Super Mario 3D World: The Kotaku Review

Super Mario 3D World: The Kotaku Review

Super Mario 3D World is a terrific video game. It's just not a very good Wii U game. I can't remember the last time Nintendo needed a game to be so good so badly.

Super Mario 3D World is the first really big game for the company's beleaguered Wii U, the kind of game that the company hopes will turn curious bystanders into buyers. Or at least get current owners buying a Wii U game in a holiday season set to be dominated by the launches of the PS4 and Xbox One.

Which might explain why this game, the first real BIG release for the console since its launch, is so full. With SM3DW, Nintendo has opted out of making a "new" Mario game. Instead, we're getting all the Mario games. All at once.

Things start out pedestrian enough as you're led through the opening few worlds, but as you progress and encounter more varied level types, more power-ups and more enemies, you realise that SM3DW isn't an exploration of what new experiences the Wii U can provide you with. It's a greatest hits collection, bringing together all the best things Mario has already done in a single package.

It's got Super Mario World's overworld map. There's a lot of Mario 64 and Mario Galaxy level design in here. One new power-up gives you the Mario & Luigi RPG's multi-character controls. So many stages contain so many homages, so many tributes, so many borrowed ideas from lots of different Mario games, all brought together here.

Super Mario 3D World: The Kotaku Review

I could spend pages telling you how good much of this is, despite the retreads, but you've done it all already. Many times before. The perfectly-designed jumping challenges. The deviously-placed enemies. The charming puzzles, the gentle difficulty ramp, the way it manages to teach you everything you need to know without a single tutorial.

Just imagine loads of the best parts of your favourite Mario games rolled into one and you'll get an idea of how you'll feel during most of your time with this new game. It's old stuff, yeah, but it's the best old stuff.

On the occasions SM3DW ventures into new territory, however, it excels. There are levels of a scale this series hasn't seen before. The presence of not just stars (used for unlocking boss stages) but rubber stamps for Miiverse interaction, and their tantalising placement within levels, turns every single stage into a platform for obsessive replays and changes of strategy.

In a good way. Like other recent Mario games, SM3DW's stages aren't designed to be beaten once and forgotten. They're tiny arenas, which you'll want to keep coming back to, explore and unlock. You'll never "finish" SM3DW. You'll just one day grow tired of poking your nose into all of its many and unexpected corners.

Super Mario 3D World: The Kotaku Review

There is also a cat suit. I cannot stress enough how important this is. Forget tanookis. In this game, you can put on a cat suit, and you suddenly walk around on all fours like a cat, and you can crawl on walls, and you can scratch things in the face, and you "meow", and it is just the best.

It's also a gorgeous game. Beautiful. While it's disappointing to some that Nintendo is once again back to being almost a generation behind the competition in terms of visuals, one look at SM3DW running in HD will have you wondering how the Mushroom Kingdom, at least with its current art design, could possibly look any better.

I used to hold Far Cry 3 up as the gold standard for nailing the "sunny day on the beach" feel, but no more.

Make no mistake, SM3DW is a good game. A very good game. And yet, carrying the Super Mario name, and appearing as the first big Wii U game on the console, and sharing the same 3D branding as the fantastic 3DS game, it's hard not to feel just a little deflated by the experience.

Why? It feels like a bit of a dead end. Whether this is due to an off-year for the designers or the challenges of developing for the Wii U, who knows. But this isn't a Wii U game, not in the way I think Nintendo needs. There's very little here making use of the system's unique abilities.

You blow a few times onto the screen (which you've done on the DS for years), you tap a few times (ditto), but for the most part - visuals aside - this is an experience you could have had on any number of prior Nintendo platforms. Including handhelds.

Indeed, I spent most of my time playing the game on the Wii U controller screen, just because it was more convenient; it makes so little use of the console's "two screen" feature that instead of offering maps, or a power-up button, or something, the controller screen simply mirrors the TV action, meaning you don't even need to hit a button to swap out the action.

Super Mario 3D World: The Kotaku Review

Where Mario 64 was a revolution, and Mario Galaxy a reinvigoration, SM3DW can sometimes feel a little tired. Which might sound harsh, but hey, expectations - and one hell of a legacy to live up to - can be a bitch.

It's only on very rare occasions - most of them in special Captain Toad missions - that you actually get to make full use of the 3D space. Those stages, which involve navigating the Captain through fully-rotatable 3D worlds (a la Fez) are a welcome break from the regular action, and it's a shame Nintendo made them walled-off diversions instead of incorporating them more fully into the game.

