It’s genuinely insane how much adoration and annoyance I have for Nintendo games. On the one hand, they make absolutely charming games that are addictive for days, weeks, years even until you’ve collected everything a game has to offer. I remember doing just that with Super Mario 3D Land, collecting everything (yep, every single stage twice as Mario and Luigi + secret stages) the game had to offer. But my annoyance comes from the fact that they make the same games every generation of consoles, with the aesthetics being one of the only things they mix up with recent iterations (Yoshi’s Woolly World & Paper Mario come to mind). Thankfully, Super Mario 3D World is not one of those games, and as a consequence, is some of the most fun I’ve had on a Nintendo game since 3D land all those years ago.
You see, whilst most other nintendo IP’s have been through several generations of consoles before they ended up being rehashes with new aesthetics, Super Mario 3D Land was only released a few years ago on the 3DS. The great 3D environments and fantastically short levels truly helped to make one of the most exciting and original Mario games of recent memory. Super Mario 3D World elevates this praise and takes it to the next level, showing what you can do with a Mario game in 2013, with a proper console behind it.
One of the first things I have to get out of my system about the game is it’s absolutely stellar presentation. Seriously, who knew simplistic geometry and cute disney-esque designs could be so god damn gorgeous? Everything, from the grass waving in the wind, to the mud that you see underneath, is absolutely stunning. It’s also insane that in a time when most console games are struggling to reach 30fps, Super Mario 3D World never stutters or moves below 60FPS, helping to keep gameplay smooth, no matter how many players or enemies are on screen at any one time.
The addition of multiplayer is a huge advantage over it’s predecessor on the 3DS. Being able to play the game with my other half ensured that I was finally able to incorporate her into my game time, ensuring she had a lot of fun whilst I got to play a game I wanted to review. Yes there were disagreements, it’s bound to happen in a game where the camera is trying to incorporate both players in the screen at any one time, but it was still enjoyable all the same.
With the presentation and multiplayer out of the way, how does the gameplay hold up? Rather well actually. Mario and the team still jump in the ways they always have (with peach being hugely OP since she can hover whenever she likes!), but because of these mechanics being the same as they always have been, where does nintendo find the innovation? In the course design and power-ups. You see, rather than resting on their laurels, Nintendo came up with quite a few new power-ups to use throughout, from the new cat bell which turns Mario and co into cats that can climb walls (in all fairness, this power-up feels like Nintendo’s pandering to the internet culture, but it was still good to use all the same), to the new cherry power up (which spawns a new playable character on the screen) found throughout certain levels, each power-up felt great to use and helped in keeping each stage original, and giving new options by which to traverse the levels.
It’s thanks to the course designs that each level is so enjoyable to play and go back to. Everything’s doable without power-ups, but it’s the power-ups that will help you achieve 100% of collectibles within a level should you have them. For example, the vast majority of levels will allow you just to rush through, but should you wish to get a collectible green star (there are 3 of them in each level), you’ll need to climb a wall, which can only be done with a cat bell power-up. Most stages will give you these at the start, so it’s up to your own skill as to whether you can keep them until the end of the stage. It’s a fantastic system that ensures everyone feels encouraged to finish a level (no matter whether they’re tiny Mario or full upgraded), and helps to make sure those who are slightly more skilled (who keep the power-ups) get the satisfaction of beating a level without being hurt.
There are drawbacks to the new camera angle approach in Super Mario 3D World, and it’s mainly present in multiplayer. You see, trying to keep multiple players on the screen at the same time can take a lot of effort on the developers side, so to compensate, they make the player who’s ahead and on the correct path the main, focused player, whilst also zooming out to show the other player. This approach works most of the time, but there were so many instances where I would have to turn into a “balloon” in order to get back to my other half on screen, even though I was getting a power-up or collectible. It’s frustrating at times, and can also cause you to miss-time your jumps, resulting in lives lost or getting damaged by simple creatures like goombas.
Overall, Super Mario 3D world is simply one of the best games I’ve played in recent memory. It’s simplistic control scheme and simply sublime graphics really help to show how Nintendo go to where it is through sheer polish alone, a rare sight in a world with buggy games and unpolished presentations. If you have a Wii U, the price tag of Super Mario 3D World may be steep, but it’s worth every penny.