Capsule Review: Super Mario Land

A classic 2D Mario platformer. Progress through a series of themed levels by moving to the right, collecting coins and powerups, and avoiding or defeating enemies.

Mario platformers in general aren’t my cup of tea. Their powerup system, wherein you get extra abilities and lose them when you lose health, means the game gets easier as the player gets better. This regressive difficulty creates a bizarre difficulty curve with a fragile balance where challenges can often be either too hard or too easy. Additionally, the worlds and characters tend to be implausible and shallow and I find it difficult to engage with them. I’m pretty confident this is the only Mario platformer I’ve actually finished, and that’s due to its short length (it is a Game Boy launch title, after all) and the fact that I played it on the 3DS Virtual Console and was able to make use of a save state.

With the technical limitations of the Game Boy, plus this game coming so early in Mario’s career, it does some pretty weird things. Stomp a koopa and its shell explodes after a few seconds, damaging you if you haven’t moved away. The flower grants you the ability not to shoot fireballs but to launch a bouncing superball. And there are multiple vehicle sections, including the final boss fight which is essentially played as a side-scrolling space shooter. It’s interesting to see the experimentation, but it’s still fundamentally a Mario game. I was definitely ready to put it down by the time I beat it but fans of 2D Mario platformers should enjoy this one.

I Stopped Playing When: I finished the game.

Docprof's Rating:

Three Stars: Good. I liked the game enough to finish it (or just play it a bunch, for games that don't end). I recommend it to most genre fans.

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