Super Mario Land
|Super Mario Land|
North American box art
|Platform(s)||Game Boy, Nintendo 3DS|
Super Mario Land[a] is a 1989 side-scrolling platform video game developed and published by Nintendo as a launch title for their Game Boy handheld game console. It is the first Mario platform game ever to be released for a handheld console. In gameplay similar to that of the 1985 Super Mario Bros., but resized for the smaller device's screen, the player advances Mario to the end of 12 levels by moving to the right and jumping across platforms to avoid enemies and pitfalls. Unlike other Mario games, Super Mario Land is set in Sarasaland, a new environment depicted in line art, and Mario pursues Princess Daisy (who makes her debut in this game). The game also includes two Gradius-style shooter levels.
At Nintendo CEO Hiroshi Yamauchi's request, Game Boy creator Gunpei Yokoi's Nintendo R&D1 developed a Mario game to sell the new console. It was the first portable version of Mario and the first to be made without Mario creator and Yokoi protégé Shigeru Miyamoto. Accordingly, the development team shrunk Mario gameplay elements for the device and used some elements inconsistently from the series. Super Mario Land was expected to showcase the console until Nintendo of America bundled Tetris with new Game Boys. The game launched alongside the Game Boy first in Japan (April 1989) and later worldwide. Super Mario Land was later rereleased for the Nintendo 3DS via Virtual Console in 2011 again as a launch title, which featured some tweaks to the game's presentation.
The game was lauded by critics, who were satisfied with the franchise's transition to the Game Boy, but noted its short length. The handheld console became an immediate success and Super Mario Land ultimately sold over 18 million copies, more than that of Super Mario Bros. 3. Both contemporaneous and retrospective reviewers particularly praised the game's soundtrack. The game begot a series of sequels, including Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (1992) and Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (1994), the latter of which would later be spun-off into its own sub-series. Considered among the console's best launch titles, the game has been included in several top Game Boy game lists and debuted Princess Daisy as a recurring Mario series character.
As a side-scrolling platform game and the first in the Super Mario Land series, Super Mario Land is similar in gameplay to its forebears: as Mario, the player advances to the end of the level by moving to the right and jumping across platforms to avoid enemies and pitfalls, the screen only scrolls to the right, as the player advances, but will not scroll back to the left, sections of a level that have passed off screen cannot be revisited. In Super Mario Land, Mario travels to Sarasaland to save Princess Daisy from Tatanga, an evil spaceman. Two of the game's twelve levels are "forced-scrolling" Gradius-style shooters where Mario helms a submarine or airplane and fires projectiles towards oncoming enemies, destructible blocks and bosses. Levels end with a platforming challenge to reach an alternative exit located above the regular exit, the former leading to a chutes and ladders style bonus minigame that awards 1 to 3 extra lives or a Superball Flower power-up.
Unlike other Mario games, which take place in the Mushroom Kingdom, Super Mario Land is set in Sarasaland and drawn in line art. Mario pursues Princess Daisy, in her debut, rather than the series standard damsel in distress, Princess Peach. When jumped on, Koopa shells explode after a small delay, Mario throws bouncing balls rather than fireballs (referred to as "Superballs" in the manual), 1-Up Mushroom power-ups are depicted as hearts, and the level-end flagpoles are replaced with a platforming challenge. Compared to Super Mario Bros., which contains 32 levels subdivided into 8 "worlds" with 4 levels each, Super Mario Land is smaller, with 12 levels subdivided into 4 "worlds" with 3 levels each. There are five unique bosses, one at the end of each of the four worlds, and a fifth and final boss being Tatanga, who appears when the fourth boss is defeated. The first three bosses may be destroyed with projectiles, or the player may move past them to the exit without destroying them first; the last level has no regular exit, and the two bosses at the end of that level must be destroyed with projectiles to complete the level and the game. Some elements recur from previous Mario games, such as blocks suspended in midair, moving platforms that must be used to traverse pitfalls, pipes that lead to other areas, collectible coins that grant an extra life when 100 are collected, and Goomba enemies. After the player has completed the game they may play through again on a harder mode, in which the levels are the same apart from enemies being more numerous; if the player completes the harder mode, the game allows the player to start another play on any level in the game.
Super Mario Land was developed by Nintendo R&D1 and published by Nintendo in 1989 as a launch title for their Game Boy handheld console. Nintendo CEO Hiroshi Yamauchi believed that fun games sold consoles, so when the company created the Game Boy handheld console, he wanted a fun game that would feature Nintendo's mascot, Mario, and subsequently sell consoles. The job fell to Nintendo R&D1, a development team led by Game Boy inventor Gunpei Yokoi. Yokoi had previously created the Game & Watch series and worked with his protégé, Shigeru Miyamoto, on the game that invented Mario, Donkey Kong. Super Mario Land was the fourth Super Mario title, the first portable Mario game, and the first in the series to be made without Miyamoto.
Absent Miyamoto's direction, the development team used elements new and inconsistent with the series as Super Mario Land shrunk elements of the series to fit the portable device's small screen. Yokoi, the head of R&D1, served as producer, and Satoru Okada served as director. They had previously developed Metroid (1986) and Kid Icarus (1986) together, and the two subsequently designed the Game Boy—Yokoi on its industrial design, and Okada on its engineering. Their Super Mario Land was planned as the portable console's showcase title until Henk Rogers brought Tetris to Nintendo of America and convinced Minoru Arakawa that the addictive computer game would help Nintendo reach the largest audience. The company subsequently chose to bundle Tetris with every Game Boy purchase.
