There are a few first-party games that can sell Nintendo consoles, and it’s no secret that the Wii U has been lacking many of the major properties that helped to make the Big N so prominent in the previous generations. New Super Mario Bros. U was a decent launch distraction, but it didn’t innovate the series — leaving many wishing for a new 3D Mario title. When E3 2013 rolled around, many fans were distraught to learn that Super Mario 3D World would be the next adventure — not the Super Mario 64 or Galaxy follow-up they’d been hoping for. Fortunately, this initial dismay was in vain, because Super Mario 3D World is easily not only the best game on Wii U, but a contender for a place among the the best platformers ever made.
The latest Super Mario adventure kicks off with Peach, surprisingly, not being kidnapped. Instead, Mario and friends learn that Bowser has taken a handful of pixie princesses against their will, so the gang promptly sets off to right that wrong. Right from the get-go it’s apparent that this is a very different Super Mario than anything that has come before it — albeit in the style of Super Mario 3D Land — and this is largely a result of the sheer amount of new content and features that await players.
Starring four playable characters in Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Peach, with a fifth character just waiting to be unlocked, this game is built with multiplayer in mind. A total of four people are able to play simultaneously in Super Mario 3D World, and Nintendo has done a phenomenal job at ensuring that the experience becomes increasingly chaotic when more people join in on the fun. This is achieved with complex level designs, copious amounts of enemies, a handful of new power-ups, and a local player ranking system. All of these work together to create a frantic, impulse-driven title that’ll have friends yelling at each other out of joyous frustration.
Depending on which character is selected, players gain access to their unique powers during play. Mario has the ability to, well, play and feel like the iconic plumber traditionally does, giving players a very balanced option. Toad, Peach, and Luigi, on the other hand, can run faster, float for brief periods of time, and jump higher, respectively, than the title character. This variation in control allows those playing alone or with friends to find a fit for their particular style of play, and makes playing through each level feel very different depending on the character that’s been selected.
Super Mario 3D World lacks online multiplayer, but its local multiplayer offerings more than make up for this. One of the biggest motivators that fuel the fire of friendly competition are the rankings at the end of each level or boss fight. Players who’ve proved their mettle and earned the coveted first place will be rewarded with a shiny crown that they can wear throughout the next level. While the crown is largely cosmetic (with only a small point bonus being given to the wearer at the end of a stage), it can insight an almost absurd amount of chaos at times by allowing other players to steal and wear the regal headpiece.
The addition of new power-ups like the Cat Suit are also instant classics that players will be fighting for, but the Cherries are what really pushes the zaniness to a new level. When a player picks up one of these mythical items, it instantly duplicates their character: effectively allowing a single person to control a pair of the same Nintendo icon. As more and more of these particular items are collected, the on-screen number of characters continues to grow, and they’ll only disappear upon being struck by an enemy, falling off a cliff, or completing a level. These new mechanics make multiplayer and single player sessions quite enjoyable and help to deepen the overall experience.
While multiplayer is a major focus in Super Mario 3D World, the game is just as much fun to play solo as well. Having friends to help or hinder the completion of levels will usually net players more collectibles like stars and stamps, provided the company players keep aren’t just dashing from one end of the level to the other, but Nintendo has ensured that there is plenty to do with or without a living room full of people. Each stage drastically changes the obstacles that must be overcome. Some stages may take place entirely under water, another may feature a big dinosaur named Plessie for users to ride, others are Mario Kart-themed levels, and some stick require gamers to play utilizing only their silhouettes. The developers have been meticulous in ensuring that no two stages feel alike (even in themed worlds) and the effort is apparent throughout.
While the all eight of the game’s main worlds manage to innovate and keep gameplay fresh, it’s hard not to take a moment to revel in the high definition details that fill everything from the main map to the levels themselves. Each little dust cloud that’s kicked up when running or paw print that gets left behind in the sand is far beyond anything that’s been done in past Mario titles. Levels that feature rain will soak the camera lens and proceed to trickle down during play while hostile Dry Bones glisten as water cascades down on the stage, everything in this game looks beautiful and the attention to detail is unparalleled.
Super Mario 3D World is evidence that Nintendo knows how to make a true high definition game and make it well. The length of the game itself will vary depending on how much time is spent gathering collectibles or fooling around with friends, but even after the main story comes to an end there are a few other goodies that players can look forward to. The first few worlds are pretty easy, but platforming experts hoping for a challenge can look forward to plenty of it later on. Overall, this is the game that Wii U owners have been waiting for and it shows that there’s still plenty of fight left in a console that many may have written off.
Follow Riley on Twitter @TheRileyLittle.