What Made Super Mario 3D World So Great

What Made Super Mario 3D World So Great
To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, features and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Kotaku Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a news fix.

We all know Super Mario 3D World is super rad. Just how rad is it? YouTuber Mark Brown took a look at the modern classic for his semi-regular “Game Maker’s toolkit” video series, and makes a case for putting 3D World in the time-honoured “totally hella rad” category. That might not be the name of an actual honorific.

Anyways, watch the video:

The point I like most in Brown’s piece is how Super Mario 3D World introduces mechanics in such a way that the game is constantly teaching you how to approach new sorts of problems while subtly (and simultaneously) changing those same problems. Brown credits this design philosophy to Koichi Hayashida, a longtime Mario developer who headed up 3D World and also worked on numerous other acclaimed Super Mario titles, including the beloved Super Mario Galaxy series.

Hayashida began to figure out his unique design philosophy when working on the Super Mario Galaxy games. He recalled in a 2012 interview with Gamasutra that Super Mario Galaxy 2 was the first game in which he started “[…] to get a little clearer idea of how this level design philosophy should work: that is, we would start with a very clear concept on a stage and it would be maintained through, I think, the rest of the galaxy more consistently.”

But the time Super Mario 3D World came about, Hayashida had refined his design process into a four-part structure Brown likens to “Kishōtenketsu,” a term used to describe a specific type of narrative structure Brown says is used in four-line Chinese poems and four-paned Japanese comics.

How does this four-part structure work in a video game, as opposed to a piece of text? To give one small example, Brown shows how the 3D World stage “Cakewalk Flip” introduces, then tweaks a single mechanic with four distinct steps in a single level.

First, it shows you how the flipping-platforms are going to work in a safe environment — i.e. one Mario can fall down in without dying:

Then, the level adds a challenge by removing the “safety net”.

Next, Mario must make it up a passage with the flipping platforms, not just across one:

And, finally, a twist: the level adds a shockwave attack that must be dodged on top of the flipping challenge.

It’s always fun to start picking up on these tiny details and appreciating them the next time you revisit a game like Super Mario 3D World. Brown might be giving Super Mario 3D World a ton of credit for doing something many good games should be doing already (teaching their players). But his video still helps demonstrate a unique appeal that Nintendo games like 3D World have to them: an experimental, almost toylike purity that privileges a concept’s game-ish-ness above any other conceivable qualities it might have. Why do you think Nintendo games make so little sense but remain so much fun to play?


        • I wish I did like them as much as everyone else seems to. Just never seemed to strike me as particularly amazing.

          At least it’s always fun to throw a bit ol’ ball of disagreement in the mix whenever it comes up in discussion with my friends 😛

        • You have it the wrong way around. Galaxy is great, G2 was a bunch of good additional levels (and a few terrible ones with Yoshi.) SM3DW is a more polished Galaxy.

  • I can’t explain it but I got this game looking forward to it and was disappointed to the point that it was my least favourite game that year =o I traded it in after I finished a little over half the levels. I couldn’t stand it anymore.
    I’m not saying it’s universally bad everyone, just saying this is the experience I had =/ not sure why.

    • The biggest problem was that the early levels are the least risky and most boring.

      I had much more fun once I finished the main game and started unlocking the bonus worlds.

    • Yes, this game is golden for me. Maybe because it is my first Mario game or I 100%’d it so many times, it just has a special place in my heart.

  • I thought it was pretty brilliant, but also a safe entry in the series that wasn’t up to the scale of Mario 64 / Sunshine / Galaxy. I’m still expecting Nintendo to release a “proper” console 3D Mario game for the WiiU

  • This is my favourite Mario game to date and it’s even more fun with friends. The music was good, there were some frustrating parts but overall it was an enjoyable play.

  • I thought 3D World was better than either of the Galaxys.

    Also not sure why people complain about 3D World being too linear – Galaxys we’re equally linear, always pretty much a single path to each star.

    ‘Twas also lame in Galaxys how powerups had a time limit. I swear they aren’t as good as everyone remembers.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!