Super Mario Land is a 2D platformer in the Mario series for the Game Boy. There may be a more complex plot in the manual, but I don’t have that so the main plot of the game itself seems to be that you, Mario, are trying to save Daisy. That’s uh… that about all I could gather, but that’s really all you need. Save the damsel in distress. Simple enough. The game shares many similarities with the first Super Mario Bros actually. You run and jump your way through a linear sequence of levels. You can get mushrooms and flowers to power up. You can fight off koopas and goombas while collecting coins and going down pipes to find secrets. You can jump on your enemies or shoot them with the projectile powerup from the flower. And there’s a boss at the end of each world. Beat the final boss, save the girl, and the credits roll. All of that is pretty standard Mario stuff for the time. But wait, there’s more!
Super Mario Land introduces new enemies, such as robots, spiders, rock monsters, and even kung-fu masters. Each world has its own new and unique boss to fight. Even the koopas have a nasty new trick of having their shells explode after you stomp them so you can’t hang around one once it’s defeated. The worlds are visually interesting as well, including new textures and such to make them visually different than those in the mushroom kingdom. In fact, the visuals of the game in general seem quite small in scale to fit on the screen while also keeping up the speed of the gameplay. Plus, it even has color if you play it on a Super Game Boy, Game Boy Color, or Game Boy Advance! And of course the natural difference of it being Mario on the go for the first time is notable. There are a few slightly different paths you can take in the levels that may be easier or harder. These are usually only accessible if you are the right size or can find the secret way to them. At the end of the non-boss levels there will also be a high door and a low door, The high door is trickier to get to, but entering it will allow you to play a quick minigame afterwards to possibly earn a flower powerup or some extra lives. And speaking of the flower power up, it works a little different than the fire flower from Super Mario Bros. You still shoot a projectile in the same manner, but this projectile will bounce around the screen collecting coins until it either leaves the screen, hits an enemy, or is out for a certain amount of time. The newest inclusion are levels that put Mario into a vehicle that you can shoot and move freely around the scrolling screen, much in the same fashion as a space shooter. So there’s plenty new as well as familiar.
I like the colorization. It’s very basic but very pretty. The music repeats tracks a few times, but it’s quite catchy. The gameplay is tight and somewhat momentum based, just like Super Mario Bros. I like that the explosive koopa shells keep you moving. The ball that collects coins as well as attacks enemies is pretty neat, too. You need to be careful with that though because you can only have one out at a time. The new enemies and environments keep you on your toes as well. Plus, those space shooter sections are a really neat mix into the gameplay. When it comes right down to it, though, this is just a real fun time to play through and experience in one sitting. Of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t see the shortcomings.
The short length might turn some people away, as it’s not exactly a big adventure to invest your time into. The small visuals might be tough to decipher on an original Game Boy and certainly lack details because of the scale. The momentum of the controls might be awkward sometimes as Mario can’t just turn on a dime and drops like a rock. This can be compounded with the weird hitboxes. Sometimes you think you’re going to hit an enemy but while your pixels make contact it still doesn’t count because the hitboxes didn’t. Also, a few of the secret paths rely on you just magically knowing or finding totally invisible platforms, which is a tad ridiculous. So the game isn’t flawless.
Super Mario Land is still great game, though. It’s a nice, short, fun romp through something familiar yet new. It’s a must-have for Mario fans and Game Boy owners alike. I’m pretty sure it’s on Nintendo’s eshops as well, so no excuses. And if you liked the first Super Mario Bros, this is a great companion piece to it. So why not check it out for some classic action you might have missed? I’d say it’s worth about 20 bucks or less. I mean, you’ll be replaying it now and then because of the short and fun nature of the game, but I wouldn’t expect you to go dropping a fortune on the experience. I just don’t want you to write it off simply because of the system it was one or its age. That’s all. Check it out. Or don’t. I’m not the boss of you.