Another year, another bunch of Mario games. Nintendo continues to release games with Italian plumbers in them as quickly as people make forum posts complaining about too many Mario games, but they can still hit it out of the park with a gem such as this. The sequel to the brilliant Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS in 2011, Super Mario 3D World shows off what the Wii U can do graphically and is a game with incredible mechanics and level design. Although it might appear to be yet another Mario game on the surface, this game does many things to differentiate itself, thanks the new power-ups that make the game more endearing and the fact that it brings the four player co-op of the New Super Mario Bros. franchise over to the 3D games.

As in most Mario games, Bowser is causing trouble once again and Mario and co. need to stop him. This time, Mario travels through the Sprixie Kingdom to free the captured fairies in Bowser's castle, and he has the aid of Luigi, Peach, and Toad to help him out. Each character’s ability is the same as they were in Super Mario Bros. 2, where Luigi is able to jump higher and hover for a short period of time, Peach can glide through the air to get past long gaps, and Toad can speed through the levels. Before each level begins, the player is able to switch between each of the characters if they feel their abilities will make the level easier, but the game can be completed with any character without any problems.

As expected with any Mario game, the classic power-ups return, such as the standard Mushroom and Fireflower, alongside the Tanooki and Boomerang suits from 3D Land, but the new power-ups do make the game more interesting. The Cat Suit can be used to climb walls to access secrets and other hard-to-reach areas, while the Cherry power-up clones the character. The copies can be used to attack large groups of enemies or to gain access to secrets. These may seem like standard power-ups for a Mario game, but they end up being unique additions to the franchise because the levels are specifically designed with them in mind, and each makes excellent use of each power-up while still having the excellent platforming that the franchise is known for.

Speaking of the levels, there is enough variety here so that nothing feels repetitious. Although the standard world archetypes of previous Mario games continue with this game, each of the individual levels inside the worlds do a great job in differentiating themselves from each other and that makes it a blast to play them again numerous times. The levels are larger and have more variety to them than the ones in 3D Land. Some levels will have the player ride on a dinosaur down a waterslide to collect green stars and Miiverse stamps. There is a level which switches between a 3D light world and a 2D shadow world. There are levels that have the player rush through obstacles to get green stars in less than 10 seconds. Thanks to both the level design as well as the game's luscious aesthetics, each level is more memorable and enjoyable than the last and are easily replayable thanks to the copious amount of unlockables within the game.

Perhaps the biggest feature within this game is the new four player co-op mode. Like the New Super Mario Bros. games, up to four people can play through all of the levels together. The game can be played with any controller, but in multiplayer at least one person will have to use the Wii U Gamepad. The multiplayer aspect of the game is cooperative, but there is a competitive element to each level. Each player is trying to obtain the highest score in each level, where the winner wears a crown in the next level. Playing with other people can become hectic thanks in part to a camera that can lose track of players who are lagging behind. Because of how the levels are designed, it might be better to play through the game alone, but it is still a fun game to play with friends if only to mess with people by throwing them off ledges, steal the crown from the champion player, or hogging all the power-ups.

Even though this game uses the Wii U Gamepad, there aren’t many features in the game that use it in a way that makes it necessary. The gamepad only displays whatever is happening on the screen, similar to New Super Mario Bros. U, but has a few extra features thrown in. In some levels, the gamepad is required to move blocks to create a path to climb up a wall. In others, the microphone is used to blow enemies off the world and move platforms around to progress through the level or to access secret areas. The biggest use of the gamepad within the game are the extra Captain Toad levels, in which the player needs to navigate Toad around the stage to collect the green stars. The player will use the gamepad to move platforms around and can use the gyroscope to move the camera. Even though these features do bring some interesting concepts to levels, the gamepad implementation is unnecessary and appears to be added in order to create a gimmick to justify the its existence. Fortunately, the levels that use the gamepad features can be skipped if playing with another controller.

Even though this game does its best to differentiate itself, it’s still hard to overlook the fact that it is yet another Mario game. Some people might be sick of going through the same worlds numerous times to once again save damsels in distress from an evil turtle king and will decide to skip this game altogether. However, as this game proves, similarity isn’t always a bad thing. What Nintendo has done is take the best elements of both types of Mario platformers and mix them together to form the near-perfect blend of challenge and exploration. The game contains much of the treasure-seeking in the 3D games while at the same time continues the tradition of arcade-style gameplay in the 2D games. Add in other elements such as impressive graphical fidelity and a good control layout and the Super Mario 3D World ends up being one of the best platforming games I’ve played in a long time.

Even though the gaming industry is focusing more on other genres, it’s good to see platform gaming making a return. Even though many great platformers have came out in the last few years, and some of my favorites come from last year alone, Super Mario 3D World stands out thanks to its incredible design and implementation. Each aspect of the game seems to be designed with care to make sure that everything works together so anyone can enjoy it, no matter what their style of play is. Even with the few problems this game has, it isn’t enough to detract from the overall experience and is definitely a game that shouldn’t be missed.

 

Final Score - 9/10

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