News Article

Preview: Super Mario 3D Land

Posted by James Newton

It's all about perspective

The last time we played Super Mario 3D Land, we came away confident that Nintendo was taking its mascot forward, as our preview explained. That was based on a four level demo but we've since played the game's opening two worlds, so does that first impression still hold true?

Well, it all depends on your point of view. Mario is famous for his huge leaps forward, but the series has been walking parallel paths for some time now, sidestepping between 2D and 3D to suit the occasion. Super Mario 3D Land is unique in that it's designed to occupy the space between the two, all viewed through the console's 3D screen: whether that's Mario's full potential on 3DS is something only time will tell.

It's clear 3D Land isn't in the lineage of Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine or the Galaxy games: you pick a stage from a linear world map and levels end in a single flagpole, not a Star or Shine. Mario's move set falls in the 3D category though: since our last preview the buttons have been adjusted to make long jumps and backflips far more intuitive. Whether in two or three dimensions, Mario still feels like Mario, with leaps, ground pounds, fireballs and tail-whips all instantly satisfying and familiar. There are some nips and tucks here and there, but nothing to break the classic Mario feeling.

Level design owes as much to Super Mario World as any Mario adventure since, as if Nintendo's designers laid out classic 2D stages and pulled, tweaked and tugged them until they existed in 3D. As a result they're less field-like than 64's stages; exploration is rewarded with a quick power-up and a prod to get back on track, with alternate routes soon dovetailing together again. Green pipes often lead to rooms showcasing the 3DS screen in Escher-like puzzles, providing one of the strongest arguments for the 3D display so far: what appears one way in 2D changes completely when the 3D is turned on. We all predicted Mario would find innovative uses for the top screen, and by tucking its cleverest moments away it's sure to reward explorers with extra gameplay, not just collectibles: the 2D Mario way.

The rest of the stages are classic Mario fare, and entertain without ever quite igniting: their familiarity brings a smile, but not the wide eyes that Super Mario Galaxy inspired on first sight.

And that's absolutely fine: this isn't Super Mario Galaxy 3. It's a chance for Nintendo to take the 2D Mario experience – historically the best-selling arm; don't forget New Super Mario Bros. sold 27m copies worldwide – and show it off in a new light. It's modernising the past, not pointing to the future.

So much has been written about the 3DS's need for a Mario game that many are painting Super Mario 3D Land as a “sink or swim” game for the console, but at this stage in the console's lifespan it can't possibly be the definitive Mario experience in 3D: it's a jumping-off point, a showcase for the console and a notable checkpoint in Mario's history. Future adventures will take the plumber to currently unthinkable places: for now, we have a fresh perspective on old stomping grounds.

Now we've played the first two worlds of Mario's next adventure, we're in a pretty good position to answer some of your questions. Send them in using the Contact form's "Super Mario 3D Land questions" option and we'll do our best to answer as many as possible in a future Q&A article.

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User Comments (65)



pixelman said:

I'm excited for this mainly for the reasons you (almost?) implied were negative: it's classic 2D Mario in 3D space. Nothing revolutionary; it's simply the way it should've been from the start!



she_gamer said:

"Level design owes as much to Super Mario World as any Mario adventure since,"... Good good.



Megumi said:

Heh, puzzles in the pipes, I'm gonna enjoy those. lol
From a screenshot that was shown on NP, and one that was described...they're like illusion puzzles. I love those. xD



ChaosTheChao said:

More news that taunts me as to how long I have to wait for it to come out. By the way do I get a free gift for pre-ordering it at game? (not gamestop)



FluttershyGuy said:

Couldn't be happier to read of the emphasis on Mario's 2D roots, since I'd hoped for classic side-scroller for Mario's 3DS debut. And comparison to Super Mario World is the best reason to get this I've read yet! Some of this concerns me, though. Is Nintendo telling us traditionalists, "we'll keep giving you 2D Mario, but you're going to get 3D to go along with it, so deal with it"? Still, this article has started to justify my reserving this!



bezerker99 said:

I'm glad it's not a SMG3 wannabe. Also am glad to see them go away from collecting Shines and Stars and stuff.....classic flagpole...FTW!!!



grumblebuzzz said:

Still very eagerly awaiting more info on this game. Although your article outlined the general feel of the game, were you not allowed to tell us of any of the actual details?



BenAV said:

Good to hear about the tweaks in the controls since the E3 demo.
I only played it for a few minutes but I never really quite worked out all the jumps and such in that demo as it didn't really feel too intuitive to me.

This game is looking great and I can't wait for it to come out.
Same day as Skyward Sword - I'm going to be busy for quite a while whether I'm at home or out and about.



