Super Mario 3D Land: review

  • Format:3DS
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Players: 1
  • Site:

Wii based Galaxy titles have introduced a new level of inventiveness to the Mario formula; so how have Nintendo kept a balance between traditional 2D Mario gameplay, Galaxy style gameplay, and the 3DS’ form factor? Well, they have gone back to their roots for the core DNA. There are no open 3D areas to explore here. Instead think streamlined experiences with the gameplay of traditional 2D games, yet in full 3D with a degree of flexibility to experiment with route and method. Indeed the best comparison is the often overlooked ‘pure platforming’ type levels which were a minor part (but the best sections) of Super Mario Sunshine back on the Gamecube.

This style of gameplay suits the screen size of the 3DS perfectly. With the 3D effect turned up, it’s like looking into a little box of Mario (hence making the Mario land in the title quite apt). The fact that the levels are clearly linear and constrained means it’s like having a little Mario play-set to run around in, there in the palm of your hand. It is rather beautiful in our opinion with bright hues and well rendered characters, platforms and backgrounds.

The gameplay and level variety do not disappoint. As with other franchises, such as Mario Kart, Nintendo seems to know how to add just enough to move the series on, without alienating seasoned veterans. You would have thought that when it comes to platforms we would have seen them all, from all angles; but Nintendo keeps finding new ways of making the old seem new. As with Galaxy, the levels are abstract, with settings such as underwater or firepits, with moving platforms with forward and backward triggers which Mario can control. There is a superb level which is based on old 8 bit, pixelated graphics which uses cannons to propel Mario between different faces and designs made out of these 8 bit blocks. You kinda have to see them to believe them.

Clearly inspired by its 2D bretheren but with added depth....

Some levels are very 2D in design, but rendered in 3D. However they are true 3D and you can move Mario to the foreground or background of the levels, often finding alternative horizontals paths, in a fashion similar to how story levels are constructed in LittleBigPlanet. Mario, though, controls much better than Sackboy and the addition of real 3D allows you to judge the depth much easier. However some levels are clearly influenced by games such as Galaxy, with different areas to progress to, free standing and floating in the air. Whichever level you are on though it is a linear playthrough from one end to another as there are no ‘get the star’ targets here. You start at one end and have to reach the flag at the other, just like with the 2D games we love so dearly.

Throughout the game, Mario will be able to slip on various suits which give the type of superpowers we have become accustomed to over the years such as fireballs, boomerangs – and for 3D Land we see the comeback of the Tanooki suit! The Tanooki suit allows the player to hover in the air for a bit (very useful for all this platforming) and kill enemies with a flick of Mario’s Tanooki tail. Beware, though, as this time the enemies get their own Tanooki suit to use against you! Two suits can be carried at once, and by touching an icon on the bottom screen you can easily switch between them.

The first eight worlds are great and they are super accessible. If you keep failing you’ll get given a super suit that essentially means you can’t be killed. Great for beginners and the experienced alike, to wean them onto the difficulty which kicks in once the main quest is over.

That’s right, the game keeps giving. Once the main quest is complete, another eight worlds appear, with a remix of levels made harder and not coming with any special ‘I can’t be killed’ suits to help you out. Each level comes with three gold coins which need collecting to unlock new levels (and also act as a reason to replay levels for the completists amongst us), whilst the spotpass feature means you end up competing on best times against other 3DS users you might have bumped into via other games such as Mario Kart 7. It’s a great shame Nintendo didn’t go the whole way and offer public leaderboards.

It’s also a shame the game doesn’t offer any multiplayer mode whatsoever. New Super Mario Bros on the DS had a quite compelling coin collecting competition going, and so did the DS remake of Mario 64. However 3D Land has nothing, when an online mode would have added even more replay value.

With the 3D turned up, this looks lovely.

Whilst we feel content to make suggestions regarding what is missing in this review, please don’t confuse that with our actual view on the title. It is excellent. It is better than New Super Mario Brothers on the DS, in that it offers a real difficulty curve for experienced players, and way more replay value. It looks lovely, and the levels delight in their ingenuity whilst the 3D makes a tangible difference to how you experience the game, with some simple puzzle elements being easier to solve with the 3D on rather than off. There is also a nice variety of special suits, as you would expect in a Mario game, which add a degree of strategy and gameplay variation to how you might approach different levels.

Nintendo has shown once again that a proper Mario title is not just a cynical way of printing money, but is a franchise that justifies its greatness time and time again with each release.

Get it now.

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Written by Steven G

Steven Gurevitz is the CEO of 2002 Studios Media LTD and a founder of gaming accessory company Asiiya. 2002 Studios started off as a music production company, but produces a range of content from videos to videogames. The company specialises in localizing content for global brands. He also owns the Urban Sound Label, a small niche e-label. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor and co-owner He enjoys FPS, Third person 'free world', narrative driven and portable gaming. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor to

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