I am a huge fan of the Super Mario Bros. series of games. I have played every game in the series, most of them fairly thoroughly. The one game in the series that I missed was Super Mario Land for the Game Boy.
I recently obtained copies of all three Super Mario Land games from the Nintendo eShop and have been playing through them. I had played the latter two before but hadn’t really thought too much about the design of the games. After playing through all three games recently, I noticed how the Super Mario series has progressed over the years.
In the original Super Mario Bros. you simply wanted to get to the end of the game and defeat Bowser. How you get to the end was up to you, but you had no other explicit goals. Super Mario Land pretty much replicates this design without deviation.
Super Mario Land 2 introduces secondary goals which are conveniently tallied up for you on the file select screen, much like Super Mario World. In Super Mario Land 2, secondary goals consist of finding secret exits in the levels that open up paths to additional levels. Many of the secondary goals are not revealed explicitly in the game Unlike Super Mario World, there is no way to know where to look for many of the secondary goals or whether you have finished all of them.
Super Mario Land 3 takes secondary goals into their current state. Firstly, they’ve added a treasure collecting aspect to the game. You can clearly see all the treasures you have each time you complete a level. Secondly, levels with secret exits are clearly marked on the map screen, much like Super Mario World. Thirdly, the game tells you to “PLEASE RETRY” when you beat the game if you haven’t completed all of the secondary goals. And lastly, after beating the game, the levels that contain treasures that you haven’t gotten yet are now marked so you know exactly where you need to be looking to complete the rest of the goals.
What separates this game from previous games in the series is that you are basically told that you aren’t done yet if you haven’t completed all of the secondary goals. Newer games in the series further integrate secondary goals into the game, giving the player the impression that they aren’t done until all of the goals are completed. For instance, Super Mario World 2, the next game in the series, gives the player a score for each level (up to 100). The secondary goals are the same for each level, find a certain number of certain types of items. As a gamer, seeing less than 100 compels me to go back in and try to get everything.
All of the newer Super Mario games have these integrated secondary goals that keep you playing until you have done everything there is to do. This is what Super Mario is these days. To me, Super Mario Land 3 represents the moment when the Super Mario series went from being an adolescent to being a young adult.