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Super Mario Land Review

The plumber's first handheld platformer is back on the 3DS Virtual Console

Super Mario Land 3DS Virtual Console review: Super Mario Land has never been re-released since its original outing back in 1989 so there's a good chance that this will be your first ever experience with Mario's debut handheld adventure.

Created as a side-story to Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Land sees Mario legging it through the Sarasaland region instead of the Mushroom Kingdom.

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Instead of having to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser, Mario must save Princess Daisy from Tatanga, an evil space alien who wants to take over Sarasaland and make Daisy his Queen.

Short But Sweet

As one of the earliest Game Boy games, Super Mario Land is a little shorter than other Mario titles. Whereas Super Mario Bros. offered 32 levels, here there are only 12.

Unlike the NES original, all of these levels feel very different. The four worlds each represent different kingdoms within Sarasaland, each one feeling like a real-world location. One minute you'll be running through an Egyptian tomb, the next youre hopping over mad Easter Island heads.

The physics take a bit of getting used to as Mario's jumps seem a bit lighter and his running speed is a little quicker. Also, the action doesn't freeze when Mario powers up or shrinks and Fireballs (or Super Balls as they're called here) shoot in a very different direction to what you may be used to.

Exit Stage Up

Also unique to Super Mario Land are the two side-scrolling shooting stages at the end of the second and fourth worlds which see Mario hopping into a tiny submarine or aeroplane respectively. These help the flow of the game and stop it becoming too repetitive.

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Each world has two exits - a standard one at the bottom of the screen and a bonus exit at the top. If you can make your way to the top one which gets harder to reach as you progress through the game, you'll get to play a bonus mini-game which gives you either bonus lives or a power-up depending on your timing. While an interesting diversion, the mini-game is pretty basic stuff.

Songs From A Shroom

The soundtrack is one of the best in Nintendo's history. Composed by Hip Tanaka (who was also responsible for the music in the likes of Metroid, Kid Icarus and Dr. Mario), each world's music fits perfectly with the theme and adds a great deal of character to the game.

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Super Mario Land is one of those games that every Nintendo and Mario fan should play at some point. On one level it's an important piece of Mario history, marking the moustachioed plumber's handheld platforming debut.

More importantly, it's still a fun game despite being more than two decades old now, making it yet another testament to the timelessness of these older Nintendo games. It's a game that every Mario fan should download, especially if you've never played it before.

This is an edited version of a review that will appear in the August issue of Official Nintendo Magazine. For more screenshots and in-depth analysis buy the magazine when it goes on sale on 7 July.


29 comments so far...
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  1. Violet Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 13:21

    I still own the original cartridge, so I may not buy the 3DS version, but I personally think it is a better, more varied game than Super Mario Bros., albeit a shorter one. Fantastic music too.

  2. 142520452213 Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 13:21

    Nice, wasn't expecting a Gold Award, thought the length would drag it down.

    Also, did you know this was the first mainstream Mario game not to be directed my Miyamoto? Nice bit of useless trivia there :wink:

  3. BreezySkells Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 13:23

    that is something to think about when the 3DS e-shops cards come around!

  4. SoulSilver IV Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 13:31

    First Mario game I ever played, this one. Love it as much as I did when I was 6 years old. :D

    Even though it's sat in my old Game Boy on the desk next to me, I'll still get this when I eventually get round to buying a 3DS. I still enjoy doing speedruns, not that they're terribly successful, mind... xD

  5. Argenthor Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 13:40

    Still have this on gameboy :)
    How i used to struggle with it.... It seemed harder than other Mario titles.

  6. saswatch Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 13:43

    if your credit card does not work ring ur bank because it takes ur money any way

  7. gaz1978 Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 13:44

    Completed in 20 mins flat - too easy and not worth the price - Ł2 would have been a fairer price.


  8. Avalanche2114 Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 13:46

    I still have this game for the gameboy so I won't get this. I'm not a fan of the Super Mario Land anyway.

  9. pikacheroot Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 13:51

    God I'd forgotten how ace this game is! Anyone playing it for the first time, you're being spoiled with a save mode. Back when I was seven years old, you had no save mode and so those 12 levels were absolutely nail biting. It was fantastic playing it on the bus this morning and realising I remembered so many secret entrances, lifts and hide-outs! There was also a walkthrough guide in a Nintendo magazine that I was absolutely glued to for ages before I even got my own Gameboy (I borrowed my friend's before that). Fantastic game and I can't wait to finish it - nine levels on the bus this morning was MEGA fun.

    And yes, I'm a 28-year-old girl and this is one of the less geeky things I've ever written...

  10. jonnyjazz Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 14:06

    I'm pretty sure this was the first game I ever owned (can't believe it was that long ago now, I feel like a grown up :P), but I absolutely loved it back then, still not sure which I prefer out of this one and the 2nd Mario land. Compared to the DSiware games though this is an absolute steal. Cannot recommend it enough!

