I admit it. I’m a Nintendo Fan Boy. I’m not ashamed to admit it either. I grew up on Nintendo. My first console was the Nintendo Entertainment System, and even though I was incredibly young at the time, I still remember playing it and having great times, especially with my Grandad who knew the original Super Mario Bros game inside and out! From there the SNES was the next console in my house, and oh, how I love the SNES still to this day. I still own both consoles, but the SNES is one I still get the itch to dig out and play. While the SNES has perhaps one of the best game libraries of any console past or present, it’s ONE game that always draws me back to it; Super Mario World. To this day I can still pop the cartridge in (or load up my Virtual Console version if I’m too damn lazy to get the SNES out), hit the “on” switch and work my way through the game without ever getting bored or thinking it no longer “holds up”, being that it’s so old. Following the SNES, Nintendo started to focus on bringing Mario into the 3D world, and they did a spectacular job over the years with Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine (a hugely underrated Mario game), and the rather wonderful Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 games on the Wii console, both of which I would consider the PEAK of 3D Mario.
When you look at all of the previous Mario games, going back to Super Mario Bros on the NES and then all the way up to Super Mario Galaxy 2, you can clearly see how each new system brings an EVOLVED version of the franchise to the gaming world. Hell, on a couple of occasions we’ve even managed to see that on the same system!
Here we have the original Super Mario Bros game on the NES. It’s kinda simple and basic; you run from one side of the screen to the other, jumping over enemies, hitting boxes and collecting coins, with a few powerups along the way to help.
And then we have Super Mario Bros 3 (leaving out 2 because one version was a different game entirely with Mario characters added, and the other was more of the same but with the difficulty ramped up from the first game). Despite still being on the NES, the visuals took a leap in quality, and now there were new game play features such as more powerups (RACOON SUIT!), mini games where you could win powerups and extra lives, much more diverse enemies and level designs, creative boss fights and a world map.
As me moved to the SNES, Super Mario World was the next major instalment into the Super Mario Bros series. It took ideas from Super Mario Bros 3; the world map, great and unique level designs, new powerups (Cape so Mario can FLY!!!) etc and improved on them ALL. And of course the most noticeable change/improvement/update to the series was the addition of Yoshi; the green (and often times different coloured with unique abilities) dinosaur that you could ride, allowing you to run faster, eat enemies, spit out certain enemies to use as weapons, float over gaps and reach areas you couldn’t reach on your own. With a staggering 96 levels in total, completing Super Mario World fully isn’t the quickest Mario game, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t the FUNNEST.
With the N64’s release, Mario would switch from the 2D world into 3D, and was definitely the biggest form of “evolution” that the Mario platform games would make. Some popular 2D games struggled when switching into 3D (Sonic…), but somehow Mario in 3D just seemed to WORK. It helps that Nintendo knew what they were doing, no doubt. The 3D world allowed us to play Mario like never before; new platforming challenges, large explore-able levels with hidden secrets, wall jumping and triple jumping, and instead of a world map, we had an entire CASTLE and the grounds around it to explore in between levels to find more secrets and access new levels. The idea of going into one level and having to do multiple challenges to collect stars was a huge change from simply “getting to the end of the level” as was the case in every other Mario platformer before this one. Some of the stars could be obtained by beating a mini-boss, some with a race, some by reaching a particular area, and then some that would take some real figuring out to do, which added even more to the game play experience. While the graphics aren’t that great looking back (very blocky, as was the case with most N64 games), the game still manages to hold up thanks to the wonderful game play and the great job by Nintendo with the controls. Oh, and the remake on the DS handheld is certainly worth checking out!
