When it comes to difficult 3D Mario levels officially made by Nintendo, the words “Special 8-Crown” strikes fear in the hearts of even the most hardened player…
Super Mario 3D Land just celebrated its anniversary this week, and if you didn’t hear me on that livestream, I absolutely think it’s one of the most underrated Mario games ever made. Yes, we know Nintendo can make an excellent 2D Mario game in its sleep, but I’ve come to prefer the 3D Mario games, the stuff patterned after Super Mario 64, and those games are few and far between. While I’m sure we all have our favorites, I feel the most overlooked 3D Mario game in the lamentably small six game series (over the last two decades!) is Super Mario 3D Land and my reasoning walks hand-in-hand with its greatest flaw: It’s a massive 3D Mario experience on the Nintendo 3DS.
Do not attempt. This level was cleared by a professional
Squeezing a full fledged 3D Mario game onto a Nintendo portable was definitely a technical feat in 2011, but decidedly less so seven iterations into iPhones and Galaxys. Just five years later, you could probably run 3D Land on an Apple Watch (yes, playing it would be a fool’s errand) but the nature of Nintendo dictates it must stay permanently locked to a platform where it will remain forever ugly, in all it’s 200p resolution glory! All the while, sales data would seem indicate the general public doesn’t give a shit about anything other than classic Mario anyway. Maybe the 3DS wasn’t the best place for Mario 3D Land, however, you certainly can’t say it wasn’t well optimized. The biggest criticism I’ve seen floating around is that “its too easy,” and to all of those people I say “keep playing.”
Following the success of the Wii, Nintendo reverted itself into one of the more family-focused companies on the planet. There were condoms for your controllers, games were preceded with half a dozen warning screens, numerous residents of the Mushroom Kingdom came out to tell you to take a break if you’ve been playing to long, and Nintendo’s more difficult series, like F-Zero and Star Fox, were left largely ignored during this period. Mario became the rare exception, although fans were forced to dig a little for the good stuff and anybody with a Green Star count knows exactly what I’m talking about.
So yeah, worlds 1 through 8 of Super Mario 3D Land could definitely be accused of “babby optimization,” that is, a noticeable nerfing featuring levels shortened and simplified so as not to scare off a general populace already too perplexed to deal with pushing Mario in any direction other than right. These stages, if a little brief and underpopulated, are still well designed and satisfying by any standard, and hey, if you’re such a huge fucking Mario fan, you should breeze right through ’em, cowboy! Because once you do that, my friends, you unlock 8 “Special” worlds with dozens of brand new levels, essentially another game, where longtime, obnoxious Nintendo fans like myself found the most rewarding challenge.
Now, I don’t have the time to 100% games anymore, yet I make an exception for Mario. If you did the same with 3D Land, I’m assuming you’ve met stage Special 8-Crown. Not only do you have to defeat another “final” Bowser (starting with only 30 seconds on the clock!), you need to obtain every Star Coin in the game, hit gold on every flagpole, and among several other boxes to check, clear each and every stage with Mario and Luigi. Few players know Special 8-Crown even exists. Fewer still have seen it to the end. I know it looks deceptively simple, but I assure you it is a candy-colored nightmare.
Without a doubt, Special 8-Crown is one of, if not the most difficult Mario levels ever officially designed by Nintendo. Fans have certainly abused masochistic players thirty for pain with rom hacks and Super Mario Maker, but Nintendo itself long ago decided to tackle a more welcoming approach to most Mario levels. Furthermore, 3D Mario games are almost never difficult to begin with, as the player is usually bestowed with ample suits, power ups or even a health bar to compensate for the extra plan of control. Special 8-Crown, however, has a helluva lot more in common with Mario’s 2D levels at their most brutal. It is loooooong. There are no checkpoints. There are no power ups. There is deliberate deception. There is a boss room right in the middle of the stage with two bosses simultaneously. And of course an enormous Cosmic Mario shows up to chase you through a maze of Chomps, Thwomps and spiked fire just before the finish line.
Like a 2D Mario game, precision and timing is key in Special 8-Crown, since more than a dozen jumps rely on landing in a lone, Mario-sized spot floating in the middle of nothing but one-hit death. But unlike a 2D Mario game, there’s another dimensional plane of movement to factor in, control over Mario’s momentum requires pixel-perfect mastery, and your perspective shifts multiple times and there’s almost no camera control. Many leaps of faith are required, and you will not get far without some memorization. I know this because I beat Special 8-Crown in the video above in the most difficult way imaginable: Without taking a hit, no Tanooki power ups, and with Mario (Luigi is highly recommended for his floatier jump). Yes, it’s probably a MLG record for the ages. And yes, I am available for sponsorships.
Whatever. I love Super Mario 3D Land and anyone with a 3DS should absolutely pick up the game if they haven’t already. It’s a Nintendo game after all, and these things have a history of vanishing forever. And feel free to check out or prolonged playthrough below.