Not that this was my only three-dimensional issue with the game. The camera is...good, but not great. The right thumbstick is ostensibly there to move your viewpoint around, but you're on a very tight leash. It only moves into pre-defined positions, and in many instances can't be moved at all, the action locked into the perspective the designers feel necessary.

The problem is that sometimes when this happens, it's not good enough. There are plenty of occasions, especially when jumping or tackling a crowd of enemies, that you want the camera to move as swiftly as you are, helping you judge the direction and depth of your movement. Sometimes, though, it's stuck in a really unhelpful position, and you'll think you've lined up a sweet jump only to fall straight off the stage. Frustrating.

Super Mario 3D World: The Kotaku Review

Then there's multiplayer. I could only test it out a little, but it's what you've come to expect from Mario games since New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Up to four players can run through each level, and while the camera can again be a problem on some of the more traditional stages (failing to keep everyone in frame), on the levels built specifically for racing (of which there are quite a few) it's a blast.

The four characters you can choose from aren't just for multiplayer; you can tackle any stage in the game in singleplayer as either Mario, Luigi, Peach or Toad. Sadly in this, The Year Of Luigi, Mario is the default option.

Each gives you a different way of confronting each level - Peach can float, Toad is faster while Luigi can jump higher - but I had the most fun with Mario, since by virtue of being the most balanced character he was the most...reliable. It's not that the others aren't fun, and in multiplayer each of their skills will help complement the team effort, it's just that... this is a Mario game, and it feels like the levels are made for Mario.

If you're concerned you'll need to play as other characters, you won't, as you can get to the closing credits using only a single one, with just a select few instances (mostly related to getting some of the tougher stars and stamps) requiring the use of a specific ability.

Super Mario 3D World: The Kotaku Review

SM3DW is a fantastic game. Just... fun, from beginning to "end". I had a smile on my face almost the entire time. It's packed with charm from front to back, contains some memorable levels and provides seamless multiplayer fun. If you own a Wii U, congratulations, your wait for a truly special game for the system is over.

It's just a shame that it couldn't do a better job of evangelising the platform for those still on the sidelines. Then again, if somebody can't get excited about one of the best Nintendo games in years, there's no helping them.


Comments

    Jesus christ enough with the gifs already.

      Yeah, it's really been turning me off reading Kotaku articles recently. And I can't find a working animated GIF blocker extension!

        Adblock with a *.gif filter doesn't work?

        Last edited 20/11/13 1:14 pm

          Hmm, that could work. I'll give it a try.

          EDIT: Blocking http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/*.gif seems to do the trick, without losing all content on the site!

          Last edited 20/11/13 3:55 pm

    Your articles need an epilepsy warning Luke... :)

    This is making me want a Wii U more than I currently want my PS4 next week

      Yeah, it may be a really fun game, but once you finish it how long will it be before you use your Wii U again.

        Maybe a day or two?

        I use mine several times a week.

          If that's the only console you own, then I understand, but if you own a 360 and or a PS3 as well, or are buying an XBone and or PS4, I don't see a lot of reasons to keep playing it.

          I love Nintendo as much as the next guy, but the serious lack of major franchises ie a new Zelda, F-Zero, Mario Kart, Smash Bros, Kirby etc makes it really hard for people to want to buy or hold onto one.

          Not to mention the fact that it's underpowered, which would be fine except, third party games don't look anywhere near as good, and some don't even make it to the Wii U at all.

            Yeah it's the only console I own. Even if I had others, why would I instantly drop this? Has some great games you can't get anywhere else, plus prettier multi platform games than the current gen.

            I can't speak for anybody else but I find Nintendo games in general to be the most replayable.

            Every time I finish a game like Super Mario Galaxy or LOZ: Twilight Princess, I find myself wanting to play it again. The fact that I had to re-purchase SMG and TP just to do so is a good example. I just really enjoy them.

            I own a 360, computer and older besides my WiiU and I spend more time gaming on that than either other, with the PC a close second.
            The 360 is a glorified DVD player now and has been little else for more than a year.

            There are heaps of reasons to use it. Its the Best console for exclusives. Nintendo games are in a world of their own. But, i do have to own an xbox or ps for some of the 3rd party games

            I own all the consoles, and play my Wii U infinitely more than anything else. I'll get a PS4 eventually (doubtful on the XBoxOne considering how little I play my 360).

            Different strokes for different folks. Saying "you won't play your WiiU after you're done with Mario" is like saying "you won't play your PS3 after you're done with The Last of Us". It's just Internet poop logic.