And now we move onto the Gamecube Mario game; Super Mario Sunshine. Something of the “red-headed step child” of the Mario series so to speak. Why? Uhhh… I’m honestly not too sure. I *think* (and please, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong here) it was because a) the game wasn’t set in the standard Mushroom Kingdom, but rather Isle Delfino, and b) there is a lot of cleaning up ink/paint in the game. And well, I find those reasons to be somewhat ludicrous. I’ll start with the first one; the game not being set in the Mushroom Kingdom. Nintendo were always about making the new Mario games DIFFERENT. The word I’ve used a lot so far is EVOLVE. Mario games are EVOLVING. And how on earth could Nintendo do that realistically by keeping it in the exact same place as before? Sure, I guess a graphically updated Castle would have made for a nice location to access levels again… but then people would have complained that it was the same. Isle Delfino on the other hand is new, it’s different, and it looks absolutely beautiful. I LOVE tranquil beach/ocean locations so I’m a little biased, but damn, Sunshine just looks wonderful. And during this era in gaming, the PS2 and Xbox, for the most part, were starting to release more and more games that imo, visually, looked DULL. Dark hallways to wander down, in space with plenty of black, post apocalyptic worlds that are just run down versions of once beautiful and colourful locations. Mario games, and Nintendo in general most of the time, are great at giving us COLOUR. They’ve long since stopped trying to bring out the most POWERFUL console on the market, and as such make wonderful use of colour, lighting and different visual styles to bring us games that look STUNNING even next to Playstation and Xbox games that try to go for the most realistic visual effects. So yeah, I LOVE Isle Delfino, think it looks great, and that setting allowed Nintendo to really give us some different level designs to what we were used to. Moving on to the second point, I CAN kinda see where people are coming from here. Cleaning up that paint/ink stuff isn’t typical MARIO game play, and hell it’s not something that sounds fun on paper. However, it leads to the introduction of FLUDD. And I LOVE FLUDD. Again it allowed Nintendo to EVOLVE the game play in Mario, adding new challenges to levels that required you to pick out the right FLUDD tool for the job, and switch them up at a moment’s notice in order to continue through the level. Hey, they even threw in some levels where your FLUDD was taken away and you had to rely on good old fashioned platforming skills in some of THE hardest levels I’ve personally played in a Mario game. All in all, Sunshine is most definitely a worthy successor to Super Mario 64, and while it WAS critically acclaimed on release, deserves more love from the fans!
Mario started in the Mushroom Kingdom. Then it moved to Isle Delfino. Where else CAN the games go from here? Well, Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii gave us the answer; SPACE. Again they provide us with stunning colourful visuals, incredible level designs and great platforming fun. However this time we are introduced to the effects of GRAVITY. And it adds so much to the series. Instead of large levels, we now get smaller locations, all connected to each other, to make 1 level. You might start off on a very small planet, which you can now run around fully without fear of falling off the edge thanks to the addition of gravity, and then you’ll fly off through part of space onto another small planet to continue your journey to get those ever popular stars. This time around though, instead of going into the exact same level over and over to collect multiple stars, more often than not, any level with multiple stars will now CHANGE depending on which star you go for. As you work your way through a level to get one star, you might notice another small planet in the same orbit as the one you are on… yet you don’t get to go there. Well, when going back into the level for the next star, there is a good chance you WILL get to visit that location, and from there continue on to new locations all within the same little orbit. It really helps to add to the variety and FUN. Instead of a castle or even a small island to run around in between levels, you are now in a space ship, which is another fun location to check out, though much smaller and lacking in secrets compared to previous games. However that isn’t even an issue because everything else about the game is an improvement. New powerups add to the experience once again, such as the Bee Suit, Ghost Suit and others. Luigi even appears to help out by finding stars in levels that you wouldn’t be able to get on your own, and they added special comets that come into orbit from time to time to change up a level in order to give you another star. Changes could be something simple like having to collect 100 red coins, or a little more difficult like having to race a shadow version of yourself and get to the star before it does.
For the first time since the NES, Nintendo release another major Mario platformer on a console that already had one, and so we got Super Mario Galaxy 2 on the Wii. Originally meant to be essentially a retail “DLC” to the first Galaxy game, Nintendo decided to go all out and make it into a full sequel. And they outdid themselves. At the core, it’s just like the first Galaxy game; smaller levels with multiple locations, the gravity effects, and stunning colourful visuals. However this time they bring back an old friend to help out; Yoshi. He adds to the game by allowing you to float over gaps like you could in Super Mario World, and again has special abilities depending on what you feed him. Mario also gets some different abilities in this game which allows Nintendo to continue to evolve the gameplay. Instead of a space ship to move around on between levels, you have a small planet, and then when you wish to go to a new level, you get a world map, which helps speed things along. I just recently replayed Galaxy 1 and 2 before getting my Wii U, and I have to say I was very surprised by how well Nintendo did in making Galaxy 1 and 2 feel like genuinely DIFFERENT games despite being the same at the core. In my opinion, THIS is the pinnacle of 3D Mario games.
