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General Description

Super Mario 3D Land is a 3D platformer developed by Nintendo EAD and released for the 3DS in November 2011. Players control Mario in his first traditional outing since 2010’s Super Mario Galaxy 2, and the premise is a familiar one. Princess Peach has been captured by Bowser and his minions, and Mario must traverse eight worlds of a handful of stages each to reach her.

It’s a familiar outline, but in action the game has more than its share of new tricks and surprises. The biggest is likely the titular 3D, which causes items, enemies and landscapes to pop away from the screen and is used to obscure hidden paths and and create some interesting perspective-based puzzles. The game is also a really fresh look at Mario level design. Most stages feel like the straightforward obstacle course stages of 2D Mario games that have been cleverly transferred into 3D space.

While exploration isn’t a major part of the game, the level design here does give players plenty of room to improvise, and the sheer ingenuity of every one of the game’s stages makes developer creativity the game’s clearest strength.

Grade by Game Type Overall Grade
D+ D+
Ratings at a Glance
Facts: 0 Title: SUPER MARIO 3D LAND
Creativity: 4 Publisher: Nintendo
Business: 0 Developer: Nintendo EAD
People: 0 Year: 2011
Problem: 5 Genre: Platformer
Simulation: 0 Strengths: popularity
Popularity: 9 Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Extra: 0  
Rating Details

Classroom Facts

3D Land does not emphasize classroom facts.

Creativity & Imagination

By the Player:

3D Land is a linear game. The stages come in a predefined order, and for the most part they don’t require any outright exploration of players. However within their limited scopes there is always room for players to improvise. Mario’s various moves - which involve running and a handful of jumps - all require finesse to control skillfully, and fire flower and tanooki suit power-ups expand the player’s options further.

Levels include walls and enemies that can be bounced off of by skillful players. While each stage can be passed simply by a player willing to take his time, every one can also be passed much more quickly by players who have the ability to get Mario running and make the challenging jumps required to maintain his momentum through the end of a stage. Three hidden coins are also tucked away in each stage, and many require skillful moves to reach.

By the Developer:

Level design is the name of the game here, and it never disappoints. Though Mario’s move set is fairly limited, seemingly every new level asks players to stretch it out in new ways. While some levels are set up as fairly traditional left-to-right platforming challenges, others open up into wider 3D space and offer lengthy falls and wide jumps, and still others switch focus from 2D to 3D midway. Boss stages, Mario Bros 3-style airship levels and unique one-off challenge rooms add even more variety to an already remarkably-built game.

The game’s soundtrack and character design are meant to feel fresh while staying familiar, and are largely successful. While a single screenshot of the game may not compare well to Mario’s console outings, the game looks fantastic in action, and the 3D effects are used to great effect. The game combines confident art direction and really creative level design to create a game that is, above all else, always fun.

Business Skills

Business skills are not a factor of Super Mario 3D Land.

People Skills

3D Land does not include a multiplayer mode.

Problem Solving

3D Land is a game about quick tests of hand-eye coordination. Individual enemies and traps aren’t remarkable, but they are always combined into smooth, obstacle course stages that allow players to either move methodically or keep Mario running and bouncing quickly by using the terrain skillfully.

Besides the game’s basic stages - which offer consistent, satisfying challenges without ever feeling unfair - there are plenty of standalone puzzles. The game’s bosses, for example, offer unique battles, and bonus stages use the 3DS’ 3D screens to manipulate the player’s sense of perspective. These segments can seem gimmicky on paper, but in action they fit into the game perfectly and help keep a sense of momentum and surprise throughout.


Super Mario 3D Land is not a simulation game.


3D Land received nearly universal praise, with critics singling out the game’s playful level design and well-implemented 3D effects as reasons that 3D Land is probably the first significant 3DS game.

Controls & Options

3D Land offers a few basic audio and visual options. While the game includes puzzles that utilize the console’s unique 3D screen, there are usually options to bypass them for players uncomfortable with the effect.

3D Land also contains an interesting feature that utilizes the 3DS’ Street Pass option. If a player has 3D Land in their 3DS as it passes by another player’s, small bonus stages are unlocked in the game.

Super Mario 3D Land was given an E by the ESRB with a descriptor for Mild Cartoon Violence.