Super Mario 3D Land is yet another quality effort from Nintendo, but it’s also a bit easy, to the point where I had in excess of 22 lives the majority of the time.
Check out Lakitu, acting all big and bad atop his cloud.
In fact, the game’s developers practically give lives away, with a large assortment of coins, power-ups, 1-ups and even the reliable P-Wing that lets players instantly go from the beginning of a level to the end. The publisher even drops a special Tanooki Suit that makes the plumber invincible throughout the entirely of a stage, freeing players from having to worry about enemies. Even Bowser and his humongous fireballs don’t pose a threat.
This runs contrary to the original Super Mario Bros., released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985. There were plenty of times where I desperately clung to a single life in World 4-1 under the constant threat of the cloud flying Lakitu, or narrowly avoided spinning fire wheels in one of Bowser’s castles, only to die and restart. Yes, a talented gamer can beat Super Mario Bros. in less than six minutes, but make no mistake. It was significantly more difficult than today’s Mario titles.
The same held true with Super Mario Land on Game Boy, circa 1989. Not a long game by any means, but it still offered a tougher challenge than Super Mario 3D Land. I never had 25 lives, that’s for sure.
That said, Nintendo has definitely taken steps to make Mario’s games more user friendly, especially for kids. This started way back in 1988 with Super Mario Bros. 2. Gamers inserted gold coins, accumulated during a stage, into a slot machine that generously doled out extra lives. It was tough amassing more than 15, but it was obvious that SMB 2 (despite having the Doki Doki Panic foundation) was marginally easier than its predecessor.
The Super Mario Bros. 2 slot machine.
Nintendo continued this trend with Super Mario Bros. 3, which allowed players to skip levels and stockpile a huge number of power-ups. You could still screw up and lose them all, but I never took something like the Hammer Bros. seriously, not with five fire flowers on hand and 19 lives in the bank.
From there, Mario games only became easier, through Super Mario World on Super Nintendo all the way up to Super Mario Galaxy 2 on Wii. No pushovers by any means, but not as maddening as the aforementioned World 4-1 when I was younger.
Nintendo must have agreed, because New Super Mario Bros. on Wii is the toughest Mario game to appear in well over a decade. It’s quite irritating, but in a good way that harks back to when games were much less forgiving. You’ll definitely get your monies worth out of that one.
Super Mario 3D Land? Total pushover, and just as easy to beat as New Super Mario Bros.on DS. In fact, the only stage that gave us problems was the final showdown with Bowser, which challenges players to avoid a whole mess of fireballs along the way. Of course, Nintendo tempts players with the super Tanooki Suit and P-Wing, but at least on the positive side, you have a choice in whether or not to use it.
Hey Bowser, how do 35 lives sound?
Taking all of this into account, it’s easy to see why Nintendo made this switch in difficulty. Mario’s immensely popular, in part because his games are so accessible to players of all ages.
To be fair, collecting all the gold star coins in Super Mario 3D Land will take quite some time.
With this in mind, perhaps it would be a good idea for the big N to release Mario titles with multiple difficulty levels, just in case hardcore players want a bigger challenge.
[Editor’s Note: Although we found Super Mario 3D Land a bit on the easy side, it still packs at least 10 hours of thoroughly entertaining content, and we’ve had trouble putting it down. Excellent game overall.]