Super Mario 3D Land (3DS, 2011)

Super Mario 3D Land was one of a handful of early games for the 3DS that I missed. It is a difficult game to define though. 3D Land often toes the line between being a classic 2D side-scroller or a modern 3D platformer. The game masterfully manages to pull both off, even doing so in the middle of a level with only a few manageable hitches. Hands-down, Super Mario 3D Land is my favorite Mario game I have played in recent memory and is easily one of the best in the entire series.

Given the amount of games bearing Mario’s name these days, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or burnt out. I’ve tried several recent entries in the series, but they’ve rarely kept my attention long enough to complete them. Don’t get me wrong, Mario games are never bad games – they just have a tendency to get stale quickly. Super Mario 3D Land is an exception, however. The new abilities feel fresh in the Galaxy-inspired take on both ‘Mario 64’ Mario and ‘Super Mario’ Mario levels. The game’s shorter levels keep the new gameplay fresh and help stop the game from ever becoming too frustrating. Great level designs combined with the by now well-perfected controls and graphics that pop on 3DS’s screen (pop out if you choose to turn on the 3D, which is some of the best I’ve seen on the system) all make for one of the most well-rounded Mario games in recent memory.

Length-wise, Super Mario 3D Land is well worth the money. Though it does have a tendency to repeat mechanics and later repeat levels, I was having too much fun to worry about it. The game manages such a steady level of fun, that I only have a few minor complaints. First, the game has a tendency to hold your hand, especially if you are prone to die a few times before finally getting the level just right. After a few deaths, the game gives you the option to take a power-up that completely trivializes the challenge. It’s a neat mechanic but not something I would want enabled by default. My only other complaint is relatively minor: sometimes the transitions from 2D to 3D and vice versa ends in me jumping behind a platform or jumping to the side of a platform. It didn’t happen often but it always felt like a fairly jarring way to die, especially when compared to the rest always perfect control. All in all, my complaints are minor and do little to hurt the overall quality, value, or success of Super Mario 3D Land.

Additional Quotes:

“Super Mario 3D Land stands as one of the quintessential Mario games of this decade.”

“If you own a 3DS and consider yourself a Nintendo fan, you must play Super Mario 3D Land.”

“Even for platforming veterans looking for a challenge, Super Mario 3D Land manages to charm and surprise despite bringing little difficulty until the later levels.”

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