            I have a Wii U, 3DS and a 360. At the moment I haven't turned my xbox on since finishing GTA5.

        tbh, my Wii has been sitting there for a while but I haven't gotten round to buying nearly as many games for the Wii that I want. Neither of the Mario Galaxy's, The Last Story, Pandoras Tower, Donkey Kong. If I got all those along with the Wii U games, there's enough there to keep me happy for a while, at least while I'm waiting for the next wave of PS4 games. That said though, I'd be waiting for at least the next price drop for the Wii U. The Super Mario Bros & Luigi bundle looks great, but $428 still not a must-buy price for me

          It’s not just waiting for the Console price to come down with Nintendo either.
          $428 for what is essentially a current gen (last gen-tomorrow night) console is freaking ridiculous and you have to factor into that the fact that Nintendo takes FOREVER do drop the prices of their 1st party games.

          If I had to recommend to someone which console they should be spending their money on right now I’d have to put both the soon to be retired 360 and PS3 ahead of the WiiU for someone who didn’t own a console.

          Next Christmas (2014) both those consoles will be dirt cheap, and every single 1st party WiiU game (including the launch ones) will be full retail price still. By next Christmas any three 1st party WiiU games will cost the same as the ten best PS3/ 360 games.

          And that’s not including the TONs of cheap and fantastic quality downloadable titles available on XBL and PSN. Nintendo meanwhile is charging $7.95 for Game Boy Advance games on their game store.

          Last edited 20/11/13 11:24 am

            I know. I walk into EB Games and I still see Donkey Kong or Super Mario Galaxy 2 at $90. If I do get a Wii U then I'll definitely be importing the games. You're right though in that a PS3 or 360 would offer far better value right now, but the lure of Mario games is too much sometimes :P

        I actually play my Wii U on a regular basis, because I find the games I have on it are ones that I prefer to play for an hour or so once every few days.

        I use my wii u every day. Hell im using it right this second

    I've got a decision to make, either trade in my Wii U while it still holds some value and get an XBone, or get this.

    I've loved the Mario games since the first one, but after I finish this my Wii U would just sit there gathering dust until Smash Bros. and Mario Kart come out, I've had it since that Dick Smith sale, and I've used it probably 4 or 5 times.

    Forza 5 just looks so damn good, plus I love to kill me some zombies.

    Yeah these gifs are getting crazy. Can we at least avoid using a gif as the main article image, so we at least have a chance to avoid them if we wish? 3 or 4 Plunkett and Bashcraft articles on the front page, all with gifs, slows things down way too much......

    Yeah - the use of Gif's on this site is overwhelming. It doesn't work well on even good smart phones, and it is impossible to read text when there is a lot of movement. Seriously, can someone on the Australian end just block the Gif's already?

    Can we cancel the gifs somehow, it means there is no way I can read Kotaku articles at work any more.

    This game looks great but I’m not buying a WiiU for it. I get the feeling it’s a product of Nintendo trying to dig themselves out of a hole rather making than a genuinely “new” Mario game.

    Adding too much “new” stuff would have taken time, time they don’t have because nobody is making 3rd party games for their console and it’s dying.

    Expanding on the scope of their previous games (and they have been shrinking in an environmental sense) would have exposed the WiiU’s lack of power, so we get a game that could have been put on the 3DS.

    I’m sure it’s still a GREAT platformer, but I would have loved to see a NEW Mario game with an overarching game world and theme like Mario 64, Mario Sunshine or even Mario Galaxy to some extent. Mario games are the best platformers on the planet but a cut and paste best-of set in a game world which is essentially a menu isn’t going to inspire me to fork out for a WiiU.

      Expanding on the scope of their previous games (and they have been shrinking in an environmental sense) would have exposed the WiiU’s lack of power, so we get a game that could have been put on the 3DS.

      So a more powerful console can't run more powerful games? Stuff like AC3 is out on this. Don't understand at all.

        That’s true to some extent.

        I think that since Nintendo stopped being competitive in a raw-horsepower sense (post-gamecube) that they’ve started scaling back their game worlds so that they can produce comparative levels of detail in smaller areas. To some extent they’ve let them get so small that they’ve just gone “f*ck it” and reverted to the linear menu style gameworlds that we saw pre-N64.

        Now Nintendo are masters of making full use of these small areas but it’s still an annoying design limitation and I hate the idea that they are scaling back their grand ideas in order to cope with hardware limitations. Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, Skyward Sword (which also used it’s art style to hide its limitations) and now Super Mario 3D World have all used game areas floating in the sky so as to remove the necessity to render unnecessary background detail.

        It’s fine, the games still rock, but I do miss the days when Nintendo would try to make a large game world like we saw with Peaches Castle Hyrule Field (huge for their time) or the town in Mario Sunshine.
        Nobody expects Mario games to have a riveting story, but to just present a set of platforming levels which exist in a vacuum is pretty lame.