The Game Boy was released in Japan in April 1989, North America in July, and Europe in September 1990, and Super Mario Land was a launch title. The game's official first release was on April 21, 1989, in Japan, and its North American release followed in August. About 22 years later, Super Mario Land was released for the Nintendo 3DS via Virtual Console on June 6, 2011, as one of its opening titles. Its added features include an increased size (about 60 percent zoom) and an optional "shades of green" color palette to match the effect of the original Game Boy's monochrome.
Critics saw Super Mario Land as a "smaller" and shorter version of Super Mario Bros.. IGN's Lucas Thomas wrote that the protagonist, enemies, and overall game were shorter, and noted that Mario himself was just 12 pixels in height on the Game Boy's small screen. With this in mind, Thomas was concerned about player "eyestrain" in rereleases of the game. Still, IGN's Levi Buchanan thought the game made no compromises in its size reduction. At the time of its release in 1989, reviewers were excited to have a portable Mario game. Paul Rand of Computer and Video Games called the game "an arcade machine in your pocket" and the graphics "remarkable" for their size. French games magazine Player One felt that Super Mario Land adequately compromised where necessary to bring Mario to a portable device. Electronic Gaming Monthly's Steve Harris considered the game "fantastic" and "very fun to play", albeit short. Ed Semrad and Donn Nauert of the same outlet both declared Super Mario Land "easily the best Game Boy cart" of the time. Complex's Gus Turner wrote that the graphics were "simple", and Official Nintendo Magazine said the game was "ridiculously short". Eurogamer reported that the game could be finished in under an hour.
Complex's Gus Turner wrote that the game had the fun, intuitiveness, and difficulty associated with the series, and Tony Mott of Superplay said the game proved that Nintendo's Game Boy "had playability to match" its competitors. Matt Regan of Mean Machines agreed: "Playability to the nth degree!" British magazines Mean Machines and The Games Machine both commented on the game's number of secrets to find. Eurogamer's Chris Schilling called Hirokazu Tanaka's soundtrack "surely one of the all-time greats", and Official Nintendo Magazine said it was among the "greatest videogame music ever composed". Player One, Eurogamer, and Complex too complimented the music. Player One further pronounced Super Mario Land a "masterpiece", "the pinnacle of portable video gaming".
The game began a Super Mario Land series of portable Mario games. Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins added a non-linear overworld and introduced Wario, an evil version of Mario, as the game's villain. The subsequent Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 began the Wario franchise. After 19 years, the 2011 title Super Mario 3D Land for the Nintendo 3DS became Mario's first game in stereoscopic 3D. Audrey Drake of IGN argued that both Wario Land and Super Mario 3D Land were not "legitimate sequels", and wrote that the latter felt more like "Super Mario Bros. 3 with Mario Galaxy influences" than a successor to Super Mario Land 2. The Superball Flower appears in Super Mario Maker 2 as an unlockable power-up item, usable only in the Super Mario Bros. style.
Super Mario Land is remembered for its miniaturized Super Mario elements and "twist on just about every Mario mainstay imaginable". Many of its new elements did not recur later in the series, making Super Mario Land strange compared to the rest of the series, or what IGN's Thomas described as a "singular oddball". IGN's Marc Nix felt retrospectively that Super Mario Land was the only uninspired Mario game, with "funky voids of white" and UFOs instead of the "strikingly original" Mushroom Kingdom. Mean Machines was also put off by the alien theme, easy difficulty, and dot matrix screen blur. IGN's Travis Fahs wrote that the game was comparatively not as "ambitious" as Super Mario Bros. 3. Mean Machines felt as if it was not "a true Mario game", not worth its originally high review score, and "in retrospect, not really a classic". Glen Fox of Nintendo Life agreed, writing that it was an impressive achievement at the time but did not age as well as other Mario games.
Eurogamer's Schilling wrote that Mario felt different—lighter, with more friction—and that the game felt "radical and distinctive" for the risks it took. IGN's Thomas cited "out of place" gameplay elements like the shooter levels, exploding Koopa shells, non-extinguishing fireballs, and non-Princess Peach plot as departures from the series. Thomas attributed this to Mario creator Miyamoto's lack of involvement in the game's development, which he described as "famously hands-off". Schilling of Eurogamer instead blamed the Game Boy's technical limitations. But he too was perplexed by the new sphinx, seahorse, and Moai head enemies, and considered the exploding Koopa shells a "cruel trick" disdainful of the series' core gameplay. Super Mario Land's shooter levels, new to the series, were not revisited in subsequent series games. And subsequent series games such as Super Mario Land 2 both dropped the original's tiny scale and chose the classic fire flower fireballs over the first installment's bouncing balls.
The game was included in multiple rankings of top Game Boy games, and Official Nintendo Magazine listed it at 73 in its top 100 Nintendo games. After her debut in Super Mario Land, Princess Daisy appears in later Mario series sports and racing games.
- Super Mario Land (スーパーマリオランド, Sūpā Mario Rando)
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- Official website (in Japanese)