Super Mario 3D Land was a pretty big hit with me. One of my first 3DS platformers, I was instantly enamored with the game’s blend of old and new Mario. Though it lacked proper challenge, it made up for it with creativity and charm. After having played its success, Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U, I called it a Game of the Year contender. Now it’s time to tell you why.
Just like Super Mario 3D Land, Super Mario 3D World is an incredible blend of old and new Mario. Levels seamlessly move from 2D to 3D perspectives, while maintaining the shorter, more playful level designs of classic Mario games. It’s truly Nintendo doing what they do best: bring incredibly charming, likeable gameplay to the masses using their tried-and-true mascot Mario.
The addition of high definition graphics push Super Mario 3D World into the era of modern gaming. Mario and crew have never looked better. Perhaps I am a snob, but high definition adds a crispness to games that no other leap in graphical technology has ever been able to pull off. Games just look cleaner in HD. Taking the series classic art-style to a whole new level, Super Mario 3D World moves along without missing a hitch. Literally, it is art in motion.
The gameplay goes largely unchanged from Super Mario 3D Land, though new powerups and the lack of 3D on the 3DS do shake things up a bit. The Cat Suit is a bit too strong and overused, but it is a lot of fun. I could’ve done without the crawling up goal posts, since that trivializes some of the tougher ones if you take the time to have a cat suit power up handy. In place of the smaller challenges, Super Mario 3D World features challenge rooms where you have to reach a Star within a certain time limit through a series of rooms. It’s never challenging, but it’s a frantic microversion of Mario levels that I always looked forward to doing.
The best addition, however, is multiplayer in the form of co-op. Rather than four copies of Mario or four characters that all function identically, Super Mario 3D World opts for the characters with different strengths and weaknesses approach. I switched between characters fairly often when playing alone, and they all felt great. You don’t really notice their differences until you start playing with others. Even then, your focus will likely be on how everyone is bouncing off one another, rather than the fact that Luigi jumps a little higher. It’s fun, but fun in an unnecessary sort of way. Playing with friends doesn’t alter or really improve the gameplay, it just improves the experience. There’s a lot of fun (and yelling) to be had when you get a full party together.
While the multiplayer could easily be a selling point for the game, Nintendo’s unwillingness to take it online seems like a mistake to me. I understand their reasoning: to promote the classic “everyone in a single room” multiplayer feeling. Times have changed, however, and they need to realize that while their younger audiences might have enough friends in the neighborhood to constantly get four players going, those of us who grew up on Mario are often too busy or spread out for such a gathering to ever be a common occurrence. Given the Wii U’s lack of quality online software, it’s a shame to see Nintendo continuing with business-as-usual.
Furthermore, the way Super Mario 3D World does use online and Miiverse aren’t particularly memorable. One of the new collectibles in each level are these stamps which can be used after a level to create a picture. That picture is then uploaded to Miiverse where others see it when they beat the level. It’s cute, but ultimately pointless.
Hands-down, my biggest surprise with Super Mario 3D World was the music. While Mario’s music has always been solid, I often regard it as being solid only in a nostalgic sense. Super Mario 3D World’s jazzy soundtrack stands above and beyond anything I have heard from a Nintendo game in recent memory. Not only does it fit the game perfectly, but it adds to the experience, giving it an extra layer of spunk and charm. If you never play Super Mario 3D World, then at least listen to its soundtrack. It is amazing.
Just like Super Mario 3D Land, there is almost zero challenge until you reach the levels after the main storyline. Then and only then does the game become challenging. I still dislike this approach, though I am learning to tolerate it. Ultimately, I have to accept that this series is for a wider audience than those gamers like myself who enjoyed a brief stint playing Super Meat Boy and other, more difficult platformers.
Even a few months to think it over, I absolutely adored Super Mario 3D World. It took what was great about 3D Land and made an excellent HD console platformer out of it. Even with its lack of online multiplayer and lack of challenge, I found the entire game to be a blast to playthrough solo. I am by no means a Mario scholar, but these two entries into his rather extensive library stand above and beyond many of the rest. With few exceptions (Yoshi’s Island, Super Mario 3, Galaxies), Super Mario 3D Land and Super Mario 3D World stand at the top of the franchise for me.
Would I buy a Wii U just to play Super Mario 3D World? No, probably not. I wouldn’t regret the purchase once I played it though.