Kid_A said:

Wow, this is a really fabulous preview, James. Well written and thoroughly even-handed.



warioswoods said:

I'm excited for this one, but... I sure hope that Nintendo hasn't given up on the more exploratory 3D Mario formula. I'm one of those people who greatly prefers the first Galaxy to the second, precisely because the latter was too linear and also dispensed with any kind of hub or story.

Don't get me wrong, I find Nintendo's obsession with bridging 2D and 3D gameplay to be fascinating and innovative. I just hope we haven't seen the last of games like Sunshine.



19Robb92 said:

Nice preview. I'm really looking forward to it! Those mini "pipe-games" actually sound awesome.

I love optical illusions!



komicturtle said:

Hope Wario is in...

And I would love to use my Mii

Didn't the producer hint at some special surprise(s) regarding characters?

Maybe Luigi.. But please let me use Mii!



AlbertoC said:

@20: Agreed completely. Also, add alternate routes and make us wonder how far a map / the map can go.



warioswoods said:

Yes, that's another problem: a 2D Mario game just isn't complete without a world map. It's such a shame that they've given up on that point.

I usually am in agreement with just about everything Miyamoto does (heck, I'm a huge fan of Wii Music), but I've actually begun to feel a little disheartened lately with his approach to the Mario series. He has other staff who would prefer to take things in a different direction, like Koizumi who was responsible for the wonderful story in Galaxy, but he keeps reigning them in and simplifying the series.



Savino said:

It´s Mario... It simply can´t go wrong... I don´t even bother reading previews or reviews... it´s a classic even before release!



TheGreenSpiny said:

@17: Galaxy was a much better game than it's sequel. I got bored with the sequel very quickly. The level designs were not nearly as cool, yoshi was annoying and the sense of discovery was lost without a real hub world.



BluTyGer said:

Sounds awesome!
But I still hope they make new 3D Mario game along the lines of 64 or Sunshine. Perhaps on the Wii U.



JebbyDeringer said:

Sounds like crap, I hate when they meld 2D and 3D. Pick a perspective and stick with it. This sounds like Other M but without the sappy story.



TKOWL said:

Had optimism about this game, but now my excitement levels are sky-high



cnm_nintendo said:

I played this game a few days ago at a Nintendo event. To say that this game is good would be an understatement. Pre-ordered my copy already :3



NintyMan said:

It seems like some people are having some concerns about Nintendo mixing 2D and 3D together. I think it's a smart idea and I have no doubt whatsoever that this will be another classic in the Super Mario series. I will pre-order the game in the coming days.



Punny said:

If this doesn't boost 3DS sales, I don't know what will (oh yeah, Mario Kart 7...). This is going to be a long, yet satisfying wait.



Megumi said:

Isn't it just a 3D game using mechanics from 2D games? (and yes I know it has some actual 2D parts in this game too)



Doma said:

To me, this pretty much IS the next Galaxy, with even more tweaks to make it linear and like the 2D Bros. series. That's where the galaxy series was headed if you think about it.
There's no map/hub because there's no theme to each world – just a bunch of random levels (like Galaxy, no?).

I doubt we'll ever see another 3D game with the same calibre as Mario 64. Proper 3D games are too much work for Nintendo nowadays (look how long Skyward sword took them), so they're deciding to compromise instead.



warioswoods said:


Sort of, but the first Galaxy game was actually headed in a few different directions. Games are made by teams, not individuals, and having read just about every interview published on the development of the Galaxy games, I can tell you that Miyamoto's vision diverged from that of Koiziumi in a number of respects.

For instance, Koizumi is a "romantic" in Miyamoto's words, and was responsible for the somewhat bittersweet storytelling with the book and whatnot (and was responsible for the storytelling in Link's Awakening, as well), which Miya. later found to be too heavy for the Mario series, insisting that the follow-up make it simple: Peach likes cake, so she gets trapped and needs rescuing.

That story gave the first Galaxy a real sense of wonder and journey instead of just offering up a list of levels. On the gameplay front, there was also much better balance between those areas where you slow down, explore, and take in the atmosphere and those areas which are more quick and linear. The second game gave much of that up and went wither a quicker tempo across the board, but undeniably something was lost that could have been seized upon differently after the first game. Koizumi slipped back from director to producer for the second entry, and his downsized role is key to the huge difference in approach.

As much as I love Miyamoto's work, part of me would like to see him pass the mantle onto Koizumi for at least the 3D games, and divert his own attention to the 2D entries.



FonistofCruxis said:

I don't really like the way that they're mixing the 3D and 2D Mario platformers but the level design looks really good in a lot of the levels so I'm still really looking forward to it. Also I agree with @warioswoods that Koizumi should be the director of the next 3D Mario platformer too.



Odnetnin said:

Am I excited for this? You betcha. Do I think this is the best direction to take Mario in? That I'm not sure.

