Mario’s Weirdest Adventure Is Finally Playable on Nintendo Switch

Forget the Mushroom Kingdom, this plumber is heading to Easter Island.

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Mario runs past the low-sloping pyramids of hieroglyphic-streaked catacombs of ancient Egypt. It’s a far cry from the Mushroom Kingdom, but not out of place in a game that takes the adventurous plumber to Easter Island, through bamboo forests, and even into the cloudy night sky, dappled with perfect stars. Playing through this sometimes-forgotten detour in the Nintendo franchise made me realize something: There are few Mario games as creative and transportive as this.

Just in time for the 35th anniversary of the Game Boy, Super Mario Land has made it to Nintendo Switch Online. It’s a perfect homage to the original and will scratch the itch of nostalgia for any who remember sitting on the couch, game boy in hand, jumping, 1uping, dodging, etc. The gameplay and visuals are functionally identical to the way they originally appeared on Game Boy. Through a green-colored screen, you take Mario around the alien world Sarasaland. You cross ancient deserts and island waterfalls in pursuit of super mushrooms and the helpless damsel Princess Daisy, who made her series debut in this game. In its faithful port, Nintendo has totally retained Super Mario Land's majesty.

“Majesty” might seem too indulgent of a word to dedicate to an 8-bit, monochrome platformer, but even 35 years after its release, Super Mario Land delivers. This was the first Mario game made without series creator Shigeru Miyamoto, so director Satoru Okada did take some liberties, like abandoning the vast Mushroom Kingdom and swapping Peach for Daisy. While previous Mario games had established the series as an alternate universe with its own set of problems — a prickly guy like Bowser was always bound to get in your way — Super Mario Land is a more realistic portal. While the game is technically set in the fictional Sarasaland (which Nintendo has rarely ever revisited since), its 12 levels present themselves like you're leafing through a leather-bound adventure book.

Super Mario Land's Switch port is a testament to the fact that a video game doesn't need to look lifelike as long as it's evocative. The game's logic works in dreamlike ways — hop on the bouncing boulder to find safe passage over the brigade of upturned spikes, stomp on the lizard before it spits a pinball at you. The Switch itself offers alternate answers, if you're looking for them. As is the case with all of Nintendo's Online ports, you can press ZL and ZR simultaneously in order to "rewind" your game session frame-by-frame. This built-in "save-scumming" prevents you from feeling like you ever have to be too precious about how you play Super Mario Land. You can strive for an ambitious jump to the tallest door in a level, which triggers its end, without worrying about what will happen if you lose a few Mario lives in the process.

Bowser’s got nothing on this guy.


But there's a benefit in keeping your Super Mario Land game unaltered, too. It increases the challenge level of the game's perilous platforming, and it better reflects the game's ethos. Since Super Mario Land makes you continuously brave treacherous terrain only to discover that Daisy is farther away from you than you thought, the game seems to encourage perseverance for your own sake.

But ultimately, whichever way you choose to experience Super Mario Land, you won’t regret returning to one of the oddest entries in Nintendo’s most iconic saga.

Super Mario Land is available now on Nintendo Switch Online.

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