I picked up Super Mario 3D Land on release day a few years ago, and I while I remembered that I loved it, I didn't remember just how much -- until last week at Best Buy, I found on sale a red 3DS with the game pre-installed. I've not had my 3DS for quite some time, so I snapped it up.
Super Mario 3D Land is masterfully fresh yet familiar. It strongly incorporates visuals and mechanics from classic games like Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario 64, yet never feels like a rehash.
As expected from a Mario title, the stages are expertly designed. Veteran platformers will enjoy seeking each level's three special star coins, which requires an adventurous heart to stray off the beaten path, sharp eyes to detect hidden areas, and deft hands to traverse unforgiving terrain. It felt immensely rewarding to discover a big coin after a frustrating lengthy search or several failed jumps, and this feature added a whole new dimension of fun for me.
The story is cute, but unobtrusive; I was thankful that Nintendo limited cutscenes to seconds-long intermissions and avoided burdensome background stories, because in this type of game, the plot is tertiary -- I wanted to get straight to the action.
All in all, Super Mario 3D Land is quite possibly the best game available for the 3DS.