Why Super Mario 3D Land Is The Scariest Game Ever

Fear, as is defined by the grand bastion of reliability that is Wikipedia, is a “distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat”. To me, that can easily be projected onto any number of games, and the reality of my own personal fears (if indeed such a phrase isn’t an oxymoron) might surprise you a little.

[drop2]To me, although I’m of the opinion that Nintendo’s Super Mario 3D Land is one of the finest games this year (and certainly shouldn’t be avoided in the way that I’m about to describe) there’s a clear reason why I find it so utterly difficult to play. It’s not the actual platforming – I’m good enough at Mario games to have avoided the P-Wing, at least – it’s the bits inbetween the platforms.

You know, those massive, gaping holes?

To me, acrophobia is a real, distinct feeling – almost certainly fitting nicely into the dictionary description above. It’s not just a “negative sensation” though, almost each and every jump after pretty much any level beyond the first few fills me with the sense of dread that makes your stomach churn. To me, although I’m obviously of sound enough mind to know that the chasms aren’t real, the threat of falling down them makes me feel sick.

It’s not just Super Mario 3D Land, of course – any platform game (or for the record, any genre) that has the player making jumps across bottomless gips has the same effect. Turok on N64 was a nightmare for me, Uncharted 2 was a strain, although I’ll be honest and say that Jet Set Willy on the Speccy I could just about handle.

First person, third person, doesn’t matter. If I’m in control of the character and there are jumps to be made, I’ll struggle. Add that to the fact that – ultimately – Nintendo’s latest does get pretty damned tricky and you’ll see why I’m taking my time with the magical 100% figure. It even extends to being near an edge – if there’s a drop at the other side it won’t be easy for me to approach it, let alone sidle along a narrow path or leap from pillar to pilar.

But here’s the thing – water has almost the same effect on me. I can swim underwater in the real world just fine, but throw the protagonist of a videogame into the same situation and my brain will start conjuring up wierd and wonderful sea creatures that – in my mind – won’t appear until the last minute.

It’s not a fear of drowning, or not being able to see the surface – for some reason I just get shaky when my avatar’s underwater. This makes games like Tomb Raider tricky and the sections of Zelda based around the Zora a real bind (not to mention Ocarina’s Water Temple – ugh) – although at least this one’s restricted to 3D games – the submersed sections in the otherwise side-on Marios don’t bother me at all.

You’ll probably think this is all a little bit ridiculous – but the next time you’re installing a patch to get rid of the spiders in Skyrim (yes, I know you’re out there) because you’re not keen on the eight-legged bastards, spare a thought for those of us locked into the realisation that there’s going to be some high up places to walk around and water to swim through.

Tougher than any dragon.


  1. Dead Space says hi.

    • Quite.

      • Or not.

      • Perhaps bringing back the “Blog” icon would be a good idea.

        The headline is misleading, Super Mario is clearly not the scariest game ever for most of our readers, but it’s a game you find scary.

      • It’s there. :/

      • Wasnt earlier :)

  2. Well i feel ya bud. I dont play any type of horror games i wouldnt even touch zombiess from black ops… Crap like that scares the shit outta me.. I once watched some horror film went to bed an couldnt sleep. When i was sleep i had this feeling someone was watching me so i slowly opened my eyes an it was my son(3yrs) standing in front of me wanting to jump in bed an sleep. I almost knocked him out….scared the crap outta me..so i never play or watch horror ever again..

    • Lol. Gets tour heart racing doesn’t it :D Count yourself lucky you don’t have a daughter. 3 times shes got me now!! (I think)
      Imagine a backlit 7 year old in a nighty with scraggly sleep hair stood at the foot of the bed whispering ‘daddy’….

      • Lol i do have a daughter (2yrs) but she hasnt freaked me out yet…

      • LOL! Something for me to look forward to. I have a daughter AND I love horror films/games… Guess I should remove that metal bar I leave beside my bed for the burglars just in case :-)

  3. I must admit I had a few dizzying moments of stomach lurch and ankle sweating when playing Saboteur, especially at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

    In real life I seriously don’t like heights and can’t swim so any distance above water and I’m a total wreck. Strangely, I’m much better if I am inside a building or plane for example. I guess then I know I can’t fall.

    • Planes can fall. They plummet quite nicely when they don’t have any power.

      • They normally can be glided for a bit, quite possibly to safety.
        It’s when it malfunction with power, or has power on only one side of the plane that the real problems begin.

      • I never said my fear was rational! :-)

    • They can also fall into water, since thats a poors ol planes fate (Russian *cough*)

  4. My mate is the same with water sections in games. He would physically hand me the controller when playing tomb raider whenever Lara had to swim. It was the only time I would get a turn!

  5. Wimp.

  6. Why I Think….

  7. After catching up on sleep, I must agree with you, and I think the 3D effect has an even greater effect. Skyward Sword also reignited my long forgotten fear of spiders in the Water Temple. They’re not the docile things they were in Ocarina of Time, THEY CLING ONTO YOU! D:

  8. Games rarely scare me. I suppose the only time i have come close to being scared by a game was last week in Oblivion but that more of a oh sh*t moment.

    • Spiders, Eye of the Beholder. That clicking noise. *shudders*


      • Symp, get off Mike’s account. :P

  9. My mate used to hate watching me play Ico when I was running across those insanely high bridges out towards the solar generator thingies. I’d swoop the camera down to look at the sheer scale of the architecture as I yanked Princess Yorda along the narrow walkway and he’d be very colourful with his words each and every time. Ha!

    • Those aren’t spiders – They are face huggers from Aliens.

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