Super Mario 3D Land came at an odd time; Mario was (and still is) divided between two series, one in 2D (New Super Mario Bros.) and one in 3D (Galaxy). 3D Land falls somewhere in between, with a rare fixed isometric perspective that did away with the issues of 3D games' cameras but provided more freedom than a typical 2D side-scroller. Thanks to the 3DS's analog nub, the controls were pitch-perfect, and the portable system's relative lack of other games ensured that everyone was playing it.

Most importantly, the level design in Super Mario 3D Land was excellent. There was a great balance of new and old power-ups, including the fan favorite Tanooki suit, and the 3DS's 3D effects—a gimmick or burden in many games—were used perfectly to convey a sense of scale and depth where it was appropriate. In many ways, Super Mario 3D Land is the ideal Mario game.