  11. kiriath Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 14:34

    huh i dont need it i have the original on my original gameboy :D

  12. Steno1 Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 15:09

    Ł3.50 for a game that i've never played before with black and white graphics.Here you go :P

  13. DFawkes Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 15:52

    Absolutely fantastic game, and the original Green & Black with Motion Blur mode really tickles my nostalgia gland :D

    I've already finsihe it twice, once with the new safety net of a save system, and once au natural, the way it used to be. Both were fun but it felt a lot more enjoyable when I didn't use the new fangled save system.

    Also, it's worth noting it had one of the most fair checkpointing systems of it's day - generally speaking, you'll never be punished all that heavily for failing a bit. In fact a couple of times I died just short of the next checkpoint, and it teleported me forward! Still not so much as to negate the challenge, but it's pretty rare to have to replay a section once you're done (at least until the later levels).

    Incredible bargain at that price too. Hopefully we'll see the other Mario Land games before long.

  14. Buffoonary Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 15:56

    I thought the game was awesome while it lasted; it was certainly worth the price. I'm looking forward to playing it through again soon.

  15. dreamer87 Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 16:16

    Hi every one

    Has anyone purchased super mario land from the estore.
    If so just it freeze on you?

    It freezes on me every few minutes and I was wondering if anyone else is experiencing the same problem?

    Hopefully it's nothing to worry about as it's a good little game. :)

  16. Ai64 Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 19:14

    Ah! I remember Super mario land years ago. Download time for it when I top! :D

  17. abovethewell Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 19:35


  18. Kalasinar Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 20:06

    I've always had very fond memories of this back when i first played it at a really young age. My brother and i both had Gameboys and both had this game, i think out of all the games we had, Super Mario Land was one of our absolute favourites (alongside Tetris of course). It is such a delight to see it on the eShop release, and even though i still have my original cartridge and plenty of Gameboys to play it, i've bought it for my 3DS just wouldn't be complete without it! Been playing it all evening since i got home from work (and yes, newcomers are extremely lucky with the save game function!)

  19. K-os XIII Tuesday 7th Jun 2011 at 20:27

    Great game but is short. Had to be though because it had no saves and ran on batteries.

    Not all Game Boy games are short like this. Link's Awakening will take hours to complete.

  20. saswatch Wednesday 8th Jun 2011 at 19:04

    not being funny but you gave a game that u complete in 30 mins 91% and gave chrono trigger 90% right just were is the logic in that still like it though

  21. koopa-guy64 Thursday 9th Jun 2011 at 19:21

    @saswatch, their ratings are pretty inconsistent to be honest... I mean, didn't Wii Sports get 90%? I'd bet a fair amount of money that no current reviewers at ONM would say they think Wii Sports is a better game Chrono Trigger... The thing is, different people have different tastes, and even if Mario Land and Chrono Trigger were reviewed by the same person, that person might prefer platformers to RPGs, so it's not all that surprising it got a higher score, even if you disagree. The scores are kind of arbitrary, they're just telling you it's worth buying. I mean, seriously, What criteria makes one game 1% better than another? It's silly. They're saying they're both 5 star games, in any case.

    When the 3DS price drops a bit and I actually buy one, this'll be near the top of my download list... Here's hoping for Pokemon Red/Blue/Gold/Silver and then the Stadium games on Wii with connectivity, though (unlikely, but who knows).

  22. Shmilly Monday 13th Jun 2011 at 21:09

    Fantastic game, one of my favourites in the series. I have the original GB cartridge and no 3DS, so this is not a download for me. Nevertheless, I urge anyone who hasn't played it to pick it up now!

  23. leomckitten Tuesday 14th Jun 2011 at 11:41

    Brilliant game. I love it. It was my first ever experience with the moustachioed plumber back when I played a friend's Gameboy, and it's still fun.

  24. Redfish20 Tuesday 14th Jun 2011 at 18:03

    I have it on Gameboy but didn't know it only had 12 levels as I always get finished around level 6. I'm not bad at games, honest, some of those things just move so fast.

  25. K-os XIII Tuesday 14th Jun 2011 at 21:33

    not being funny but you gave a game that u complete in 30 mins 91% and gave chrono trigger 90% right just were is the logic in that still like it though

    Also what you have to consider is that Super Mario Land is universal and Chrono Trigger has more depth.

    Most people will enjoy the first 30 minutes with Super Mario Land but most people would put Chrono Trigger down after 30 minutes due to boredom. The game only starts getting interesting after you go through the portal.

  26. TheSonicGod Thursday 16th Jun 2011 at 11:10

    One of the first games I ever owned. I thought it was great and then they brought out the sequel which blew my tiny little childhood mind. But I still play the first one. Timeless.

  27. toffeeman30 Thursday 16th Jun 2011 at 12:14

    the quest may be fairly short, but its worth playing through at least once. if only to see where marios portable adventures began

  28. K-os XIII Friday 17th Jun 2011 at 10:18

    its worth playing through at least once

    Play through it twice. After you complete it press A on the start screen to change the mushroom into Mario then start again this time the game will be harder.

  29. Chaos_Martin Tuesday 2nd Aug 2011 at 18:01

    Ohhh I remeber this, playing it on me good old game colour, good times.

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