It's easy to forget that the original DS drew as much criticism as the 3DS did earlier this year. Nintendo's bulky dual-screen stylus-controlled system had little to convince us that the death of the Game Boy Advance was warranted, and that the DS would be the future of handheld gaming. A terribly-controlled Mario 64 port and ill-advised Metroid FPS game didn't win over critics, either. But then, Nintendo surprised us with Nintendogs, Brain Age, Elite Beat Agents, and other brilliant "made for DS" games. Super Mario 3D Land is the first game on the 3DS that had us thinking "hey, this 3D gimmick might be pretty good."
Nintendo's talented Tokyo team worked their Galaxy-inspired magic once again, playing with perspective in truly unique ways. The impeccable level designs of 3D Land remind us why Mario games are always a blast to play. Whether you're running towards Bowser and Bullet Bills fly towards the screen, or you're jumping through a maze of pipes, 3D Land always looks and feels fresh. The top-down Zelda-inspired level is one of the most clever homages ever seen in any video game, and offers a better 3D Zelda experience than the re-purposed Ocarina of Time.
Super Mario 3D Land was one of the few games on the 3DS where we'd want to push the 3D slider to "on." Sure, there might be a 3D-induced migraine afterwards, but like after an all-night bender, we'd say it was totally worth it.
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The Shacknews 2011 Game of the Year awards are based on a weighted scoring system between all staff writers and editors. Throughout the week we'll be revealing our 'Honorable Mentions,' which include the titles that did not quite make our overall 'Top Five Games of the Year.' The Shacknews 'Game of the Year 2011 Award' will be revealed on January 20.