It never ceases to amaze me that after nearly three decades, Nintendo can still craft a Mario game that both challenges me, and makes me smile ear to ear while playing it. Super Mario 3D World is the Wii U’s white knight. This is the game that should push any Nintendo-loving fan over the edge on picking up the machine. It is the best platformer since Mario Galaxy, and may very well be the best game I have played all year. There was never a time during my playthrough that I didn’t have a grin on my face.
On the surface 3D World doesn’t exactly seem like a massive leap forward. A lot of what is here is familiar. Mario tosses fireballs, Goombas are there for stomping and collecting stars unlocks new areas. What makes this latest Mario game stand out though, is its variety and flawless design. Everything I have ever loved about the series is smashed in complete with small touches from the retro stage reminiscent to the classic arcade game, to the superlative soundtrack.
The world is broken up into eight main areas, each one with a set of unique levels. Everything is represented here from underwater areas, to speed run type scenarios that have players racing against the clock. I played through the entire main game alone once, then returned to sections in multiplayer to see how things changed up. Alone it is incredible, with friends it is unparalleled. The race to score points and grab power-ups is both fun and unpredictable. All just to claim the completion flag, and of course wear the silly crown in the next area.
The main game is massive, but considering there is a lot of post-game stuff to toy around with makes it even better. I felt like the first few worlds were a warm up, getting me used to the classic Mario feel. The difficulty ramps up quick and the post-game stuff is downright brutal at times. Still, players that are humbled can opt for an easy button if they die enough times. Much like New Super Mario Bros. U, the game will spawn an easy way to finish the level, which is optional for those loving the challenge.
What kept me so engaged though is how much variety 3D World delivers. One minute I am sliding down a massive hill with switching blocks, the next I am riding a giant water dinosaur. Every stage brings something new to the table, and last just the perfect amount of time. I constantly had to force myself to quit playing as each stage completed always transcended into “just one more level”. It is also cool that I could swap characters in between levels, or simply go random. Each character has a unique ability that can prove useful when trying to collect all the items in a level. Peach floats when she jumps, Luigi jumps higher and Toad moves with the quickness. There is also a hidden character that can be unlocked.
As for collectibles there is plenty to strive for. Every level has green stars that vary in their difficulty to collect. There are also stamps in each area that can be used to decorate your Miiverse posts. What I loved most is that the game does a great job of making me want to collect them. Once a level is complete, I could stand next to it and see what I was missing. It was a giant calling card just begging me to come back in.
The game also supports multiple control types, but the Gamepad is required for certain levels. These involve sort of mini-games like having to move Toad around a level collecting stars. The catch is he cannot jump, and certain platforms are controlled via the touch screen. I played the majority of the game though with the Pro Controller, and only used the Gamepad when doing these levels, or playing multiplayer.
Power-ups play a large role in 3D World, and there are some new choices to help along the way. The most prolific is the cat bell, which dons players in a cat suit. This makes their mobility more dynamic and even lets them climb walls. It also makes hitting the top of the flagpole a breeze. The cherry creates up to five clones that can cause some true chaos, and I loved the return of the giant mushroom. Something about being massive and smashing blocks just by passing through them is satisfying. The game also allows the banking of one power-up which can be used by tapping the minus button.
If there is one gripe I had with the game, it is the perspective. At times I had trouble gauging where enemies were when trying to jump on them. I could move the camera around with the right analog stick, but it wasn’t always optimal. This became a larger issue when in levels that are constantly moving. It takes some adjusting, but it also instigated more unfair deaths than I care to admit.
When I think of next-gen I usually don’t put the Wii U at the forefront. But Mario 3D World is one of the most beautiful games I have played all year. The sheer vibrancy of the colors simply bleeds off the screen. The rounded edges are seamless and everything about it just bursts with style. It also moves at a blazing frame rate jacked up to a ridiculous resolution. This game is slick looking in all accounts and has a soundtrack to match it. Old tunes mixed with remixes and new delightful pieces make this one of the best Mario soundtracks to date. I was humming so many of them by the end of the game.
Super Mario 3D World justifies a Wii U. It is rare these days that there is one game to make a console worthy of purchase, but I cannot express how much pure fun I had with this title. If you own a Wii U it is a no-brainer, you should own this game. If you don’t own one, but have considered buying one, this is the game that makes it all worthwhile. However you do it, find a way to play this game. It is the poster child for why we fell in love with this hobby in the first place, and for me, the best Mario game since 64 stole my childhood.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.