Super Mario Land was a popular launch title for the GameBoy way back when in 1989, which was actually slightly before I was born oddly enough. Still, this game holds a special place in my heart, as the original GameBoy was the first console I owned and this was one of the very first games I ever played. I’m rather sad that this game doesn’t get as much recognition compared to its more popular brethren because it’s honestly a very solid game that is still very fun to just pick up and play today.
While the graphics were nothing entirely groundbreaking, the simplicity of it all certainly got the job done. Each world tended to feature unique enemies, as well as some recurring ones, from Voltorb-esque Goombas to exploding Koopas to flying Maoi statues. Sadly, many of these enemies aren’t seen anywhere else in the franchise, which is a damn shame because having Mario stomp on rolling Easter Island heads is just sheer hilarity. There was a fair amount of variation in landscape as Mario traveled around the world, from Egypt to China, to save his beloved…Daisy… Hm, I wonder if Peach knew about this. I also believe this is the only Mario game that featureed levels that were side-scrolling shoot-em-ups, in which Mario took control of a submarine and a fighter jet. How cool is that?!
However, I must admit that the controls will feel a bit strange compared to most Mario platformers. While our plumber is still very controllable in mid-air during his jumps, an aspect that the first Super Mario Bros. popularized, the way he lands may be awkward to some people. Unlike most games where Mario slides a bit after landing, he lands like a rock in this game, which can take a little getting used to, especially during times that require precision jumping. Though for the most part, the controls are very fluid, like the quality Mario we’ve come to expect.
Despite only having a handful of tracks, the music in this game is very good, catchy, and full of chiptune goodness. As much as I love Koji Kondo, Hirokazu Tanaka (Metroid, Tetris, Kid Icarus) did a really fantastic job. I feel that the overworld theme for this game should get as much attention as the original theme from Super Mario Bros. Personally, I think the Super Mario Land theme is actually better than the latter.
All in all, Super Mario Land was and still is classic platforming fun, providing an interesting diversion for those who are used to the Mario franchise as it is famous for today.
- Graphics can seem a bit barren at times, as well as the small distorted sprites (seriously, what the heck is that jumping enemy in the first world?)
- Awkward jumping controls take some getting used to.
- Relatively short at only 12 levels. I can beat the game in half an hour.
- Great, memorable, and very underrated music.
- Tight controls, coupled with unique stage designs that keep things fresh with each world.
- It’s classic Mario! And yet, a different Mario than what most of us are used to.