Mario has been the face of video games since his creation in 1985. The kind of popularity that Mario and Nintendo have received from him is unfathomable, and I have no doubt in my mind that his newest reiteration, Super Mario 3D Land, will continue to keep Mario’s popularity and legacy in tact.

From its first release on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Mario has stopped at nothing to be the best. Upon starting its legacy in the 80’s and 90’s, the popular plumber has rocketed his way to the top of the best selling games list on each of Nintendo’s platforms to date.

Now, in 2011, Nintendo has turned to Mario again, as it needs to resurrect sales of its flagging 3DS gaming handheld. Fortunately, not only is Mario in eye-popping 3D on the 3DS, but the two worlds of 2D and 3D collide to make for a definite redefinition of the series and yet another new way to play Mario that people thought impossible.

With Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Super Mario Bros. Wii, the pinnacle had been set for Mario. All three of the titles were well received and had a massive amount of sales. As Mario’s success furthered, the newest platform, the 3DS was announced and released.

As the 3DS has had a bit of a rough start since its debut in March, Nintendo is in an absolute bind and definitely needed one of its franchise games to reintroduce stability into their newest handheld. After cutting the price of their 3DS only months after its introduction, it seemed gamers were reluctant to trust the newest DS, as glasses-free stereoscopic 3D seemed like a gimmick.

Considering Nintendo’s past tries at true 3D, the comments were somewhat justified, and in general, gamers have yet to fully embrace the 3DS. However, the potential is still there for the platform and it is still surviving.

Some thought Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D would help the budding platform, and it did to an extent, but what better way to put absolute faith back into the new platform then with the man that made the original Nintendo fly off the shelves. Yes, Super Mario 3D Land may be the answer for Nintendo’s newest handheld.

Redefining the Mario series       

It is completely astounding to me how Mario keeps wowing players with each and every game Nintendo releases. From Super Mario Bros. to Super Mario Galaxy, I have never once grown out of playing Mario or decided it just wasn’t that fun anymore. The reason for that is each and every Mario has gotten significantly better than the last. Of course, the Mario faithful will say, “What about Super Mario Sunshine?” But even Sunshine brought joy to a lot of people in the way of a beautiful environment and new gameplay with F.L.U.D.D.

Looking back, Mario and friends were already beloved by their second title on the NES. The 2D side-scrolling platform was a hit and it didn’t matter who you were. Back in the 80’s, Mario was your favorite game, period. The 2D world of Mario was way ahead of its time, and it showed, as this was how Mario was successfully designed through Nintendo’s first two systems, the NES and SNES.

Then, Mario did something that changed video games altogether. With technology advancing, Nintendo wanted to do something different with Mario on the Nintendo 64, and boy, they did. Mario was thrown into 3D, and it was done with absolute perfection. Super Mario 64 is still the one step in the series when everyone says, “Wow, that was really something.” It redefined how we played Mario.

Now Nintendo has done it again, in 3D on the 3DS. All factors come into play when being thrown into the 3D world and suddenly switching into 2D mid-level. Not only does it present a small challenge, but it will also allow for a new style of exploration to happen as you make your way through each level.

Mario Goes from 3D to Eye-Popping 3D

Thinking back, I remember how jealous I was when one of my good friends received a Virtual Boy for Christmas and I had to watch the fun ensue right before my very eyes. At the time, I was convinced it was the way of the future. It looked so futuristic with a red outer shell and I couldn’t get over that it actually produced a 3D world inside.

Then, after playing it once or twice, while my friend took a moment with his other Christmas gifts, I slowly began to realize it wasn’t anything like I’d imagined. My eyes instantly began to strain and all the games were just red…what?!? I was heartbroken, but deep down inside, I thought maybe there was a chance 3D would make it back into a Nintendo platform and actually hold its own.

Well, it turns out I was right, and Mario’s return to the true 3D world was more fun than I ever could have thought up or have imagined in my younger days.

It is hard to really describe the overall experience of Mario in true 3D. Seeing it for the first time is truly an experience. The overall detail and magic of Mario literally jumping out of your screen or Bowser’s fireballs coming directly at you is something pretty spectacular. Not only that, but Nintendo did wonders on the level design to integrate the 3D capabilities perfectly.

There are so many areas in the game that wouldn’t have been as great without 3D. From your enemy’s boomerang being thrown through the screen to levels having specific obstacles to emphasize the 3D offers a little something extra to the experience, and helps to maintain the staple of Mario games, fun.

Power Ups: Back and Better than Ever  

Super Mario Bros. would have been nothing without its power ups. Sure, Super Mario 2 was okay without power ups, but when Super Mario 3 came out, what did you do? Yes, you hid Super Mario 2 in the deepest depths of your closet because the return of power ups in Super Mario 3 turned Mario back in the right direction in the US, and simply put, it was amazing compared to the lackluster Super Mario 2.