          Hmmmm i think your looking into things a bit too much. If the game is fun, play it. While the wiiU's power isn't anywhere near the xbox1 and ps4, all 3rd party games are looking better on the wiiU than the 360 and ps3. So, it can obviously handle anything the ps3 and 360 has done, it just needs time for developer to figure out how to use it properly, like all consoles.

          How powerful a console is NEVER determines how good the games are. That's just a stupid way of thinking

            It doesn’t determine if the games are good or bad, but it does put limitations on the way in which they can be designed.

            ALL those games I mentioned are great, but a lot of the recent ones have used the ‘floating platforms in the sky’ design principle and every Mario game since Galaxy 1 has done away with any kind of overworld entirely so that all the levels are essentially short platforming courses that exist in a vacuum. That’s pretty disappointing after the large, interesting overworlds we saw Nintendo building during the N64 and Gamecube era.

            I know the WiiU can do large gameworlds at the current generation standard (as per AC3), but this was the last chance Nintendo had with the WiiU hardware to release an ambitious gameworld AND have it look up to par with modern consoles. By the time the next Mario/ Zelda/whatever comes out Nintendo are going to have to start scaling back the scope of their gameworlds if they want them to compare graphically with the next-gen consoles and that means they’ll be back with more small levels.

            P.S Not all 3rd party games have looked better on WiiU than they have on the 360, PS3. It’s more powerful than those two, but some of the games have had performance and other issues (which is to be expected).

              I don't believe your point about them having to make smaller game worlds is relevant (no offence).

              They are Nintendo. They don't care a huge amount about 'keeping up with next gen'. They will make huge beautiful worlds that probably will not compare with the PS4 and XB1. And that doesn't matter. They will still be beautiful. They don't 'have' to make them small to compete because they aren't.

              Wind Waker is absolutely beautiful and huge (although a remake). Only the overworld of Skyward Sword was set on a floating island. Mario Galaxy was amazing on planets.

              I have to say I am a bit disappointed the next Mario game isn't a Mario64 sequel, I'd love for that. The 2D outing on the WiiU was pretty but still fairly meh. This one is getting great reviews though and looks fun.

              AC4 looks better than current gen but a step behind next gen. Watch Dogs is also somewhere in between according to the team's reddit thread.

              Don't worry about the next Zelda, Metroid etc. They will be glorious.

    If this had been released at launch instead of 2 days before the XBone and 9 days before the PS4, they might have sold a lot more Wii U's.

      unfortunately I think they rushed both the console and the software as they thought the momentum that the Wii had would carry over to the Wii U before the PS4 and Xbone were even announced. Alas it did not happen. It makes you wonder what would've happened if they'd spent a year or so beefing up the console a bit more, adding more harddrive space, and yeah, coming out with something like this and Pikmin at launch. But then again, that's not Nintendo's way

        I think the momentum of the Wii had already been lost by the time the Wii U was released. Also the naming makes people think it is a Wii accessory (it's true, I bought one and most people's responses were "i've already got a Wii" or, is that an accessory).

      I would have bought one. Absolutely guarantee it.

      I had my cash all ready to go and when the launch reviews came in and I realised that I’d rather be playing last Christmas’s 360 games and decided to wait till my birthday (February).
      By February the console looked almost dead so I skipped it.

      Now if I get one at all it will depend on a decent price drop and the new Zelda being amazing (it will be up against it too given the already dated hardware and the fact that it’s probably a couple of years off).

    Adding my voice to the GIF whinging. Had to stop reading the review because of them, they were making me feel sick.

    I personally don't have a problem with it but for anyone who does, you can use AdBlock to deal with the gifs

    Well, I was getting it anyway, so this is good news. The main point of contest seems to be that there isn't really anything "new". Now, I understand that it's OK to judge a game on what it's not, when what is "not" is game-breaking. But when the rest of the title is so damn good, I'm not sure why people are dismissing it.
    It's like, I watched Monster's University the other night, and loved it. I then read a review where the guy slammed it, predominantly because he felt it wasn't as good as Toy Story. So what? Isn't the movie still good? Why judge or for what it's not?
    Personally I can't wait for SM3DW, and will ignore the fervent budgeting to which I'm currently a slave to have it on day 1. 3D Mario games are the bomb and if it's just more inventive design in a shiny yet familiar package then I don't care.

    The Wii U is going gang busters at the moment. I already use it more than the PS3, and now my pre-ordered PS4 is going to have to take the back seat while I sort out SM3DW. Too much to play between the 2 consoles!

    Bah, more of the same. My son will go ape shit for this but it's not the game-changing, Super Mario 64-esque revolution in Mario games I wanted/expected. We need an open world Mario, stat!

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