I’ve been hooked on gamer’s guides for a few years now.

One of my earliest experiences with a gamer’s guide was with Ratchet and Clank, which we mainly bought for the novelty of it and the sealed secrets section that we planned to open upon beating the campaign.


But now that I’m all grown up and the internet is a thing, the solutions to every level, boss, puzzle, and item are readily available. The temptation is too much for me to ignore. If I’m struggling with something in a game, and feel I have tried everything, I’m searching the answer on YouTube almost immediately. I’m open about this aspect of my gaming life, but it doesn’t make me any less of ashamed of it.

In a lot of ways, I’m an insecure gamer… because for someone who writes about videogames, discusses videogame culture, and spends her free time listening to gaming podcasts, I feel obligated to suck a little less. And yet here I am.

But recently, I took a big step in moving on from gamer’s guides, and it’s all because of Super Mario 3D Land (and some peer pressure/ judgement/ encouragement from fellow Bit Cultures writer, Peter). I managed to complete Super Mario 3D Land–both the regular campaign and the secret worlds–and collect all the star coins. Here’s how it happened and what you should keep in mind if you want to go guideless:

Set realistic goals and adjust as needed

I’m a picky and lazy completionist. By picky, I mean I usually only select one thing to try to get in its entirety. For example, Yoshi’s Wooly World has a bunch of collectibles, but all I really care about is getting all the flowers.


And by lazy, I mean I usually don’t care too much if I fail to collect everything. In a linear level-based game, I’ll replay a level a few times if necessary and then move on regardless of completion.

But in the case of Super Mario 3D Land, I did care.


My goal was to collect all the star coins. But upon beating the campaign, I was missing quite a few. When I reached the secret worlds (which were significantly more challenging), I was doing surprisingly well, so I made my new goal to, at the very least, collect all the star coins from the secret worlds. And this brings me to my next point:

Pick a familiar game

I’ve been playing Mario games all my life, so I know the mechanics, power-ups, enemies, and more like the back of my hand. This made it a lot easier to go without a guide because, at the end of the day, guides exist to compensate for the gaps in our gamer knowledge: whether its functional fixedness (i.e. I never thought to use X item in Y way) or lack of schema (i.e I didn’t consider that I could get to X by doing Y).


My extensive knowledge of Mario and the game’s general straightforwardness (outside of collectibles) made it easy to abandon the guide. I knew at the very least I could get through the game easily on my own–which isn’t always the case in the puzzle genre, for instance. All of this helped eliminate the frustration because I was struggling to go above and beyond the game’s expectations (collecting items) and not struggling to meet the basic expectation (beating the game).

Try everything and keep trying until one of you is dead.

It’s you or the game. Who will survive? Probably you, so keep at it and take breaks when needed.

Some of these star coins were in ridiculous places. Like really? Really????  To name a few:



Inside pillars, behind waterfalls, in tiny passageways, which you can apparently get to by rolling, in the middle of nowhere and only accessible by jumping onto a floaty question mark block… what even?




And outside of locating the star coins themselves, some levels were just damn hard. Personally, I found the ones with the platforms that switch when you jump and the ones with evil “cosmic mario” following you around to be the most difficult. This meant the one level that included both was absolute hell.


Beating Super Mario 3D Land and collecting all the star coins in the standard and secret worlds is my own personal achievement. It was one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced, gaming wise, in a while. And I believe I’m a better gamer for it. To be honest, I really miss playing that game and, to be even more honest, I’m so glad to be done with it. See you in hell star coins.