fine wine, I definitely suggest any Mario fan give it a try. It may not come close to being the best Mario game or even the best Mario game on the Game Boy, but it is an important part of gaming history. If nothing else it will help you appreciate how far we’ve come.

Written by Nerd Bacon

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  1. Pingback: Super Mario Land - Game Boy - Nerd Bacon Reviews

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  3. I love this game, I remember wearing out packs of AA batteries for my GB

  4. Pingback: Nerd Bacon Celebrates Retroary! (Retro + February = Retroary) - Nerd Bacon Reviews

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