Mario and friends are back and just in time for the holiday season with Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U. With the Wii U underperforming in recent months, Nintendo has needed a significant title to help turn things around. It seems as though Super Mario 3D World could not have come at a better time. This latest Mario title may not be the only saving grace for the Wii U, but it certainly provides a glimmer of hope for Nintendo heading into the new year.
Super Mario 3D World has players controlling one of several characters from the Mario universe. Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Toad, and more are all here. Every character has a bit of flare to them, making the player’s choice more than just pure aesthetic. For example, Luigi has the ability to jump slightly higher than everyone else. Princess Peach can float at the end of her jumps, giving her a chance to travel a bit farther than everyone else. This provides the perfect amount of variety, as each character does not feel like a simple copy-and-paste with a new skin on top, but rather, a nice touch of individuality is present that clearly separates one character from the next.
Mario’s latest trek also features the new Cat Suit, which can be applied to any playable character. Players can now climb up walls for short periods of time, or pounce on enemies and swipe away with their claws. While donning this outfit, you also maneuver around the level on all fours just like a cat. The cat suit is the Tanooki suit of 2013. Depending on the character wearing the suit, a specific suit color is given to them in order to identify who is who, which is highly beneficial when playing in multiplayer.
As expected from nearly every Mario game, gameplay is primarily centered on platforming, some puzzle-solving thrown in the mix, and a bit of quick reflexes to help you survive. You will find yourself jumping, climbing, sliding, flipping, shooting, and stomping your way through amazingly detailed and colorful environments. Levels are positioned on a traversable map alongside mini-games, secrets, online player comments, and more. Within each level are several collectible stars and hidden stamps. Collect them all and unlock more secrets as you progress farther in the game.
There is more exploration in Super Mario 3D World than previous Mario installments. Thanks in large part to the game’s design, 3D World plays like the perfect mix of great elements taken from Mario’s 3D adventures such as Super Mario 64 and Galaxy, and blends them together with Super Mario Bros. 3 creating the perfect mash-up of 2D-and-3D gameplay all wrapped into one fantastic title.
Super Mario 3D World is a visually-appealing game with vibrant levels, both on the navigable map and in the game worlds themselves. Take Mario and his companions through jungles, forests, dry deserts, frozen mountain tops, and lava pits. The level design and choice of environments may seem all too familiar to previous Mario titles, but don’t be fooled; every level is superbly constructed and brimming with life.
Super Mario 3D World has a fairly unique color pallet that makes every detail standout. Whether it was the character models, level backgrounds, or level foregrounds, I was constantly enthralled in the environments I found myself exploring and the sights I was seeing. The Wii U console manages to bring yet another Mario game into vivid HD with plenty of rich colors and detailed animations. The PS4 and Xbox One pack a lot more power under their hood than the Wii U, though you wouldn’t realize it when playing through Super Mario 3D World, which is a true testament to the great technical brilliance found within the minds of those at Nintendo.
One of the most-anticipated components for Super Mario 3D World is its multiplayer. Compete with your friends for the top score and win a crown that will carry over to the next level. Even though everyone is competing for the top score, cooperation is also needed to solve puzzles and divide up the workload. Certain maps do compensate when you lack any buddies to play with by providing power-ups that create a clone of your character to aid in specific areas. Multiplayer is a blast with friends and can provide many memorable Mario gaming moments for everyone involved. With that said, the lack of online multiplayer is a serious bummer that many would have loved to seen implemented for Super Mario 3D World. Nevertheless, it is still a blast to have the opportunity to hang around with some buddies and play any sort of multiplayer for a Mario game.
While an all-around terrific game, I still had some minor qualms with this title. One of my few complaints with Super Mario 3D World lies with the game’s sometimes hard-to-handle camera angles, which do not devalue the overall experience, but can cause issues in the midst of so much fun happening on-screen. Camera issues are most noticeable when playing in multiplayer. Unless everybody sticks together closely, you are restrained in the amount of freedom you have regarding movement when everyone is spaced out across the level. The game’s overall difficulty is also a minor hindrance providing very little in the way of challenge. Many levels could easily be breezed through with few hurdles and obstacles to overcome. Some later levels do pose a heighten sense of difficulty, but nothing that I felt challenged you too much in any manner. Boss battles also fell fairly short in most regards, as they became simple clashes with minimal strategy required. You think Bowser would eventually smarten up his strategy after all these years.
28 years later, and Nintendo still manages to refine and tweak the Mario formula enough to create another remarkable experience. Super Mario 3D World will not revolutionize gaming the way Super Mario 64 did in 1996, nor does it reach the same heights as Super Mario Galaxy 2 did just a few short years ago. Still, Mario’s latest adventure provides endless hours of fun, even with some of its minor faults. Fans of the Mario franchise and those looking for a new game to put their Wii U to good use, Super Mario 3D World is “THE” title to pick up right now. The Wii U has stumbled a few steps since its launch, but Super Mario 3D World sets the course in the right direction again as 2013 slowly comes to an end.