So that FINALLY brings me to the latest instalment in the 3D Mario game series; Super Mario 3D World. And yes, there was a point to me doing a little overview of the previous games and bringing up that EVOLUTION word numerous times. Basically the major flaw with the Wii U Super Mario 3D World game is that it feels like a STEP BACK rather than an evolution of the game. All my time playing it, I couldn’t help but think “this should have been on the Wii, and Galaxy on the Wii U”. In many ways this is very similar to Galaxy 1 and 2; smaller levels, often with locations connected to each other and a mix between a world map and an explore-able location to enter new levels. However, it’s missing that ONE big feature that Galaxy had that really made it feel like the next instalment of Mario; Gravity. Without it, this feels like a lesser version of the previous gen games. And that really is a shame… because aside from that flaw, Super Mario 3D World is still TERRIFIC.
Yes, I still love the game. It looks beautiful once again. We have the amazing visuals similar to what you might see in Galaxy, only there is some more hardware power to make things look even better than ever. The level of detail is pretty surprising as on first glance it looks just like Galaxy, but as you begin to study everything on the screen you can clearly see that this is Mario in HD. I especially love the rain effects in certain levels, with water running down the screen like it would a window in real life. Little things like that really add to the experience and help you appreciate all the work the developers put into the game. The level design is once again superb, delivering unique and creative levels with more stunning visuals that we are used to with Mario games. As usual the beach/ocean style levels remain my favourite, but it is impossible to find a bad looking level in this game, or anything even remotely close to not great.
As far as the actual game play… while yes, removing the gravity DOES make it feel like a step backwards, I have to commend Nintendo for using the Wii U features to still add something new to the game, even if I don’t feel they were enough to make it a TRUE successor to Galaxy. As you know, the Wii U Gamepad is a touch screen, and also had a mic. Essentially it’s a DS to control the Wii U. And they make use of these features throughout the game in a couple of small ways, but are still welcome editions to the Mario series. Firstly, the touch screen. Obviously you can use it on the menu etc, nothing groundbreaking there, but it can also be used to help out in certain levels. As you progress in the game, you’ll eventually come across a couple of levels that require you to touch blocks on the screen to make them come out of the wall allowing you to climb them to reach your goal, or sometimes even break blocks to access items and areas. There are also levels specifically designed around the touch screen controls, as you must open doors and hit gongs in order to progress or find secrets. These levels are very fun, but unfortunately are few and far between. Then we have the mic, which you simply blow into. Some levels you use it to blow fans to move on platforms, however in pretty much every level in the game, I found myself randomly blowing into the mic to see if I could reveal an invisible platform or box to hit, which would more often than not give me a powerup to help me out in the level. Nothing earth shattering I know, but it’s another one of those little things that adds up. Finally, the gamepad, like the Wii Remotes, has a gyroscope/accelerometer allowing for motion control, which can be used for camera angles.
The biggest addition to the game to try and make it different to previous titles, is the Cat Suit. Find a gold bell powerup, and you will turn into a Mario Kitty with the ability to run faster while on all fours, pounce on enemies (one of the best attacks), and climb walls! It seems to me that they really tried to focus on the Cat Suit being THE powerup in this game, as it comes up often in levels and is EXTREMELY helpful in reaching hidden areas. While I do like the suit, and think it adds to the game play, I just don’t see it as being the next evolution for Mario. Climbing walls is great and all, but with the gravity effects in Galaxy, you would often find yourself running up and down walls and even ceilings.
I know I keep harping on about this game being a step down from Galaxy. I can’t help it. Galaxy 1 and 2 are damn near perfection for me when it comes not only to Mario games, not only to platforming games, but games in general. So with a new console by Nintendo complete with new features, I guess my expectations were too high. I was looking for them to make Galaxy 1 and 2 obsolete. Unfortunately I don’t think that’s possible now. They could release a Galaxy 3 on Wii U and I’m not sure they’d be able to do enough to make it truly different or in any real way better than the previous 2 games. And honestly, I have no idea where the next Mario game CAN go anyway. And that’s not a bad thing. Because Nintendo have given us perfection, and that isn’t something I can say for any other company in gaming. So now Nintendo only have to do one thing for me with the Mario series; keep the games great. And yeah, Super Mario 3D World isn’t perfection… but like I said, it’s TERRIFIC. So time to take a look at what makes the game so awesome without constantly trying to compare it to Galaxy 1 and 2!
