Super Mario Land (Game Boy) Review

By Adam Riley 19.06.2011 13

Review for Super Mario Land on Game Boy

The original Game Boy will long have a special place in history, with Nintendo’s portable platform beating away numerous competitors with their superior powered systems all thanks to some extremely addictive software releases. One such game was a handheld rendition of the ever-popular Super Mario, and to recognise just how much of an influential title it proved to be back in the day, Nintendo has used Super Mario Land as one of the initial trio of additions to the Virtual Console retro download series on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. Cubed3 takes a look at Super Mario Land to see whether the charm from back in 1989/1990 remains.

Super Mario Land launched alongside the Game Boy in Japan and the US in 1989 and was seen to be the portable version of the smash hit, Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Super Mario Land is not quite the same Super Mario experience many will have played before, though, and coming to it after many years of playing through the likes of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3 and even right up to New Super Mario Bros. Wii can prove to be somewhat taxing because of various ‘oddities.’ For instance, Mario’s jump feels a little strange, with the small pixel character floating in a way that is slightly reminiscent of Princess Toadstool or Luigi in Super Mario Bros. 2 on the NES. Also, enemies such as Goombas cannot be launched off to gain extra height when jumping upon them, nor can Koopa Troopa shells be knocked around the stage (they explode instead!), plus grabbing what looks like a standard Fire Flower gives Mario the ability to…throw a bouncing ball instead of a roaring fireball. This is all likely down to the fact that the Game Boy’s creator, Gunpei Yokoi, was actually on hand as Producer, with Satoru Okada as Director after having worked on Metroid for the NES.

The same is true with regards to the soundtrack, with Hirokazu ‘Hip’ Tanaka at the helm (now the President of Creatures, Inc). The familiar tunes we all know and love are not present, yet what is included is no less special than Koji Kondo’s kla…classics. Super Mario Land caused ructions across the UK back in the early 1990s mainly due to the infectious nature of the first level’s theme tune. The eponymous piece of music was lifted, remixed and stormed the UK Music Top 40, and with good reason. That track, along with the rest of the soundtrack, make Super Mario Land even more of a pleasure to play through than it already is. Unfortunately, on the other hand, visually everything is mundane, from the half-hearted palm trees to the odd hieroglyph thrown around. Thankfully the main adventure makes up for the lack of graphical prowess, however, and the core Mario gameplay mechanic is present and correct.

Screenshot for Super Mario Land on Game Boy

Players move Mario from left-to-right, with stages disappearing off the left-hand side of the screen, never to be seen again. In other words, as with the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES, once you move across a level, there is no going back again, with the aim being to reach the final doorway to conclude the stage before the timer runs out. Along the way there are all manner of foes waiting to thwart the tiny moustachioed character’s mission to rescue Princess Daisy from the clutches of the nefarious alien, Tatanga (not to be confused with Tatanka…). Super Mario Land is not set in the Mushroom Kingdom, but instead a place called Sarasaland and its four kingdoms, Birabuto, Muda, Easton and Chai. The plot does somewhat mirror that of Super Mario Bros. in that the Princess has been kidnapped and imposters ‘pretend’ to be her at the various towers Mario passes through after beating boss characters, yet obviously Yokoi-san and Okada-san wanted to ensure players could definitely distinguish between the Game Boy and NES adventures clearly enough.

Screenshot for Super Mario Land on Game Boy

In terms of level structure, Super Mario Land is indeed akin to Super Mario Bros., albeit on a smaller scale. Two standard stages are worked through before reaching a boss level, defeating it and then finding an imposter in place of Daisy, before moving onto the next world. Rinse, then repeat until the final credits roll. However, there are a couple of twists in the form of the side-scrolling action areas where the screen constantly moves and Mario must navigate his way through to the end safely in either the Marine Pop submarine or Sky Pop aeroplane, using each machine’s fire power to zap enemies and obstacles away in what is basically a mini-shmup. There particular elements are a great change of pace and something that would be welcomed should they return in future Mario outings.

The only real drawback with Super Mario Land is that despite its faithfulness to the NES side-scrolling platform legend, rather than being thirty-two stages, broken down into four levels across eight different worlds, it is instead a three levels per sector, and only four areas in total. The twelve zones can be flown through in their entirety, even reaching the special end-of-level exits, in little over an hour, maximum. Should Mario run out of lives, there is the option to continue from where he left off until all ‘Continue’ tokens run out, thus leading to a complete restart being required. The Virtual Console allows for a temporary restore point to be created as well, which is handy for games that do not include a save function, such as Super Mario Land, but also removes some of the challenge from days gone by when each new game required the player to start afresh.

