Super Mario 3D Land – The 2D formula in 3D


This review has been created by a gamer who has, at this date, not yet played any 3D Mario game aside from Super Mario 64, and a little bit of Super Mario 3D World. Therefore, my viewpoint on this game has not been influenced by any of the previous 3D games. From what I’ve gathered, the game borrows a lot of obstacles from Super Mario Galaxy but as I have no experience, I cannot say so myself. Before this review has been created, I have completed the entire game once.

Huh, so my first review with my new writing style is in the same franchise as my first review on this site ever. They even share most of the same name! I swear this is just a coincidence! During my commute time to work which is about three hours a day, I´m always looking for games to play on my handheld devices. I used to play on my PSP all the time, but was getting slightly burned-out on the library I currently possess. Got a lot of racing games, but I don’t want to play too many racing games back-to-back. So I thought hey, let’s switch handhelds for a bit and move over to the Nintendo 3DS! Coincidentally, the first game I played was Super Mario 3D Land because I felt that game was the best one to test out my waters with. How well does the 3DS play during travel, how good is the battery etcetera. And it’s Mario of course! Despite varying opinions on the game, you can almost always be certain that the games are at the very least solid. Not only that, but this is Mario’s first original 3D adventure on a handheld! Of course Super Mario 64 DS came first but as everyone knows, that’s a remake. Funnily enough, Mr. Miyamoto did clarify that while this is a 3D game, it plays like a 2D game. Let’s see what he meant by that shall we?

Great level design with unique themes not inspired by New Super Mario Bros…

What Mr. Miyamoto meant by that statement is clearly seen in the level design. The game has eight worlds with a HUB world similar to the 2D games: a straight line with each selectable level on there. At first I was very afraid that this would follow the New Super Mario Bros. curse, with every world having a singular theme with almost no variation in between. Fortunately I was wrong on that part, as the levels are all unique and are in no way dependant on a singular theme. The first world may start with a basic field level, but quickly after a stage follows that pays homage to the 8-bit sprites of the series, and after that a level made out of cookies! This trend continues throughout the whole game, even with a level that may or may not be a homage to another one of Nintendo’s famous franchises. I’ll not spoil the surprise of course; I’m sure you’ll discover it yourself pretty quickly. Most of the stages also have unique mechanics and obstacles to help them differentiate from another. To emphasise the 2D-inspired gameplay even further, there are three golden coins to be found in every stage which has been a staple in 2D Mario Games since New Super Mario Bros.

…But also extremely linear level design.

I’ve given the level design a good amount of praise so far, but I’m about to bring it down entirely with this segment. The level themeing- and design may be good overall, but at the same time, it’s probably the most linear Mario game… ever. And no, this is not an exaggerated statement. You can already see it in the HUB world as the levels are placed on a literal line with no parts branching off of it. There is not a single alternate exit in the game, meaning that every world has to be done in the same order with no skippable levels. This is not necessarily bad design though, but even the levels themselves barely have any secrets in them aside from the golden coins and a few 1-ups that you really don’t need (trust me on this one). And most of the time, the golden coins are even in plain sight or at least on the road to the end. The levels do not encourage exploration, which means that when you’re done with a stage… you truly are done.

Level select screen Super Mario 3D Land
I wasn’t kidding when I said it’s a literal line.

What about controls though?

Level design is one important part of platformers, and the other part are the controls. My opinion of the level design may be mixed, but I can say that the controls have been handled very well. I’d like to start with the camera for this segment actually, since the level design is still fresh in our mind. The camera is a fixed one which usually is not something you’d see in a 3D, free-roaming Platformer, but it works in the game’s favour as the level design is fairly linear after all. They do use it in a creative way, like top-down or isometric occasionally. They do have a few bonus rooms where 3D is used but that never worked for me; no surprise there since who even likes 3D right? I did sometimes have issues with depth when the camera was 2D focussed and platforms were small, but it did not hinder me too much. Mario controls very smoothly in the levels, though I did have to get used to his jumping distance. He does no longer have the triple jump, and he needs a good second of speed to at least make far jumps. But other than that, I have no issues with how he controls. The same goes for the power-ups, which are mostly classic mario power-ups but in a 3D environment. I would make the arguement that the tanooki leaf made an already easy game that showers you with 1-ups even easier, but nobody really plays Mario for the difficulty.

Boomerang Mario Super Mario 3D Land
Boomerang Mario, a power-up exclusive to this game.

Spoiler warning – Completion hell

I named this segment ”Completion hell” for one single reason. After you beat the main game, the special world unlocks which are the same levels as the main game but more difficult. That was not entirely accurate however as the levels are mixed-up in order, have unique new obstacles or are even entirely unrecognizable. Though I still didn’t feel very challenged, I had a good time going through this world regardless because the level design was already good. More than two times is not fine though, but Nintendo decided you need to go through the entire normal- and special levels again as Luigi to unlock the very final level. Oh, and don’t forget to hit the top of the flagpole with either of the characters or else you have to go through the entire game yet again. This is padding to the maximum and highly unnecessary. At least the reward is good right…? It’s your usual challenging level, though not really as challenging as most and not that long either so eh, but it’s better than nothing at least.

I’ve been positive- and negative towards this game, mostly about the level design- and structure. I did have a blast with this game since the levels were at least good designed though, but I didn’t feel the need to play through it more than once. Spoiler alert, I had to. But at the end of the day, we still have a good Mario game here that I’m confident every 3ds owner that enjoys Mario should own. But um, probably think about it twice (heh, spoiler alert 2.0) if you want to complete it or not. Overall, it gets an 7.5 out of 10 from me!


Nepiki's Rating

Overall rating

Game Score
Fun Score
  • Nice new power-ups to play with.
  • Controls very smooth.
  • The level design is fun and has a lot of unique mechanics.
  • Extremely linear.
  • Completion is literal padding.

Thanks for sticking around! The current plan is to remake a few reviews that I’ve made short thoughts on in the past few months as they’re still fresh in my mind. Of course I’ll also be reviewing games that I’m currently playing, of which one may or may not be the next. It’s also a prequel to one of the most anticipated new releases of this month! …This was also totally a coincidence I swear.

Is linearity in a Mario game an obstacle to you, or are you completely fine with it? Let me know down below or reply to me on Discord or Twitter!

Does this genre interest you? If so, I have multiple other Platformer reviews ready for you!

About author


A gamer and writer at heart who wants to combine his hobbies into one. I am 25 years old and I'm from the Netherlands. Having played many games over the years, I wanted to express my love for them, however obscure they may be!

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[…] hell was I doing? I have a blog, I should use it! So I grabbed my last finished review, which was Super Mario 3D Land, and made it up to my normal standards. It was good to be […]