Let’s start with the levels. Yeah, they all look pretty… but they play even better. Unlike every other 3D Mario game, collecting stars by doing certain objectives is no longer the main goal. They’ve taken the SUPER MARIO WORLD idea and put it inside the 3D World, as you once again have to get to the end of a level and jump on the flagpole! It’s actually really nice and nostalgic to have to do this while being in the 3D World. They have of course released a number of New Super Mario Bros games that brought back the classic 2D style with new ideas and visuals that still required you to jump on the flagpole at the end, but this is 3D! Stars (and Shines that look just like stars with extra bits on the points…) have been the main objective ever since Mario 64, and Nintendo haven’t completely gotten rid of them yet. This time around there are 3 green stars in every level for you to collect. You might have to collect 8 green coins in a short amount of time, kill specific enemies or just reach a hidden area to find them. They also have boxes that transport you to new locations that require some basic puzzle solving in order to win that green star, and those can be really fun.
Outside of the main levels, we have Toad mini-games, where you take control of Toad and without the ability to jump, must collect 5 green stars before the time runs out. These levels are so fun, Nintendo announced at E3 that they are making a full game out of the idea! I can’t wait for Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker! As far as reaching the flagpole in each level goes, well, there are so many varying levels that you must go through in order to reach the end! Basic platforming levels, where you avoid/kill enemies, go through pipes, jump over gaps and collect coins and powerups along the way. Then the next level could be underwater. After that, maybe you are in the dark and have to pick up a light box to light the way! Platforms that switch around every time you jump, that appear and disappear to the music, that vanish once you’ve jumped on them so you can’t go back. Platforms that move in the direction of the arrow you stand on. Platforms on tracks that require you to shoot cannons at switch boxes so the track changes and you don’t fall to your death. Ghost Houses with traps and secrets. Water levels with a giant dinosaur who isn’t Yoshi to ride on and navigate. Fiery dungeon levels where one step spells your doom. Hell, there is even a level based on Mario Kart! Where Super Mario 3D World comes into its own, is the sheer incredibleness of its level designs and variations. They look great, they are creative as hell, and there are so many different ones that you’ll never get bored. I’ve only just scratched the surface as far as mentioning what levels you will come across. And that’s just incredible.
Boss fights are something I enjoyed more than perhaps ever before too. There are a few different versions of boss fights this time around, in part to keep in some of the familiar Mario boss fights while having the game objectives different. Normally in a 3D Mario game, you’d have to defeat certain bosses as a challenge to win a star in a level, and that would just be one of the things you’d have to do. This time around, roughly in the middle of each world on the map, you’ll have to defeat a particular type of enemy, one that you would normally find within a level. While these are fairly easy, they do get creative, one of my favourites being Prince Bully, who you have to trap in a pipe with suction, then hit him a couple of times before he breaks free. The next type of boss fight is more akin to what you would encounter as a level challenge on previous games; a giant monster that you battle on a circular piece of land. These fights often come in between worlds, and are more difficult than the smaller boss fights I already mentioned.
Finally, we have Bowser. In order to reach the actual Bowser fight, first you have to complete a train level, which is essentially a throwback to Super Mario Bros 3 with the battleships, only this time it’s a moving train! These levels are actually really fun, and to my own surprise I found myself looking forward to reaching the boss fights so I could play these levels! As for Bowser, well, it’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen in Mario. No longer do you jump under/over him and grab the axe to send him into the fiery pits of hell. No longer do you jump on his head three times. No more spinning him around and throwing him off a platform. In Super Mario 3D World… Bowser is driving away in a car, and you must follow him on foot throwing back the bombs he throws at you! Yes, seeing Bowser roll up in a giant car is odd at first, but this is a Mario game. Everything in them is kinda insane when you stop and think about it. And Bowser in a giant car is insane…ly AWESOME. Of course simply running behind him and throwing back bombs isn’t the only thing you have to contend with, as later stages see you avoiding spikes, fire pits and more as you desperately try to grab a bomb and throw it back at him. The final Bowser fight is a little more on the classic side of things… which an AWESOME twist that I don’t want to ruin for anyone who has yet to play the game or reach that part. Only Nintendo could get away with it!
