Of my Super Mario adventure
My girl is trapped on the other side of town
So I'm movin' in leaps and bounds
Folks around my way think I'm strange
But there's a villain to blame
Even my ma, she thinks I'm crazy
But I've got to rescue Daisy (let's go!)
Released on the then-debuting Game Boy, Super Mario Land marks the famed plumber's first handheld adventure in the Super Mario Bros. history, and fifth overall. Along with Tetris, it was one of the original launch titles for the system, released in 1989. In this game, Mario travels through Sarasaland to rescue Princess Daisy from the alien invader Tatanga. To do so, he also has to liberate the inner kingdoms as they have been overtaken by the villain.
Unlike most installments of the franchise, Super Mario Land had no involvement from series creator Shigeru Miyamoto and his EAD development group, the game instead being produced by Gunpei Yokoi and developed by Nintendo R&D1, the team who were responsible for all Metroid games from the original to Zero Mission except for the Metroid Prime sub-series (which was outsourced). The sprites in this platformer are very small, due to the Game Boy's small screen, which supports only four shades of gray. As a result, the game stylistically and mechanically harkens back to the original Super Mario Bros. and by extension The Lost Levels, instead of the more sophisticated (and, at the time, still in full swing) Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3. The sequel, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, had larger sprites and marked the debut of Mario's Evil Counterpart, Wario.
Other differences from Super Mario Bros.:
- Mario's jump physics are noticeably different from the main games; for instance, when Mario jumps diagonally, you can't control how it moves (although you can when it jumps straight up) and he maintains no momentum.
- Instead of fireballs, the flower powerup gives Mario the ability to throw "superballs", weaponized balls which bounce off their targets at 90-degree angles. Difficult to use effectively outdoors, but they can be fun when there's a ceiling. It did have the perk of collecting any coins it hit.
- The game has two automatically scrolling areas. In the first, Mario pilots a submarine, the "Marine Pop"; in the second, he flies an airplane, the "Sky Pop". These are Unexpected Shmup Levels.
- Koopa shells cannot be kicked, and are in fact bombs that explode after a few seconds of being stopped.
- Enemies retain their transliterated Japanese names.
- Hearts replace 1-Up Mushrooms as items that grant extra lives.
- Instead of the usual eight worlds, the game has only four, with three levels to a world for a total of 12 levels (not counting the final boss battle), and no warp zones.
- The otherwise common melodies known in the Mario series are not present.
The game is also notable for being the First Appearance of Princess Daisy. While she has yet to properly appear in another mainline Mario title, she would later go on to become a staple of the franchise's many spin-offs, where she would develop a distinctive Tomboy Princess characterization, a friendship with Princess Peach, and an implied relationship with Mario's brother Luigi.
This game contains examples of:
- Alien Abduction: Tatanga, who kicks in the events of the game by kidnapping Princess Daisy.
- Alien Invasion: Led by Tatanga, who proceeds to take over Sarasaland and the four inner kingdoms after kidnapping Daisy.
- Ancient Astronauts: Invoked Trope, given that Sarasaland is made up of four areas with connections to alien or myths of paranormal phenomenon (Ancient Egypt, The Bermuda Triangle, Easter Island, and China).
- Antepiece: The game has great level design involving interesting yet accessible setpieces. One tool it'll use is to build up to a complicated setpiece with an "antepiece". One example is the third boss, who tries to crush Mario by throwing bouncing stones. A little before you will encounter him, you can see one of those bouncing stones. That anticipatory stone doesn't present much danger, because it only bounces beneath the question boxes, which you can jump onto. The purpose of the stone is to warn you about what is ahead and maybe give you the opportunity to practice dodging and jumping on them in an enclosed environment.
- Big Bad: Tatanga, the main responsible for the kidnapping of Princess Daisy and the chaos spread over Sarasaland.
