I grew up on Super Mario Land, it was one of the original launch titles for the Game Boy. It has been 20+ years since I’ve played it and I still own it somewhere. For those that don’t know, Super Mario Land is a 2D side scrolling platformer featuring everyone’s favorite plumber (unless you’re related to one), Mario! Oh but its not just that… to break up the platforming action, there are two side scrolling shoot’em ups that put Mario in the cockpit of a submarine and then an airplane.
This game is still a classic today. I just spent an hour playing it to complete it twice. The game is broken up into four worlds with three levels each. Although I always think ‘land’ is a more appropriate term than ‘world,’ but whatever translations. Each level has a different look to it that fits the world’s theme. Egyptian, aquatic, rock and Skynese because it incorporates Chinese and the sky.. The tiles change from level to level. Mario himself is taller and wider than the blocks, making me think he was originally supposed to be smaller, but no one could recognize him so they made him look more like his Nintendo counterpart.
Special enemies change from world to world with the exception of common goombas, piranha plants and koopas. The koopas don’t have a shell that bounces anymore, instead for this game after you hop on them their shell detonates like a bomb. Bullet bill cannons come out of pipes like piranha plants. Each world has its own hopping enemy, that gets reskinned and tweaked. There is a lot of enemy diversity overall in this game. Rotating discs that were later used in Super Mario Bros 3, resurrecting enemies in the fourth world, spiders that drop from the ceiling, walking flowers that spit fire into the air and so much more. It all adds to the challenge and keeps the mind going how you’ll tackle each enemy.
Mario can still go down certain pipes where you’ll discover a wealth of coins! Collecting 100 coins gets a 1-Up. You can also get an extra life from hearts that pop out of boxes. Not just that, but you can also find power ups to help Mario on his way. The super mushroom to make Mario taller and take an extra hit before he loses a life and starts back at the latest checkpoint. When super powered, he can also break weaker blocks from underneath. If Mario is super powered, you can find the fire flower, that gives Mario a projectile that bounces like a rubber ball, reflecting off the floor, ceilings and walls. There is also a starman power up that will grant Mario invincibility for a short period of time.
Like the first Super Mario Bros for the Nintendo, the screen can only move right. There is no moving the screen left. However, Mario still has full control to move left, right, duck (when tall), jump and run. The movement feels a little stiff, because its one of the first Game Boy Games.
There is no save feature, because this is only a thirty minute game. When you run out of lives, you get one continue. Luckily checkpoints are everywhere. To keep the game easier, at the end of the first two levels in each world, you’ll find two exits. The top exit is the difficult one to get to, but you’re always rewarded with a bonus mini game that shuffles Mario and a ladder on four hallways. At the end of each hallway is extra lives or a fire flower. When you confirm, Mario is forced to walk forward and take the ladder if its available to get what’s at the end of the hall.
In all, while this game was short, and has its flaws like not being able to make pinpoint jumps, it still stands out as a great game today. It was rooted in the first Super Mario Bros, but its enemies were a sign of the future to come with Super Mario Bros 3.