Still working off the success of past games, Nintendo improves each Mario with something new and different than the last. For Super Mario 3D Land, it wasn’t just one thing, but the power ups are one of the classics that they brought back and also tweaked a little bit. The super mushroom, star and the fire flower are all back to help Mario as much as possible. Along with the classics, the Tanooki suit plays a strong role in the game and makes its return to Mario for the first time since Super Mario 3 although now coming in the form of a super leaf. Adding to that, the stone statue power up is available as well, which you can acquire by finding a stone-colored leaf.

Other than that, other power ups include a white Tanooki suit and the P-Wing, but these two power ups only come at a particular time. Once the game notices a player is struggling with a particular level, the white super leaf is introduced. The white Tanooki suit is a combination of the Tanooki suit and an unlimited star power up, keeping your invulnerability in tact throughout the level.

On the same note, if you continue to struggle after the white Tanooki suit appears, the P-Wing will then appear after you lose ten lives. Picking up the P-Wing will send you straight to the flag at the end of the course providing an easier way to progress for people struggling through the game.

Although power ups have always been available in Mario, this particular set of power ups works great within the game. If the game is too challenging, you have options to help you to continue through, and if you are a hardcore Mario fan and don’t want to use those options, then you still have the classics to help you on your way.

Re-imagining of the Retro 

Let’s be honest for a second. Nintendo has always been open to its past. It has appreciated the success it has had in its franchises and often makes past experiences return to form in a new title or completely re-release an older title to be played by a newer generation.

Recently, we’ve seen this on a variety of Nintendo consoles and games. Even more recently, we’ve seen Nintendo 64 games such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Star Fox 64 remade in the 3D landscape. Even the support of the virtual console on the Nintendo Wii and the games that have been released from multiple past systems are a tribute to what Nintendo values as important in their lifespan.

With this, the Mario franchise is no different. Nintendo loves Mario and will do anything and everything to keep his past respected and his future in tact, and Super Mario 3D Land has done one of the best jobs in incorporating past Mario gameplay and reimagining it in 3D.

For instance, many enemies are back from previous Mario games. Obviously the goombas, koopas and dangerous plants are back. But also making an appearance are enemies like Rocky Wrenches and Bob-ombs.

With the world’s format and air ships at the end of each world instead of castles, it almost feels as if Super Mario 3D Land took a lot of inspiration from Super Mario 3, which is considered one of the best Mario titles.

Super Mario 3D Land is more than just a Mario in this aspect. It is as if Miyamoto himself decided they were going to use at least one aspect from every Mario to date to create this one. The experience is so refreshing to the series that you almost forget this is the newest Mario game because you are bombarded with gameplay and elements from past Marios that create a truly unique Mario world.

Not as Challenging as your Dad’s Mario

Back in the day, Mario was challenging at the minimum, with most of the worlds being downright ridiculous at times. It was indeed an accomplishment to beat any of the Mario games.

I remember spending hours on end with Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3 with each new level presenting an even more ridiculous obstacle to get through or an extremely difficult boss to fight. Those games lasted forever for me. Of course, it could have been that I was 5-10 years old at the time, but still, it was difficult for anyone to play and beat those games.

Fast forward to the present time, and Mario, especially on Nintendo handhelds, just hasn’t been that challenging. Super Mario 3D Land is, without a doubt, on par with that as well. There wasn’t much that challenged my Mario skills until the last world where, as usual, Bowser makes the rules.

The first seven worlds are still well-designed, absolutely beautiful and a lot of fun. But if you’ve played Mario before, you will breeze through them with ease. You won’t even get nervous until you hit the eighth world.

Couple this in with the fact that there are power ups in place to get you through each level even if you have never heard of Mario and are absolutely terrible at the game makes this one of the easiest Mario games to date. The challenge is really up to you. This could either be an easy except for the last world type of game or just an easy game altogether. Nintendo leaves that up to you, but it is in no way as challenging as other classic Mario titles such as Super Mario Bros. or Super Mario 64.

Conclusion

Challenging or not, Super Mario 3D Land is really a lot of fun. The 2D/3D landscape is enough to get players on board. Even without playing this game in 3D, it can hold its own. It is the fun that only Mario knows how to provide that lets this game shine as it is easily the best game for the 3DS right now.

With the 3D capabilities, it puts Mario into an area that is truly unique. The true 3D world offers an even more in depth look into our favorite video games, and Super Mario 3D Land has outdone itself in this regard. The title should generate enough interest in the 3DS to keep loyal fans happy.

So, without further adieu, Super Mario 3D Land will do a triple jump on Bowser’s head after it receives a score of 87 out of 100 due to its obvious classic gameplay and forward thinking with the 3D capabilities.