- "Blind Idiot" Translation:
- The English manual is more or less a direct translation of the Japanese, with enemy names transliterated rather than being renamed in localization, as is the norm for this series. Even when a localization convention exists, it is ignored: thus, Piranha Plants go by "Pakkun Flower" (their Japanese name) in this game, and enemies that are obviously intended to be subspecies of normal Mario enemies (i.e. Gira for Kira or Bullet Bill, or Nokobonnote for Nokonoko or Koopa Troopa) wind up with names that are completely incomprehensible to English-speaking fans. Granted, none of this comes up in the game itself, but the manual is meant to be a companion piece to the game.
- The names of the game's locations suffered as well, albeit slightly less so as the puns on real world locations (Muda Kingdom for Bermuda, Easton Kingdom for Easter Island, Chai Kingdom for China) are mostly still comprehensible in translation. The exception is world one, Birabuto Kingdom, which was completely misread from the original Japanese by virtue of the translator confusing a handakuten for a dakuten. The intended name is Piraputo kingdom, a portmanteau of "pyramid" (piramido) and "Egypt" (Ejiputo). "Piraputo" or even "Pyrypt" would have been acceptable translations, but "Birabuto" is completely wrong.
- The 2011 Virtual Console re-release fixed some of this by renaming some of the common enemies, like "Goombo" (Chibibonote ) and "Bullet Biff" (Gira).
- Bonus Stage: In true Super Mario fashion, there are several hidden areas inside pipes where the player can find lots of coins. Interestingly, some of them have Spikes of Doom, making for a rare chance to actually die in a bonus stage.
- Chinese Vampire: Pionpi, an immortal (unless you use Super Balls) hopping enemy in World 4-1.
- Copy-and-Paste Environments: Even more so than SMB. You'll go through areas you've seen before. It's deja vu all over again.
- Cumulonemesis: Biokinton, the bird-throwing cloud battled right before Tatanga in World 4.
- Damsel in Distress: Princess Daisy, who replaces Princess Peach in this role for this game. It's also the only time in the Mario series when she's kidnapped at all.
- Detachable Lower Half: Mekabons, robot enemies in the Muda Kingdom, throw their heads at Mario. Both halves can be Goomba Stomped separately.
- Eenie, Meenie, Miny Moai: World 3, the Easter Island-themed Easton Kingdom. It even has living moai head enemies called Tokotoko.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console re-release modified the translation of enemy names, with one being an example: Bombshell Koopas. When stomped on, their shells explode without Mario getting a chance to kick them.
- Expy: Princess Daisy is Princess Peach in a yellow dress.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: In contrast to the usual Super Mario Bros. settings, every level is directly inspired by a real-world setting. Birabuto is based on Ancient Egypt, Muda is based on Bermuda, Easton is based on Easter Island, and Chai is based on highland China.
- Four-Element Ensemble: The variety of locations gives the game an exotic feel that most Mario games don't have. Each of the kingdoms, and the bosses associated with them, can also be associated with one of the classical elements. The Fire kingdom of Birabuto is based on the deserts of Egypt and ruled by the fire-breathing King Totomesu; the Water kingdom of Muda is a series of tropical islands and an underwater stage ruled by the seahorse Dragonzamasu; the Earth kingdom of Easton is a mountainous place filled with rocklike Ganchans and ruled by the Ganchan-throwing Hiyoihoi; and the Air kingdom of Chai is a series of highlands and a flying stage ruled by the mysterious Blokinton, who hides within a large cloud and attacks by hurling flying Chickens at Mario.
- Giant Spider: World 3-2 and 3-3 will greet you to these guys.
- Gratuitous Japanese:
- Most of the monster names are still in Japanese. Until the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console release translated the variants of recurring Mario enemies, this applied to even the Goombas, which were originally called Chibibo worldwide (and retranslated as Goombo).
- Averted in the European version of its Virtual Console release, where the enemies still retain their Japanese names.
- Hitbox Dissonance: Small Mario is a bit taller than a block yet he's still able to go through a tiny gap between two blocks with his head clipping through the upper block. (here at 0:40)
- Hyper-Destructive Bouncing Ball: The Superball power Mario gets from flowers is this instead of the usual fireballs.
- Jump Physics: Mario's jump physics in this game are rather odd; for instance, when Mario jumps diagonally, you can't control how it moves (although you can when it jumps straight up) and he maintains no momentum.
