By the time Super Mario 3D Land was released, the Nintendo 3DS was doing just fine. With a handful of first-party titles already on store shelves (Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Star Fox 64 3D, etc.), the 3DS was finally picking up steam. One can even say that Nintendo didn’t need Mario to save their dying system. Of course, those same people would regret those words by the time Super Mario 3D Land arrived. Mario’s latest installment sold the system like no other, making it the undeniable winner of the holiday season. As a result, the 3DS shattered hardware sale-records and is now printing money for Nintendo. Most people would agree that Super Mario 3D Land played the biggest part in the system’s turnaround, but did the game overachieve?
For those who ask if the game is equal quality to what we have come to expect from the franchise, the answer is a resounding yes. Super Mario 3D Land excels in everything it sets out to do. Those who have played New Super Mario Bros. on the original Nintendo DS will be familiar with the format. In one sense, Super Mario 3D Land is traditional. Peach has been kidnapped, and Mario has to navigate though 8 worlds to save her. There are airships, castles, tanooki suits and mushrooms. On the other hand, Super Mario 3D Land is one of the most original and creative products that Nintendo has ever worked on.
Mario fans, like Zelda fans, are generally split between the older 2D games and the modern 3D games. Hardcore fans complain about the simplicity of the “new Nintendo”, while recent fans argue quality and quantity. The New Super Mario Bros. series did a poor job at satisfying both crowds. That’s where Super Mario 3D Land comes in. The levels are linear and boast a similar goal (reach the flag at the end of the level), but offer the depth of 3D gaming. As a result, the game is an entirely new experience, perfectly balancing the old and the new.
The $40 price tag is justified in both the quality of the content, and the quantity. There are 3 coins in every level, causing you to replay levels to collect them all. Additionally, once you beat the game, you have access to a new playable character. For every level, the game marks down how many coins you have obtained, who you have beaten it as, and if you have reached the top of the flag. As if that wasn’t enough, Nintendo gives players access to a remix of the entire game upon completion. These “Special Worlds” are much harder. Some race you against the clock, while others add in a ‘shadow Mario’ to chase you. To complete and collect absolutely everything, the game will take about 20-25 hours.
Mario isn’t a slouch in the graphical department either. While it is no secret that Super Mario 3D Land is one of the best looking games on the 3DS, it also impresses with its 3D effect. At one point of the game, there is a top-down homage to The Legend Of Zelda. In this level, jumping on top of blocks will completely break the barrier that the screen has created. The illusion is strong, and will likely distract you from the game. Furthermore, the game has a few puzzles that make the 3D effect a necessity. Most importantly, Super Mario 3D Land just looks good in 3D. This game will probably be noted as a graphical and technical showcase for the relatively young system.
Another aspect that both Mario and Nintendo are known for is unforgettable music. On this front, Super Mario 3D Land delivers. Nintendo has advertised the game alongside its new theme (which can be heard here). To say that this song will be stuck in your mind for weeks to come is an understatement. It certainly was not rare to hear me hum this snazzy tune while I played the game. Admittedly, every other song will fall flat in comparison. When not comparing these songs to the theme, the audio is very suitable. Additionally, the game implements the audio into gameplay. There are levels where a metronome determines what platforms are solid and which aren’t. These tricks and cues, along with the catchy music, make this game a better experience with headphones.
Truthfully, it is hard to criticize this game. Aside from a miniscule dose of repetition, there is not much wrong with this game. Nintendo has crafted a perfect balance between difficulty, quality, and quantity. If that wasn’t enough of a balancing act on its own, Super Mario 3D Land delivers a fresh, unique, and modern experience while paying homage to all of its predecessors. Creating a quality arcade-like experience that is perfect for on-the-go is a notable achievement, but creating an unforgettable modern masterpiece is far more praiseworthy. And that is the story of how Mario single-handedly removed the stigma that was attached to the Nintendo 3DS.