Wario Land is the sequel to Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, and as such takes the successful formula of that game, switches in a new protagonist, improves upon the graphics and adds an extra layer of gameplay depth thanks to the inclusion of bizarre power-up hats. Wario's gameplay style is brute force mixed with elements of timing (namely jumps) and deductive reasoning. The Wario scheme of dealing with a problem is typically to barge it out of the picture in exchange for a few coins, in addition enemies can be picked up and thrown to take out other enemies or for accumulation of yet more coins.
The game's levels are spread throughout a large island which is divided into a number of smaller areas in a similar way to Mario Land 2 and within these areas the individual levels are arranged in a linear path with a boss fight lying at the end. While Mario Land allowed players to tackle its areas in any order Wario Land features a linear progression throughout, which, while being more constrictive than its predecessor means the game has a much more refined difficulty arc which spans its entirety as opposed to only each individual area.
Graphically, Wario Land is a drastic departure from the Mario titles available for the Game Boy and replaces the shiny and clean-looking sprites which are reminiscent of cartoon strips with grittier and darker ones in line with Wario’s character. The detail is also increased over previous games, with many more pixels dedicated to character models and locations giving the game increased clarity and overall graphical quality.
- Wario - Standard Wario, will shrink if hit by an enemy.
- Bull Wario - Upgraded Wario can cling to ceilings, perform floor stomps and destroy destructible blocks in one hit.
- Dragon Wario - A dragon hat enables Wario to shoot flames on dry land and a jet of gas underwater which damages enemies, and destroys blocks from a distance.
- Jet - Jet propelled hat lets Wario run faster and fly for short distances - even under water.
- Rice Beach - Consists of relatively simple platforming levels which feature water and quicksand as environmental hazards. The boss is named Toge Bro. who looks like a standard Koopa with spikes that stands upright.
- Mt. Teapot - Mountain and cave based levels. The boss is named Beefine who is a bi-pedal bull.
- Sherbet Land - A secret world with ice themed levels where slippery surfaces offer added challenges. The boss is Hinyari, a penguin with spiked boxing gloves.
- Stove Canyon - Levels are themed around lava with collapsing bridges and many flying enemies. The boss is Funfun, a giant head with a skull on its forehead.
- SS Teacup - A Pirate themed level. The boss is Bobo, a giant bird.
- Parsley Woods - Levels are split between trees and railroad tracks with the former consisting of standard platforming fare and the latter introducing moving train cars which add the difficulty of fighting enemies while avoiding obstacles and staying on the cars. The boss is Zenisukii, a ghost.
- Syrup Castle - The final area holds fiendish platforming levels where timing and pixel-perfect jumps are a necessity. Spring blocks add an extra level of challenge by vastly increasing jumping distance. The final boss is Captain Syrup and her Genie Denpu.
Once players defeat the boss of the each main area, some previous levels in that area will be slightly different. There will be new doors that require a key in the level that let players collect one of 15 Treasures. These treasures help determine the ending. When players finish the game, it counts up the money and treasures collected; this total determines what reward Wario is given at the end of the game. Wario can receive the following:
- A birdhouse
- A tree-house
- A log Cabin
- A pagoda
- A castle
- A planet