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Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3: 30th anniversary

Wario Land was one of my favorite Game Boy games as a child, and now it’s 30 years old! Subtitled “Super Mario Land 3” for marketing purposes, it’s actually the beginning of a new series. No longer a villain, but an antihero, the greedy Wario seeks to gather as many coins as he can on Kitchen Island.

The game mechanics of Wario Land are different from those of Super Mario. Wario, being fat, can’t run. He can, however, charge enemies with a shoulder slam (press B). His power-ups come in the form of hats, of which there are three. The most common is the bull hat, which enables Wario to smash through blocks in a single hit instead of two. While wearing the bull hat, Wario can also ground-pound, which is so forceful it stuns nearby enemies. The next hat is the dragon hat, which emits fire that can incinerate blocks and enemies. The last is my favorite: the jet hat. This increases the distance of Wario’s shoulder dash, which he can also perform in the air.

Wario loses whatever hat he has if he gets poked by an enemy. If he gets hit a second time, he shrinks down, Mario-style, and cannot break blocks. If he gets an onion, he returns to full size. Picking up an onion while already big gives him a bull hat.

Due to his massive size, Wario can damage most enemies just by touching them! They become temporarily stunned, enabling him to pick them up and then throw them. What he has to watch out for is weapons and projectiles. The game has a small pantheon of mostly forgettable enemies. The most common is the goom, which is like a goomba but round instead of mushroom-shaped. The game is not difficult, on par with Super Mario Land 2.

A goom with a spear

The island has a world map like the one in Super Mario Land 2. There are six worlds, plus a hidden world called Sherbet Land. Five levels contain secret exits to hidden levels, one of which is the first level in the aforementioned secret world. There are forty levels total. Unlike in Super Mario Land 2, the levels hiding a secret exit are conveniently identified on the map.

Each section of the island has a different food theme: rice, tea (both a Mt. Teapot and an S.S. Tea Cup), stove, parsley, and syrup. Each world has its own boss. The final boss fight is the only difficult one, as it requires repeatedly tossing the genie’s lamp in the hopes it will emit a puff of cloud as a platform. The platform allows Wario to reach the vulnerable head of the genie, who continuously floats back and forth across the screen. Once the cloud reaches the top of the screen, it turns into a mini-genie, which floats off the screen while firing projectiles into the ground. After five hits, the genie is defeated and the game beaten. Disappointingly, the genie doesn't have a second form.

Fifteen levels contain a treasure chest behind a locked door. It’s not very hard to find the keys. At the end of the game, Wario sells these treasures to the genie (which … is not how genies work), who then magicks up a castle for Wario based on his total coin count for the game. The treasures vastly increase the size of his bank account. If you get to 99,999, Wario can get the best castle and ending.

If that’s your goal, it’s beneficial to play the extra treasure mini-game after every stage. You choose the left or right bucket and either a weight or bag of money drops on Wario’s head. The weight costs him 50% of what he had collected in the stage; the treasure doubles it. Since this pays off 2-to-1, you should always play the game the maximum three times.

Alternatively, you can select the hearts mini-game. Extra lives in Wario Land are rewarded by getting 100 hearts. Beating an enemy gives Wario one heart (and usually a coin, too). Question blocks, including many invisible blocks, sometimes give out a heart worth 10. The heart mini-game costs coins: the more you pay, the harder the game and the more lives you can earn. It is a simple timing-based game where you throw bombs at walking enemies. It’s never economically correct to play the heart game: you want to be amassing coins, not spending them!

The graphics are great (albeit monochrome), with nice, big sprites. The music is weird, with a bizarre Wario-ish feel. I am not a fan.

The fun of the game consists primarily in the well designed levels, with slight puzzle elements, on par with Super Mario Land 2. For example, some stages contain an exclamation block that changes the environment somehow, opening up a new path. It’s also fun trying to collect coins and treasures. The fact that Wario feels so powerful adds to the enjoyment.

For the Game Boy, the game has a lot of depth: forty stages with fifteen treasures to find! Overall, Wario Land is either the best or second-best platformer on the Game Boy, depending how you compare it to Super Mario Land 2. They’re both great!

Grade: A+

Linked Review
"Some of the best graphics seen in a Game Boy release [and] some of the best platforming the Game Boy system has to offer."
— Corbie Dillard, Nintendo Life, 9/10


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