Super Mario 3D Land Review

Posted: December 20, 2011 by Tony Polanco in REVIEWS

Super Mario World was the last Super Mario Bros game that I played and that was nearly 20 years ago. I hopped off the Nintendo train at the end of the 16-bit era and didn’t get back on until I bought a friend’s 3DS earlier this summer.  And its been that long since I’ve touched my 3DS.  Thankfully the latest Mario game, Super Mario 3D Land has given me good reason to take the 3DS out of my sock drawer and finally play a modern game in the series.  Mario was my buddy back in the day and I’m glad to be playing one of his games once again.  Especially one as awesome as Super Mario 3D Land.

As the title suggests, Super Mario 3D Land is a 3D game.  If you know me or have read my posts, then you’ll know that I think 3D in video games and movies is a useless gimmick.  Imagine my surprise when I find out that not only is the 3D in SM3DL well implemented, but actually makes the game more immersive.  I have to give it to Nintendo for making a 3D game that works as intended.  You don’t need to have the 3D turned on all the time to play the game but there are certain parts where the 3D is essential for helping you figure out what to do next.

A lot of the levels change camera angles frequently.  A single stage can have side scrolling, bird’s eye view or isometric angles.  The transitions between the many angles are smooth and seamless.  The levels are pretty much like old school Mario levels in that the goal is to reach the flag pole.  They’re also pretty short, with each level being about 3-5 minutes long.  This is perfect for a handheld since you’ll mostly be playing this game when you have brief moments to spare.

Gameplay is pretty standard stuff.  Run, jump, float, throw boomerangs and turn to stone.  Okay…perhaps those last three aren’t standard stuff.  The famous Tanooki suit from Super Mario Bros 3 is the most prominent (and useful) power up in the game and comes in two varieties.  You have your normal suit which lets you to float in mid air (making platforming MUCH easier) and whack enemies with your tail.  Then there’s the Tanooki suit with a very fashionable red scarf.  This one works just like a normal suit except that if you press the L or R button while in mid-air, Mario will turn into a stone statue and fall, crushing any Goomba or Turtle unlucky enough to be under him.  There’s also a boomerang power up which lets you…throw boomerangs!  You can toss these at enemies and at hard to reach coins.  Before you ask, yes the fire flower power up is in the game as well but it’s overshadowed by the other power ups because it isn’t as handy.  One cool thing about power ups is that you can keep an extra one around and you can access it by selecting it from the touch screen.  You don’t want to be running around as little Mario at the wrong time so it’s nice to have a spare power up just in case.

Super Mario 3D Land can be a little challenging but it isn’t very difficult.  At least, the first 8 worlds aren’t.  After you finish those worlds, 8 more become accessible and they will give you the challenge that you will no doubt crave after playing through those initial worlds.  This is where the game’s replay value comes in since you need to collect a specific amount of star coins to unlock a lot of these levels.  The special stages are pretty much remixes of the first 8 worlds but have enough new elements to keep them from feeling like complete retreads.  In the special stages you’ll get the stone Tanooki suit and have other things thrown in like insane time limits and “Cosmic Mario”.  Cosmic Mario is a shadow version of Mario that will run after you throughout an entire stage.  You’ll need to stay away from him in addition to dealing with a level’s platforming challenges.  Why do you need to run away from your dark doppelganger?  Because you can’t hurt him but he sure as heck can hurt you so when he materializes it’s best to book it fast.

The first special stage’s fortress has none other than Mario’s brother, Luigi in its dungeon and after you rescue him you can switch between him and Mario on the world selection menu.  Luigi controls much like Mario does but with some slight differences.  Luigi can jump higher but he is also harder to control when he runs.  You’ll have to get used to Luigi’s controls however since you need to beat all stages with him and Mario (as well as collect EVERY star coin) if you want to unlock the true final stage and boss.

Super Mario 3D Land is a game I wasn’t expecting to play but I’m glad I did.  It’s a 21st century Mario game that isn’t afraid to embrace its 2d gaming roots.  The controls are rock solid, the 3D is surprisingly effective and most importantly of all, the game is a blast to play.  In an age where very few high quality platforming games are released, it’s nice to play a game that hearkens back to the glory days of the genre.  The 3DS doesn’t have many note worthy games in its library so if you have the Nintendo handheld, then you owe it to yourself to get Super Mario 3D land.


  • Fun platforming action
  • Vibrant graphics and art design
  • 3D that actually worked


  • Gyroscope controls didn’t work very well with 3D turn on
  • In very rare instances it was hard to tell where you had to jump

Super Mario 3D Land was developed and published by Nintendo.  It was released exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS and is available now for $39.99. The copy played for this review was a new retail copy.

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