Super Mario 3D World, developed and published by Nintendo for the WiiU console, may be the latest platformer in the extensive and storied Mario Brothers franchise. 3D World, the sixth 3D incarnation of the series (seventh in the event that you count Super Mario 64 DS), liberally borrows different mechanics from past Mario titles and combines them right into a game that not only feels immediately familiar and fresh in equal parts, but is arguably the best Mario game in recent memory. It is without a doubt the best Mario game available for the WiiU right now.
That’s not to state that another WiiU Mario title available, New Super Mario Brothers U, is a bad game. The iconic plumbers have enjoyed a prominent role in the recent 2D platforming renaissance because of the games bearing the ‘New’ Super Mario Brothers moniker, and NSMBU is a great example of the excellence which has fueled that revitalization.
But it has been a while since the Italian duo have taken part in a complete 3D adventure on our television screens, well since 2010?s Super Mario Galaxy 2 to be exact, in fact it is exciting to see how Team Mario took what they’ve learned in sprucing up the titular moustachioed hero’s ‘New’ 2D adventures, and how they have applied that knowledge to a beautiful, high definition, three-dimensional Mario world.
Like the New Super Mario Brothers games, 3D World feels new, but has an undeniable old school feel aswell. In fact, it’s probably more of a spiritual successor to Super Mario 64 or the Super Nintendo’s Super Mario World than it is a follow-up to the newer 3D adventures on the Wii.
Nintendo keeps things from feeling rehashed however, by introducing new mechanics and power-ups for each and every old trope they grab. A POW block in a dark area will not only knock out nearby enemies, it will light up the encompassing area for an instant. Super Mario Galaxy iso The ever-present Fire Flower still enables you to throw fireballs, but now it is possible to occasionally ricochet them around corners at unsuspecting enemies before they are able to spot you.
Altogether new power-ups keep things interesting as well. The new bell will transform you into Cat Suit Mario, giving you a scratch and a jumping dive attack, as well as the power to climb a good distance up walls. The double cherries have a multiple-man effect, adding another Mario by your side. Grab a few in a row and you will have a Pikmin-like mob of red overall clad protagonists playing around on screen.
Even level design has a strong old school/new school dichotomy in Super Mario 3D World. While a 3D game, the levels make full use of several 2D sensibilities, lending a good, focused feel to the gameplay. Stages are roughly linear and there’s not a lot of exploration to do, that is good because the stages are timed. The clock starts running from the moment you drop in, until you jump onto the flag pole by the end of the level (another old school Mario trope).
Levels are navigated via an Overworld map (just one more old school Mario device), that players are absolve to explore for extra coins and secrets as well. And while most of the environs and enemies can look familiar, at the same time they’ve never looked as good. Seeing some of these characters and beautiful, colorful settings in full high definition is a real treat.
3D World features around 4-player simultaneous co-op, like the New Super Mario Brothers series, allowing players to select to play as Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach or Toad. There is a little old school mixed in here aswell since each character plays a little differently, similar to the way they played in the Nintendo Entertainment System title Super Mario Brothers 2. Mario is average all around. Luigi jumps a little higher and falls just a little slower, but takes slightly longer to get around full running speed.
Princess Peach can float for a couple of seconds while jumping, but isn’t as fast as the other players. Toad runs the fastest, but can’t jump quite as high and falls faster too. While multiplayer is strictly offline, based on your online settings, your Overworld map can be populated with Mii ghosts bearing messages posted by other players, and you will even run stages alongside Mii ghosts representing other players. Keeping an eye on them can sometimes be the difference between getting a stamp (the game’s new collectable) or all the stars in a level, and coming away empty handed.