Hands On: Super Mario 3D Land

He’s-a-back! Nintendo’s famous plumber (as opposed to their less famous, on-call plumber, James, who actually does some plumbing) returns in a new, quite literally 3D platformer. It’s his first outing on the 3DS and it manages to capture all the enjoyment that we’ve found in other Mario games. The gameplay has been described as a mix between Mario 64 and Galaxy and, from what I’ve played, it’s as good as them both.

What exactly is it that puts Super Mario 3D Land above the other games in the series, then? Firstly, and most importantly, since it is a 3DS game: the 3D is utilized very well. It turns out that adding depth to a platformer actually makes it better – it makes missing jumps in the more open sections a lot less likely and it even helps in the sidescrolling 2.5D sections, where obstacles that swing by become a lot easier to navigate passed.

[drop]Then there’s the new additions and returning features: Mario rolls when you hit the L button, instead of simply crouching – though he can still do a long jump. The Raccoon Suit is also back; collected by picking up the Super Leaf, it allows Mario to do a spin attack and soften his fall by doing a Yoshi-esque air run. Old favourites like the fireball shooting Fire Flower and the good old Star (you know, the one that turns Mario into a flashing, rainbow coloured, invincible destroyer of Goombas) make a welcome return.

3D land is a very traditional style Mario game, not only due to the use of the classic Mario health system and powerups for Mario himself, but in the way the levels are designed. Whilst not in 2D, they are smaller than what we’ve seen in recent games in the series, they’re also timed (and you can increase this by collecting timer items) and to complete them you grab the flagpole like Mario of old. That’s not the only goal, however, as you’ll also be able to collect Star Tokens and Coins which are hidden around the stages.

Perhaps the biggest staple of Mario are the green pipes, ever-present throughout the series; these pipes return in 3D Land and by pressing R whilst standing on them you’re able to visit underground sections. I managed to find my way down into one of these small stages, and I was very impressed – the camera switched to an isometric view and the 3D became far more obvious; it was as if I was looking into a small box with Mario inside, stacked with cubes which I had to navigate up to get the Star Token.

The game is visually wonderful, it’s amazing to see Mario in such high quality on a handheld device. Beautiful, vibrant colours mixed with sharp visuals are brought together with the 3D effect and it’s simply delightful to look at. The soundtrack is great too; it’s all very big for just a portable Mario adventure. Make no mistake, this is a full entry in the Mario series, with many features and a great variety of stages.

[drop2]I played four levels in total: one which was an open area filled with enemies, powerups, tokens, coins and the aforementioned pipe, another was a sidescrolling affair which worked really well. The third level I played had panels which disappeared as quickly as they appeared after hitting a switch, making for a quick rush across to avoid falling off the world. The final level began as a sidescrolling level across flying ships, with Bullet Bills flying across the screen. It then led on to a boss battle against a large turtle, which was a lot of fun. The only downside to all of these levels was that they felt very compact, though that seems to be the trend for this game.

Nintendo never seem to fail with entries in the main Super Mario series and Super Mario 3D Land is no exception; the game is a true delight to play and an essential purchase for 3DS owners. From what I’ve seen, it’s a gem of a platformer with great mechanics and a wonderfully executed use of the 3D effect. I have a lot of hope riding on this game, and you should too – it looks to be one of the greatest games starring our little plumber friend and the reason to own a 3DS.


  1. I’ve always maintained that Super Mario 64 was and is the best game ever made for any console imo, so if this game comes even close to it as you suggest then it should be winner. If I had a Ninty 3DS then this game would be a must buy!

    • I thought that too, then I played Super Mario Galaxy 2; the best platformer I’ve ever played. Absolutely brilliant and beats 64 in every way. 3D Land has a lot to live up to

  2. Sounds great. It’s games like this that make me want to have a 3DS.
    I don’t know why but looking at the screenshots I thought a cell shaded Mario game would look pretty cool.

  3. Cool, i really love platforming games, and it’s kinda sad to see the genre disappear and lose it’s quality over the years. If my student budget allows me, ill try to get this :D

  4. This game looks awesome they appear to have got rid of the repetition of doing the same level multiple times which is what stopped me playing Mario 64, at least Galaxy had different routes to take.

    My only worry is difficulty, New super Mario Bros and the Galaxy games were too easy, especially when the Super guide beats the game for you.

    Fingers crossed that it’s more like Super Mario World which for me is the ultimate in Mario Games.

    • It isn’t easy, especially with the health system. Galaxy 2 was actually quite hard at some parts.

    • Yeah man, didn’t you go after all the Green Stars? Those were out of the way for the most part and required quite a bit of skill to collect.

  5. Too bad I don’t like Mario as a person at all. It’s a bit difficult to play the game when you keep hoping for the main character to wipe that smug grin off his face and die the horrible death he deserves already. Mario creeps me out T_T

    • Total agreeance. He reminds me of the uncle that wanted all of those “hugs” and when I grew up he wasn’t really my uncle at all. *shudders*

      • Ah, that explains a lot about why you want to be everybody’s “uncle” now. I’m onto you! *shuffles back carefully*

    • Sonics always been the better person….Rayman though?

      • Rayman all the way. Not just because Ray is my second name. Flying fists? Come on. Can’t beat that!

      • I can tolerate Mario, but I don’t like playing as him. I would prefer Sonic but from Sonic Team’s output i can imagine them being drunk to drown out the pain of the last decade.

  6. Am i the only person who finds Mario in 3D a bit strange? I’ve only played some of the 2D ones. I still find it hard to believe that there wasn’t a Mario game released when the 3DS was released.

    Although i wouldn’t trust Mario to do any plumbing due to his mushroom addiction and tendecy to jump into plant pots. ;)

  7. Played it at Eurogamer and I’m now hotly anticipating the release. Sadly the queue for Kid Icarus was far too long.

  8. Well, I’ve watched the videos in 3D on my 3DS, and I have it pre-ordered. Now I just have to wait VERY patiently until November 13th.

  9. Man so cant wait for Mario 3D land, the 3D aspect does concern me as some games it kinda hinders the magic. We did a write up on our fave Mario games http://www.game-modo.com/2011/10/gamemodos-favourite-mario-games.html What is your favourite Mario game?

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