Review: Super Mario 3D Land (or Why You’ve Already Played This Game and Didn’t Even Know It)

You know what, I really don’t have to tell you why this game is good and deserves to be part of your 3DS library. Mario has hammered down the platforming genre all the way back to his original outings on the NES two and a half decades ago. And this game continues the tradition of innovative level design and genre elements.

Or does it?

Super Mario 3D Land is more of a throwback to older games than an entirely new title. Instead of giving you a review on why the game is great, I am going to point out everything I can remember about why this game is like many other Mario games in the past.

*Obviously there are some things that are intrinsic to the Mario series (i.e. jumping, coins, goombas, pipes, Bowser, Peach, etc. I am not going to go over those, just the bigger details.*

The Flagpoles and Fireworks

Where you’ve seen them before:
Super Mario Bros, The Lost Levels, New Super Mario Bros, New Super Mario Bros Wii

Completing a level in this game is done by reaching the ending flagpole and changing the Bowser flag to an M flag (or L if you’re using Luigi) and raising it up. This mechanic originated in the first Super Mario Bros. game for the NES way back in 1985. Other methods for finishing levels in other games included grabbing the star (64, Sunshine), reaching the goal (Land 2, World) and the weird little roulette game (SMB3).

The Fireworks also appeared in all of these same games from almost identical circumstances. Ending the stage with a specific time left on the stage clock (1, 3, or 6 in SMB and Lost Levels, or with the last two digits matching in NewSMB and SMB Wii) will send up fireworks in the background. They are present here and function the same way.

Luigi Plays Different Than Mario

Where you’ve seen this before: Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario 64 DS

After beating the first 8 stages in 3D Land you’ll unlock eight more worlds to play through. Beating that first world (so the ninth, overall) unlocks Luigi as a playable character. Luigi is not Mario, and subsequently does not play exactly the same. He is physically taller, jumps higher, runs a bit differently, and can’t stop as fast as his brother. This distinction between the brothers Mario was made in the second game on the NES, in which Luigi does the same stuff, notably jumping higher and longer. No longer will the green guy be in the red guys shadow!

The Tanooki Suit and Leaf Power-Ups

Where you’ve seen them before: Super Mario Bros. 3

This one’s obvious. The Tanooki Suit power-up (AKA the Leaf) gives Mario a raccoon tail to twirl and hit things with and the power to float in 3D Land. This power-up originated in SMB3 on the NES, albeit a bit different. In SMB3 the Leaf allowed Mario to do the above things as well as fly for a short time. The Tanooki Suit, a separate but similar power-up, gave Mario all these abilities as well as one to turn into a stone statue to avoid getting hit. This power is available in 3D Land as well, but only in the Special worlds and looks like a stone leaf.

Nearly Every Character and Enemy in the game

Where You’ve Seen Them Before: every other Mario game

This is where 3D Land starts to get entirely unoriginal. Every character and enemy in the game has appeared in another past Mario title. Bullet Bills, Piranha Plants, Magikoopas (those wizards that shoot stuff at ya), Dry Bowser, Koopalings, Boomerang Bros, and those fuzzy things on the tightropes are all from other games (as well as every other enemy you’ll face). The only exception I can think of to this, and I may be incorrect here, are the enemies that are also sporting raccoon tails (like the Bullet Bills and Goombas).

Power Jumping and Triple Jumping

Where You’ve Seen Them Before: Super Mario Bros 2, Super Mario 64

Here’s one that you might not have even noticed was in 3D Land. By holding the duck button for a short while, you can perform a power jump that allows you to jump higher than you’d normally be able to. This first happened in SMB2 in much the same way. Secondly, if you time your jumps right, you can preform a triple jump, which lets you jump higher and in a different fashion than usual. This technique started in Super Mario 64. Also, running in one direction then changing direction and jumping allows you to do a backflip, again like in 64. And if you’re really talented, you can jump, duck, and attack all at the same time to do a special barrel roll dive.

The P-Wing

Where You’ve Seen it Before: Super Mario Bros 3

The P-Wing in SMB3 granted Mario the same powers as the Leaf, but also gave him infinite flight. With it, Mario could easily (and safely) glide to the end of any level. In 3D Land, the P-Wing works a bit differently, If a level is failed 10 times, a special block appears that grants Mario the P-Wing. If used, the P-Wing takes him directly to the flagpole at the end of the level, completely bypassing any and all dangers. It can’t, however, be used at all during the Special stages or once a stage is completed.

Cosmic Mario

Where You’ve Seen this Before: Super Mario Galaxy 2

This little bastard appears in certain Special worlds and follows Mario around, mimicking his every move. He can’t be killed and will damage Mario if touched. Cosmic Clone came originally from Super Mario Galaxy 2, where he essentially does the same thing. His additions to each level makes things excruciating.

Star Coins

Where You’ve Seen Them Before: New Super Mario Bros, New Super Mario Bros Wii

This borrowed element is the most likely to be incorporated greatly into newer Mario games because it simply works. There are three Star Coins in each world to collect, cleverly hidden in not-so-obvious locations. They function the same in the New SMB games as they do here in 3D Land.

Well, that’s what I’ve got for you. Don’t get me wrong: This is by no means a bad Mario game, in fact it’s actually one of the best ones I’ve ever played.

The game is more of a retelling of why the series is so fantastic and well received than straight fan service.

But if you do give the game a go, you’ll definitely notice some familiar faces and situations if you’ve played any (literally any) Mariogames in the past.

So what would I give the game out of ten?



I've been writing about video games for years and playing them even longer. You'll find me playing all types of games, old and new. Mega Man III is greater than Mega Man II.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Eric

    Looks like an awesome game. I don’t have a 3DS yet, but this will certainly be an early purchase if I end up getting one.

    1. jsicktheslick

      I’d say as of now it’s the game you should definitely get first thing if you grab the system.

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