Super Mario 3D Land Review: The plumber still amazes


What a relief! After months of waiting, Mario’s arrived on 3DS with all cylinders firing. Super Mario 3D Land isn’t just a good portable Mario game; it’s one of the very best Mario adventures, topped only (for me, anyway) by SMB3 and Galaxy 2. Sharp, ingenious, and fun beyond belief, this game’s a feast for Mario fans as it pays tribute to characters and locales from the franchise’s past, mixes in brand new concepts, and ends up as a wild race through dozens of unique, astonishing worlds. It’s pure Nintendo. This kind of experience is the reason we’re fans.

And, to top it off: The 3D in this game is everything Nintendo promised it would be. You can certainly play it with the 3D off, but then you’ll miss out on a lot of dizzying high-altitude sensory thrills and clever optical illusions.

I love the game’s Mushroom Kingdom-centric setting. After all the planet-hopping and vacations on Delphino Island, it’s nice to come home again. Everything you loved about the original Super Mario games returns in one form or another—to say more would spoil a lot of great surprises.

The level designs steal the show. I don’t know how they keep doing it, but Nintendo has come up with another cornucopia of brilliant ideas and clever craziness. Every level feels fresh and surprising—even the few based on mechanics from the Galaxy games. Nothing repeats—The Boo Houses, for example, are each brilliant and completely different from one another. And leave it to Nintendo to come up with 50+ different ways to launch you onto the ending flagpole!

The game looks spectacular, with smooth character models, beautiful special effects, sharp textures and dramatic, creative camera angles. Bowser’s castle has never looked more intimidating, the airships are amazing and the Toad houses have a wonderful fairytale charm (if you get the boomerang suit at a Toad house, take a moment to bounce it off the roof when you get back outside. The sound team came up with a perfect effect for that!)

The music and sound effects are (of course) excellent, and you’ll hear tunes from all over Mario’s princess-saving career.

It controls like a charm, smooth and razor sharp—even the swimming! SM3DL contains the most enjoyable, beautiful underwater sequences I’ve ever experienced in a Mario title.

The presentation is first-rate, linking the worlds with cinemas featuring Mario at his most endearing and hilarious postcards from Bowser. And check out the sprite marking your progress!

I know true gamers may find the difficulty level a bit easy at first: the tougher challenges await after the main quest when the alternate levels unlock. For me, however, I found the main adventure’s challenge level just right. It made me sweat from time to time without ever getting overly frustrating. I must admit, I had to accept the “extra help” (offered if you fail a level several times) on two occasions, and I’m not proud of that. Put it this way: Boomerang guys + scrolling airship + flip panels = me getting the “Loser’s Tanooki Suit of Invincibility.” Ah, well.

Now, about the 3D: It’s awesome. I doubt we’ll see many more Mario games presented in stereoscopic 3D, and that’s probably as it should be. As things stand, however, Nintendo did this right. There are cute moments when coins or cheep-cheeps fly straight at your face (and one great moment where Mario bounces high enough to almost smack into your 3DS screen), but the real thrills come with the intense sensations of height and depth. Seriously, folks with acrophobia might have some problems with this game. Falling, riding downhill, and bouncing skyward have never before looked so amazing in a game—and the added depth perception really does help you guide Mario in for a safe and accurate landing, even atop single blocks floating in mid-air.

Any complaints at all? I’d rather have fought Bowser more times than deal with his not-as-cool-looking underlings Boom Boom and Pom Pom (though I don’t miss Bowser Jr. at all!) Using the binoculars wasn’t all that thrilling. Why do you have to press “L” to go down a pipe, yet Mario will enter a door if you so much as breath on it? And I wish the world map hadn’t been so completely linear in its presentation. Oh…and the instruction “booklet?” Where I come from, a “booklet” is not a single sheet of paper folded twice. Cheeeeeeeeeeeaaap! That’s okay, Nintendo, you definitely didn’t skimp on game production costs, and it shows.

What a grand, fun, ingenious game! Main quest finished, I’m just getting started on the “alternate” levels, which are proving to be a much steeper challenge. I look forward to many, many more hours with this title. Between this game, Freakyforms, the upcoming GBA downloads and Mariokart 7…I think my 3DS is going to see a lot of action over the next few weeks!

Your thoughts? Is Super Mario 3D Land meeting your expectations? Anything you’d like to have seen done differently? How would you rank it among Mario’s other adventures?


  1. My god. Infendo thinks Nintendo has done something right?! No way. Sure was getting Apple in here.

  2. Oh Shep, come now, it’s Richard. He’s cool. lol

    I’m in World 5, so far, and I still love the game. 🙂 It truly is just pure Nintendo fun, and I missed that lately. The level design is just as you say, and it’s remarkable they can still keep it feeling so fresh! There really is a lot of charm, and care put into this game. From hitting a toad with your tanooki tail, to using your fireball in a 3d world. It’s all amazing how natural, and fun it is. Like.. isn’t it normal to use fireballs in a 3d Mario? It feels that good.

