There’s no denying it: Nintendo is struggling in the eyes of its shareholders, the media, and – most importantly – gamers.
While Nintendo’s 3DS is celebrating its hard-earned success, the Wii U is feeling the heat of negative press and criticism due to a lack of games and Nintendo’s confused, almost stubborn approach to its market.
While it’s somewhat empirical that the Wii U lacks a substantial game library, few take the time to honor the quality of its existing – albeit sparse – selection of exclusives.
Super Mario 3D World has been lauded as the second coming of Mario, taking the best elements of its 3DS counterpart – Super Mario 3D Land – enhancing them, and using them to help resuscitate a foundering platform.
Does Super Mario 3D World manage to clear the bar set by its portable counterpart, or does it fall flatter than a stomped-out Goomba?
While plenty enjoyable as a single player game, Super Mario 3D World is a multiplayer game at its core, which is where it shines brightest.
The chaotic multiplayer mode easily the most fun I’ve had with a co-op platformer in ages. While you’ll surely bicker, shout, and bitterly toss one another from ledges, you’ll also laugh more than you ever have playing Call of Duty.
Aside from some clever implementation of the Wii U GamePad, the controls are very similar to Super Mario 3D Land, keeping things simple for players using a Wii remote where buttons are a at a premium.
Nintendo has hand-selected some of best power-ups from previous games for Super Mario 3D World. Classics like the Tanooki suit, Fire Flower, and the New Super Mario Bros Mega Mushroom all make an appearance.
New power-ups include the Cat Bell, which transforms your character into a chatty feline that can climb walls and scratch enemies, and – my personal favorite – the Double Cherry, which clones your character, allowing you to control several Marios simultaneously.
Interestingly, with all the additions and callbacks to previous Mario titles, Super Mario 3D World never feels like a gimmick, instead offering a genuine purpose for every item included in the game.
There’s plenty to do as you navigate each of the game’s 8+ words. By time you think you’ve reached the end, another pathway reveals itself (green stars pending), presenting new challenges and additional levels to explore.
In spite of this, Super Mario 3D World never feels boring or repetitive, and each level is sure to leave you with a bigger smile than the last. My wife and I shouted and cussed during the more frustrating stages (often punctuating its completion with a sigh of relief), but always found ourselves laughing from start to finish.
You’re in for a treat when you play levels like the Mario Kart tribute, Mount Must Dash, the money train bonus stage (so amazing), and another called The Great Goal Pole (which I refuse to spoil in this review).
Although the stages are generally outstanding, the bosses always felt somewhat lacking. While fun, even the final brawl with Bowser left me wondering, “Is that it?”
Even so, I applaud Nintendo’s consistent ability to produce challenging, yet accessible games that the whole family can enjoy.
Achieving 100% completion and collecting all of the stamps, gold flags, and green stars are what make Super Mario 3D World a thrill ride for veterans such as myself.
Likewise, younger and less-skilled gamers can navigate most of the game with relative ease. Players can also choose to “bubble up,” floating safely above more skilled gamers as they traverse the more demanding stages together.
The Miiverse social elements are as helpful as they are hilarious, encouraging gamers to share their experiences and commentary for each world and stage. Expect to see a lot of “The stamp is here,” “I hated that level,” and “I cleared it with 03 seconds left!”
Upon completing a stage, up to three Mii characters will join you every time you replay it – a great way to uncover missed secrets and shortcuts to help shave seconds off your clear time.
Graphics & Audio
The art team behind Super Mario 3D World did an outstanding job bringing the Mario universe to life. Even with four players, the most intense stages never suffer a second of slowdown. From the colorful environments to the actions (and reactions) of the enemies, this is Mario in his Sunday best.
Despite the game’s aesthetic charm, the camera leaves a lot to be desired. Closely mimicking the perspective seen in Super Mario 3D Land, the game suffers from the lack of stereoscopic 3D, lending itself to a lot of missed jumps and accidental falls.
While you’re fortunate enough to manage a fistful of camera angles in the single player mode, the issue with depth perception is more evident in multiplayer. My friends and I would often underestimate a gap as the camera panned to account for all the players on the screen. While not game-breaking, it is certainly bothersome.
The sound effects are your typical Mario fare, but the soundtrack is brilliant. I’ve caught myself humming along more than once, with many songs stuck in my head as I go about my daily routine (notably the title track and the song from World 4-3, Spike’s Lost City).
Buy It, Try It, or Skip It?
Buy It – If you own a Wii U, chances are you’ve already picked this one up. It’s easily the best game on the console and a strong contender in the “Best Mario Game Ever” debate.
Much like Super Mario 3D Land before it, Super Mario 3D World delivers an outstanding and refreshing experience to the Wii U that never feels tired or overdone. Even when my wife and I hit 100% completion, I won’t be surprised if we boot up a new save file the very next day.
Brimming with replay value, an addictive multiplayer mode, and a universe of content, this is the closest thing to a “system seller” the Wii U has right now; I’d hardly blame you if it’s the reason you buy one.