Whoever directed Sunshine should do all of the Mario games from now on, a long as they're the same quality as that one.



grumblebuzzz said:

I agree with Wario's Woods that the next 3D Mario game should be directed by the same person who did the first Galaxy. The into to the original SMG is, to date, the only part of a Mario game that has ever --or is likely to ever have — given me chills. The sequel is one of the most overrated games of the past five years to me: it really brought nothing new to the series aside from Yoshi and it neutered a lot of what made the first game so good by trying to streamline it and make it universal.



lalalalalalal said:

Yay! I'm glad I recently beat Super Mario Galaxy 2, cuz now theres only a little wait till I get back on board with another great Mario game.



LittleIrves said:

Have to say I enjoyed Galaxy 1, but found myself more compelled to keep pushing forward with Galaxy 2's more stream-lined approach, especially to the Comet Stages. But that's interesting what @warioswoods says about the different Directors and their separate approaches. I'm torn.
One thing I do know: Wii Music is awesome. (Sorry, off-topic!)
And I'd definitely take a demo. Don't want to start a Zelda halfway, but getting a taste of Mario won't really spoil the experience for me. Can't wait.



kobe1724 said:

@24 Agreed. When it comes to a Mario game (2D or 3D), it's an automatic must have for me. No review or preview could convince me not to buy it.



19Robb92 said:

Oh god no, Sunshine is by far the worst 3D Mario game I've played. The camera sucks and a lot of the levels where very tedious. But I agree that we need more 'open' Mario games. But more like Super Mario 64, definitely not like Sunshine IMO.

Anyway, per-ordered my copy of this long ago. Never really doubted it would be good. Both this and Zelda on the same day is just awesome!



SunnySnivy said:

@19Robb92 Sunshine was my favorite 3D Mario. It had it's faults, but nevertheless it was the most unique of all the Mario titles and that is not always a bad thing! But.. It's all about opinions and perspective!

Anyway... Mario 3D Land.

This quote from the preview:
"It's modernising the past, not pointing to the future."

This made me both happy but sad at the same time. I'm glad we're going back to the old ways, but what about moving forward?

Regardless, I'm very much looking forward to playing this game and I am pre-ordering it very, very soon!



Marios-love-child said:

Really looking forward to playing this.

In response to the last few comments about Sunshine, im unfortunately in agreement that it's the worst game in the series.

The best way I can explain it is that at the end of each level, rather than the satisfaction of completing the level it was more a case of thinking "thank god thats over with". Some of the levels were so tedious that it really sucked all the enjoyment out of the game.

This is just my opinion of course.



NintyMan said:

Seriously, has there ever been a truly bad Mario game besides Mario Is Missing? You can nitpick and be opinonated, but the mainstream Mario games haven't been bad in the sense. They each have their perks and their downsides. That's why opinion does not equal fact.



StarDust4Ever said:

@NintyFan: Mario's Time Machine was equally bad compared to Mario is Missing. Probably the worst Mario games on Nintendo consoles. There's also Super Mario Special (incredibly glitchy), Hotel Mario, Mario Teaches Typing, and other obscurities which were released on computer platforms.

@R Rated: Sunshine = bad??? You can't be serious! The FLUDD/Jetpack upgrade was freaking awesome, and it comes with three different nozzle accesories... Yoshi vomits rainbows... Oh, and did i forget to mention the final Bowser fight to rescue Peach was in a giant freakking Hot Tub ROTFLMAO!

I'll give it credit for uniqueness, but Sunshine was by no means a bad game.



grumblebuzzz said:

I feel like a lot of people have nostalgia-colored glasses about Mario Sunshine. I played through a little of it again recently and the controls and camera just really aren't even on par with Mario 64's imo. Something as simple as jumping on a ground-poundable log or wall jumping up a steep corridor either cannot be done sometimes or causes the camera to spaz out and go crazy. As others have said, Mario Sunshine's not a bad game — it's definitely the most creative entry in the series — but because of its technical problems, repeated bosses, etc, it just seems a little flat. I feel like a lot of the people who say Sunshine is their favorite either haven't played it in a very long time and say so based on memory alone or say so because they're of the younger set and it was their first 3D Mario game.



warioswoods said:


Not me; I played Sunshine within the last 3 years, and I'm certainly not in the 'younger set' given that I've been playing since the first NES Mario game hit the shelf.

I have to say that camera controls have almost never bothered me in a Mario game. I know people complain, but I can't figure out why. It's so simple to adjust with the c-stick while running.

Anyhow, Sunshine had by far the greatest open 'playground' experiences of any 3D Mario game. Just the opening area around the town square is tremendously entertaining, with so many things to mess around with, places to try and reach through various jumping and water usage, etc. That playground experience is the polar opposite of the linear get-to-the-goal kind of Mario game. Galaxy balanced both extraordinarily well, but since then, they've failed to incorporate the former kind of play.

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