I’ve already mentioned the new Cat Suit, but surly that isn’t all you get to combat these crazy levels and enemies, right? Of course not! The classic fire suit is back, as is a variation of the Racoon Suit from Super Mario Bros 3 (no full flight, but you can hover a little with it). The good old invincibility star is of course here, and even the giant mushroom that allows Mario to smash just about everything in his path! One of my favourite additions to the game is the Boomerang suit (first appeared in Super Mario 3D Land on 3DS, which I have yet to play), which can help you wipe out numerous enemies in a single throw of the boomerang. Finally, another new addition for this game, like the Cat Suit is, is the Double Cherry. What does it do? MULTIPLIES MARIO. Yeah. You control TWO Mario’s at once! Can be tricky, but also very helpful, especially if you have another powerup already such as the fire suit or boomerang suit. But what happens if you come across another Double Cherry powerup, and you already have two Mario’s? THREE MARIO’S!!! I’ve had FOUR Mario’s on the go at once, and I’ll be honest I’m not even sure if that’s the limit or not. The benefits of having multiple Mario’s are usually to gain green stars, as you will come across platforms with a specific number on them, which tells you how many Mario’s you need to have standing on the platform to reach another area. Just another way for Nintendo to be creative with their levels, and I LOVE it.
Phew, I’ve gone on for quite a while about this game now, and you know what? I still haven’t even touched on everything! What else is left to talk about? Multiplayer! Yep, the first multiplayer 3D Mario game EVER! Galaxy had a spot for a second player to just control collecting or shooting those little star bits, but that isn’t exactly a true multiplayer experience, nor was it promoted as such. Super Mario 3D World on the other hand, IS. 4 players can join in the action, and you can pick between the characters based on the US/EUR Super Mario Bros 2 game; Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad. And like that game, each character has their own special abilities. Oh, and there might also be an unlockable character too. Just saying! While the object of the game remains the same; reach the flag pole at the end of the level, and try to collect as many green stars as possible… multiplayer mode also features some competition between the players, as you are scored at the end of each level based on how many points you got individually. More points for the higher up on the flagpole you get, for collecting green stars, collecting coins and powerups etc. And the person with the highest score gets to wear a crown in the next level too! Unfortunately I can’t comment too much on the multiplayer mode as I don’t have much opportunity to play the game with friends, however I did go through a couple of levels with a friend a few days before writing this, and while it was fun… it was more of a detriment to the gameplay experience for me because he kinda sucks at Mario games! Plus he likes to mess with me and does things to intentionally kill me… which definitely adds to HIS gameplay experience! So if you have friends who actually know what they are doing in Mario games and want to actually beat the game, I can see the multiplayer mode being a major addition to the Mario 3D series. For me it’s just a tacked on feature that doesn’t add anything, but at the same time doesn’t take anything away either.
And I think that just about covers everything I want to talk about!!! Overall, I cannot praise this game enough. The levels are beautiful and creatively designed. The powerups, both old and new, are a lot of fun to play around with. Boss battles are unique and again, very creative, and breath some fresh new life into the series in my opinion. Super Mario 3D World does a magnificent job of mixing together nostalgic 2D Mario features with the 3D Mario features, giving us basically a mix of Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World and Super Mario Galaxy… minus the gravity of course. And the gravity is my ONLY complaint for this game. The Cat Suit is great, but not really the big “gimmick” needed to make it feel like the next generation Mario Game, following all the 2D games, going into 3D for the first time, adding the FLUDD attachment, and finally the gravity. Would this game have worked and been even better WITH the gravity along with the Cat Suit? I don’t know. All I know is that I still absolutely love this game, and consider it to be the best 3D Mario game right behind the wonderful Galaxy games. I am truly excited to see what Nintendo comes up with next for Mario 3D games, be it another release on the Wii U, or the next Nintendo console. If you’ve ever played and enjoyed a Mario game in the past, then make sure you go out of you way to play this. Don’t own a Wii U yet? Believe me, THIS is a console seller. Purchase a Wii U and Super Mario 3D World and you won’t be disappointed!!!
Beautifully designed levels
Great mix of old and new powerups
Over 100 levels to keep you busy
No gravity feels like a bit of a step back for the series