    I hope everyone with a 3ds gets this game, it really does look great, and plays like a dream. 🙂 Thanks Ninty, I’ll still be your fan.

  3. Hope everyone has fun with this. I have to wait until Xmas to play it. Can’t wait.

  4. I absolutely love the levels and they kept things VERY simple. You don’t have to go through a bunch of in-game tutorials on how to play – the manual shows you the basics, but you’re better off just pushing buttons to see what happens.

    And addressing the manual – it’s definitely a disappointment to get a folded sheet of paper, but the built-in e-manual that is actually on the 3DS has a lot of good information on it that I encourage you to check out.

    My only complaint is that I don’t feel as immersed in a world like that presented in the Super Mario Galaxy games. I think this was done to keep the game simple (there’s really no overworld map, so to speak) and conserve 3DS resources. Galaxy and Galaxy 2 are just SO HARD to top, though.

  5. Great review Richard!

  6. @ David:

    Well, now I feel really silly for not checking out the e-manual ’till now. 🙂 It’s well done. And I agree, 3D Land’s level select lacks the immersion that the Galaxy games had. They definitely went for the simpler interface of the New SMB games…I guess to try to “trick” casual players into getting hooked on moving around in 3D space by using a basic, linear menu. 🙂 Galaxy 2 had the perfect compromise. In 3D Land, maybe they could have had a hub Toad house where Mario studies a map similar to Galaxy 2’s bulletin board. That said, don’t you love those little between-world cinemas? It’s some of the best comic “acting” Mario’s ever done! 🙂 But, yeah, Galaxy 2 is, indeed, hard to top.

    @ Hitokiri_Ace:

    How about shooting fireballs toward the screen while underwater? It’s amazing how it feels “just right.” It’s something we never could experience in real life, but it comes across just how we imagine it should work! Walt Disney had term for this sort of thing: “The Plausible Impossible.” Nintendo keeps getting that element right.

    @ The Adza:

    You are in for a great, great time! 🙂

  7. My copy will be arriving from Amazon tomorrow! …while I’m in class! So…it’ll be signed for and dropped off by/at the apartment leasing office…which closes an hour before I get home…

    So….Wednesday it is!

  8. I think the L for going down a pipe is right. In 2D marios u had to hit down to get into it. In 3D down is already taken. That said they could have been consistent and make L to go into the door as 2D mario’s yoy had to hit up to go in.

  9. I actually changed my mind about what I think about 3D in gaming. I tried playing it in 2D and kept falling off the ledges and couldn’t accurately judge distances. Iwata was right O_o
    I swear Blake should play this game. This is the game that made the 3DS worth it for me.

  10. Abdulla – don’t you know? Blake doesn’t play the 3DS anymore.

    wah haw haw

  11. Not to PeTA they think mario inspires deaths to racoon dogs for their furs what a f**ken website society. I was happy to play my game until somebody screw up the worlds famous character Mario. They even made a spinoff on mario’s new adventure called Super Mario 2D Tanooki. Screw YOU PeTA.

  12. Glad Richard’s giving us the reviews recently. Anything by Blake would just boil down to

    “it sucks.”

  13. Personally, I got tired of the same title tune over and over. And some levels are way too similar…that said, I’m missing coins and have NO idea where they are.

  14. I don’t know how it stacks up to PETA’s game though. It’s pretty hardcore.

  15. I like how, in order to unlock all of the levels in the pre-ending (never thought I would say that about a Mario game like this) portion of the game, you actually need to collect those Star Medals. Now, you can pass up those levels but (SPOLIER?), you actually need to collect “x” number of them to gain access to the last level.

    I think the game is great, a good combination of 2D and 3D gameplay. The 3D graphics look great too.

  16. Just beat the very last level and unlocked the silly ending where *SPOILERpeachgetsatanookisuitSPOILER* but I still need 2 more stars on my profile. Still got a whole week of nonstop playing left!

  17. @Wakko1337 congrats on being so far into the game, but.. at what point did posting a spoiler seem like a good idea?

    In other news, since you already gave it away. It would be cool if she was a playable character, one can dream. 🙂

  18. Sorry lol, I guess I blew it a bit, but in reality I was vague on details haha. But I agree! They should try another Super Princess Peach game, maybe I’ll play it this time haha.

  19. I’ve only tried the demo but once my little sister gets her copy and she finishes the game I’ll borrow it… well, once I get my CE OoT Bundle!

  20. This game is so, so awesome. Not quite Galaxy, but still…so, so awesome.

  21. didnt expect much from first view trailers , but i cleary underestimated tokyo’s aed studio .

    this game is awsome .