Nintendo 3DS

Super Mario 3D Land Wasn’t Miyamoto’s Idea


The common trend for Mario games at Nintendo is that they tend to be spearheaded by Shigeru Miyamoto or Takashi Tezuka, two of the company’s veteran Mario designers, both in senior positions today. New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, for instance, was suggested by Tezuka, after Nintendo celebrated Mario’s 20th anniversary in 2004.


Super Mario Galaxy was developed by Nintendo’s EAD Tokyo studio at Miyamoto’s urging to create a game that utilized spherical landforms and the concept of gravity. Later, Super Mario Galaxy 2 was also developed at Miyamoto’s behest, as he felt the engine for the first game could be put to further use.


What makes Super Mario 3D Land different is that the game was pitched by Koichi Hayashida, one of the directors on Super Mario Galaxy 2. It came about as a result of Nintendo’s fairly well-documented challenge of trying to bridge the gap between players of linear 2D and free-roaming 3D Mario games.


The first Super Mario Galaxy was considered too intimidating for players of 2D Mario games, which is why Super Mario Galaxy 2 was designed to be more streamlined and welcoming of those players. Clearly, Hayashida felt that goal hadn’t been accomplished, because he suggested developing something that would serve as an “introduction” to 3D Mario games.


Deciding to “reset” the rules of how 3D Mario games work, the team began development during the summer of the year Super Mario Galaxy 2 was completed, and the basic direction the game would take was worked out by the fall. A prototype was developed using a square block instead of Mario himself, and feedback from Tezuka was incorporated to polish it further. Development of the full game then proceeded relatively quickly, thanks to experience built up from Super Mario Galaxy 2.


Concepts from New Super Mario Bros. Wii, such as the Super Guide feature, also served as inspiration for features to help ease players in. The Invincibility Leaf and P-Wing items appear after five and ten failed attempts respectively, to allow players to briefly turn invincible or to allow them to fly over tough spots.


Ultimately, the goal of Super Mario 3D Land appears to be helping ensure a future for 3D Mario games, as Miyamoto comments: “Don’t let anyone fool you who says 3D Super Mario is difficult. If you play it for yourself, a more fun future awaits—and for us as well!”


Food for thought:

If you’re wondering why there’s such a fuss over bridging the gap between 2D and 3D Mario games, this sales sheet should help shed some light on that.

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.