Screenshot for Super Mario Land on Game Boy

One particular note to point out, and this goes for all original Game Boy Virtual Console releases, is that if you hold down the L and R shoulder buttons on the 3DS, tapping Y will switch between the old school shades of green from the very first Game Boy model to the crisper black and white of the Game Boy Lite edition. Additionally, holding Start and Select as the game boots up brings up the old Game Boy as a frame, with Super Mario Land running in a smaller window, slightly sunk into the screen to give the impression of playing on the old system! Little touches like this definitely make the retro experience even more enjoyable. However, in all honesty, because the Game Boy border shrinks everything, playing with the zoomed-in, non-bordered option is preferable to see the action better and make those tricky platform sections a tiny bit easier to traverse. Super Mario Land remains a classic, but some of the sheen has started to wear off on the presentation side, and other than being able to play through a Hard Mode upon completion, the longevity side is lacking. For £3.60, though, it is without doubt worth the purchase.

Screenshot for Super Mario Land on Game Boy

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Despite not particularly ageing too well, looking graphically rather shabby and not offering a considerable amount of challenge or any replay value, at its heart Super Mario Land is still a fantastic piece of history in the platform genre, and a thoroughly enjoyable romp for Mario fans in general.






2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (6 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


Haven't played this in years and years but I remember getting it with my Game Boy and loving it. I think I replayed through it 4 times straight to see if the game would get progressively harder the more times you beat it!

I remember in particular the awesome music though, especially Easton Kingdom and Chai. Mario controlled a bit differently, and his sudden heavy drop down from jumping could prove fatal sometimes, but it just took some getting used to.

It was also refreshing to see new enemies, a new antagonist, new princess and new world. Sarasaland and its inhabitants were all awesome and it's a surprise they haven't revisited it in a future game. It would be great to have a 3D Mario set in this world again and give the Mario series a chance to show its weird and quirky side because that's the impression I get from this strange land.

Back in the day I loved it but you can tell it's not quite up to the other standards he set on consoles. But certainly any Mario and platformer fan should try to give this a whirl if only to play a more unique experience in the Mario series.

( Edited 19.06.2011 20:40 by Azuardo )

I'm pretty sure this and its sequel are the only main Mario games I haven't played. I might pick this one up.

Image for

From Brawl in the Family! Smilie

( Edited 19.06.2011 22:17 by Ifrit XXII )

^ Haha, pretty much sums it up!

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The fact that the Game Boy Marios were handled by R&D1 (lead by Gunpei Yokoi) instead of the usual team behind the NES Marios seems to be the major reason why they're so different IMO. That's what makes you wanna say "what the heck" XD.

This one was OK, but doesn't compare to the awesomeness of Super Mario Land 2 : Six Golden Coins Smilie.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

I actually still have a physical copy of Six Golden Coins <3

That shit was epic. Might get this one. MIGHT.

~Getting on C3's massive tits since 2K5.~

I get so much nostalgia from playing this game. The music is great.

I don't actually remember anything being different to typical Mario games to be honest. Maybe I hadn't had Mario stereotypes drilled into my head quite as firmly back then though. Smilie

This game was pretty sweet back in the day, but £3.60? Seriously? God Nintendo are money grabbing bastards.

It's on my "to buy" list once I eventually get a 3DS next year.

Ehhh, i've got the original cartridge. It doesn't warrant a overpriced emulation purchase i'm afraid.


I just love my Nintendo 3ds so many awsome games Nintendo always made the best sytems I remeber my nintendo it was 8 bit but was awsome with games like duck hunt and the power pad and mario ahhhhh thoose were the days I may have other sytems but I will always love nintendo I am will be a nintendo fan for life .

I remember getting this game the same day I got my huge chunky white GameBoy (not launch). I did not know what the hell I was supposed to do, and when I came across the first enemy I died. After a few tries I managed to get the hang of what to do. It has been a gem in my gaming mind for years and I still would like to play it, but I think it is a bit steep on the 3DS VC channel.

SuperYoshi6 PSN name
3DS friend code 2878-9581-8999
AdamC3 (guest) 07.07.2011#13

I really don't mind £3.60 because you'd pay more than that for some shoddy copy off eBay...I understand why people are complaining, but doesn't this work out at around 350 Points, which is better than the 500 for NES games through the Wii VC!

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