Quick, someone contact the Nobel Prize committee, because with Super Mario 3D World, Nintendo has actually managed to produce pure, solid, tangible fun.
When first announced at E3 2013, I was less than excited. Initially I thought this would just be a retread of Super Mario 3D Land, available on the 3DS, similar to what Nintendo pulled with New Super Mario Bros. Wii and U. Boy, was I wrong.
The story of Super Mario 3D World is simple enough: Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Peach (that’s right, she’s playable) travel to a new land to rescue fairies that Bowser is kidnapping because – you know what, it doesn’t matter why, he just is – with a handful of new power-ups to boot. Your standard Mario fare. However, while the schtick is the same, the gameplay is not. Super Mario 3D World feels, like 3D Land before it, like an amalgamation of Super Mario Galaxy and the New Super Mario Bros. series. There are stages, each with a flagpole you need to get to at the end, with a set time limit, but there is also plenty of room for creativity in the process of actually making it to the end of a level. Also, the boss fights are incredibly creative: one level I got to fight Bowser, riding in the back of a purple low-rider convertible, by kicking explosive soccer balls at him. In any other franchise (except maybe Saints Row) that would sound insane.
Some of the new power-ups include the ridiculously cute and effective Cat Suit, which does exactly what it sounds like: it turns you into a cat, complete with claws, pounce attacks, and the ability to climb up walls, making you incredibly mobile and giving you a whole lot of leeway for proceeding through a stage. The suits come in especially handy for nabbing green stars scattered throughout each level, which are necessary for unlocking certain levels. But the Cat Suit isn’t the best thing about Super Mario 3D World.
Oh, no, my friend. That would be the Double Cherry power-up, which grants you up to four doppelgangers of yourself, all controlled by you, and likely all throwing fireballs while you careen through a level, creating chaos and colorful, cheerful death all around you.
Also noteworthy is how the game uses the Nintendo Wii U‘s GamePad tablet controller. You can use the touchscreen to unveil hidden blocks, blow on the mic to cause platforms to move, and of course play the entire game off your TV, but you’d be insane to do so judging by how darn pretty it is.
Yes, graphically, I can’t think of very many games that can hold a candle to Super Mario 3D World. Each “world” comes with its own distinctive look – grassy, sand, snow, you know the drill – and they all look marvelous. For all the talk about the PS4 and Xbox One being able (or not) to put out impressive graphics in 1080p, the Wii U handles it without even breaking a sweat. You can almost feel how fuzzy the Cat Suit is, you can pick out grains of sand in the desert levels. You want to impress someone with “next-gen” graphics? Pop this game in. Seriously.
From a sound standpoint, the soundtrack is impressive. Ranging from jazzy, upbeat numbers to special “Easter Egg” dance tracks of classic Mario (and even Zelda) themes, I would buy this game’s soundtrack today. Also, Nintendo, nice touch in making the music sound muffled whenever my character is underwater. That was so awesome to discover!
I really can’t even begin to scratch the surface with how much fun I had with this game. It’s been a long time since I truly, genuinely grinned ear to ear like an idiot while playing something. Make no bones about it, this game is the reason you should own a Wii U, the best game on the console to date, and one of my picks for Game of the Year.