Super Mario Land was a launch title for the Game Boy way back in 1989. It was the first Mario platformer game to be released on a handheld console and it’s a bit quirky and different compared to other 2d Mario platformers you are probably used to playing. The question is, is it still fun to play today?
The basic story is that Mario has to save Princess Daisy, from the bad guy in this game, Tatanga, who is an evil space dude. The game is based in Sarasaland and not the usual Mushroom Kingdom. But you probably don’t play 2d Mario platformers for their story anyway.
The first thing that you notice when playing Super Mario Land is even for a Game Boy game, everything is very small, Mario is only 12 pixels tall. This looks tiny compared with Super Mario Land 2, where Mario looks more normal size to what you would expect from other games in the series. I actually quite like it, but it does seem very different. The backgrounds are also quite simple compared to other platformers on the Game Boy, like Donkey Kong Land, but for a portable game from 1989 it looks fine and you can still tell it’s a Mario game.
The basics of the gameplay is like most platformers, get to the end of the level, jumping on platforms and avoiding or killing the bad dudes. At the end of each level there are two doors and if you complete the level through the top door you get a little mini game, for a chance to win extra lives or a power up.
However, everything is just a bit different from a normal Mario game. This is because it was directed by Gunpei Yokoi, the creator of the Game Boy instead of the creator of Mario, Shigeru Miyamoto.
Firstly you’ll notice that when you jump on Koopa’s, you can’t pick up their shells and throw them. Instead they turn into bombs when you jump on them. If you play this after playing a normal Mario game, this can catch you out and kill you. There are superballs instead of Fire flowers, which are like bouncy balls and fire off at odd angles, making them a little tricky to aim. There are also two auto scrolling shooting levels, which put Mario in a submarine and an aeroplane. I actually quite like these levels, but they do seem a little different for a Mario platformer.
The boss fights are a tad more varied than the usual early Mario games. Only the first boss is the classic easy jump over, the others are either shooting at you in crafts or throwing rocks at you.
Generally though the levels are well designed and are fun to play through.
The music in this game is superb. All of the tunes are catchy and classic Mario and fit with the world that you are in. Level one is classic catchy Mario, but my favourite is probably the world 4 Asian themed music.
The game only has 12 levels spread across 4 different worlds. The average gamer who hasn’t ever played this game before could probably complete this game in just half an hour. However, this makes it a good game to pick up and play if you haven’t got a lot of time. It’s satisfying to complete a game every time you pick it up and because the levels are fun it doesn’t make it boring. You pretty much have to complete the game every time you game it, as the game does not allow you to save your progress. At the end of the game you get a score, which increases depending on how many coins you collect, your time and how bad dudes you kill, but the only way of saving it is taking a photo of it. Once you do complete the game a hard mode is unlocked, indicated by Mario’s head replacing the Mushroom on the title screen. In this mode, more enemies appear in every level, and completing it unlocks a level select option.
Is it worth playing today?
So the question today is, should I pick this classic game up? If you have a Game Boy, you definitely need to add this fun little game to your collection. It’s the first handheld Mario platformer, the levels are fun, if a little short and the music is great. It’s a game that you can just pick up when you don’t have too much time and get a quick fix of Mario fun. It’s also cheap to pick up.
So I give Super Mario Land a rating of “still fun to play” today and you should definitely pick it up to play a bit of Mario history.