- King Koopa Copy:
- Tatanga the extra-terrestrial is another Mario Big Bad who takes inspiration from the series' main antagonist. However, his "Bowser expy" side was mostly used in the Game Boy comics.
- More literal with King Totomesu, the sphinx-like boss of Birabuto Kingdom. He breathes fire and jumps around on a destructible bridge, like Bowser from the original Super Mario Bros.
- Kung Fu-Proof Mook: The Pionpi of the Chai Kingdom cannot be defeated by Goomba Stomp (which only temporarily incapacitates them), but only with a Super Ball. It's nearly impossible to tell how from the game itself, but these guys are actually based off of the Jiangshi, or Chinese vampire-zombies.
- Levels Take Flight: Level 4-3, which has you flying around in the Sky Pop.
- Load-Bearing Boss: Tatanga's whole palace goes down after his defeat.
- Made of Explodium:
- Tatanga's Palace when Tatanga is defeated, the entire airborne structure explodes for no apparent reason.
- Also the Bombshell Koopas when they've been stomped.
- The Man Behind the Man: The sequel reveals that Tatanga is an underling of Wario's. While he may or may not have been hired to create a diversion in this game, he still reappears in the sequel guarding one of the Golden Coins for Wario.
- No Pronunciation Guide: This being a Game Boy game from 1989, there are of course, no voices. As a result, a number of people wouldn't know that "Muda Kingdom" isn't supposed be pronounced "Mooda", but rather, "Myuda" (as in "Bermuda").
- Oddball in the Series: The game plays like a traditional Mario platformer, but throws out all sense of familiarity after that, as spoofed in this Brawl in the Family comic. And yes: to say that the game stands out as weird in a series starring an Italian plumber who eats magical mushrooms and flings fireballs at turtle monsters is certainly a mouthful, but it's true.
- Pre-Final Boss: The last level has Mario fight Biokinton (a Cumulonemesis monster) right before Big Bad Tatanga.
- Projectile Pocketing: The Superball Power-Up. Throwing balls at coins will collect them instantaneously. Very handy in certain coin-filled bonus rooms.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: Swaps out the traditional Starman invincibility music with the Can-Can, and game-over music with "Rock-a-bye Baby".
- Ratchet Scrolling: Like the original Super Mario Bros. and by extension The Lost Levels, the game does not allow you to backtrack in a level.
- Regional Riff: The Chai Kingdom theme starts with this. Even for an 8-bit game, it immediately evokes the atmosphere of Ancient China.
- Soft Reset: As with most Game Boy games, you can reset to the title screen by pressing select, start, B, and A at the same time.
- Spikes of Doom: Very prevalent in World 3 and even in a few warp pipe bonus stages!
- Super Drowning Skills: Mario sinks like a rock if he falls into water. As with the ground levels in Super Mario Bros., this is because they're actually Bottomless Pit.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute:
- Princess Daisy is so similar to Princess Peach/Toadstool that for over a decade, many people thought that she was Princess Toadstool, and that "Daisy" was just her nickname. In the Nintendo 64 era, she became a distinct tomboyish Palette Swap for Princess Toadstool, and later games have given her a Brooklyn accent and more of an Action Girl personality.
- The Bombshell Koopas are exploding clones of Koopa Troopas.
- The Goombo enemy is based on the Goomba.
- The Bullet Biff enemy is basically a miniature Bullet Bill.
- Under the Sea: In World 2-3, Mario rides around in the Marine Pop and shoots down enemies and objects underwater.
- Unexpected Shmup Level: World 2-3 has Mario hopping into a submarine to fight in Horizontal Scrolling Shooter fashion. World 4-3 has a similar premise with a plane instead.
- Unique Enemy: Immediately before the final boss room, you see coming out of the pipes...human fists?
- Wutai: Worlds 4-1 and 4-2, which take place in Chai Kingdom, a landscape inspired by real-world China.
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: This is Mario, and the game was hyped as the "true" sequel to Super Mario Bros. (since the original Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was still unreleased in the U.S. at that time). However, instead of rescuing a new citizen of Sarasaland after each boss, the false princesses were monsters in disguise.