Super Mario 3D World was the best game to come out last year. There was some fierce competition, most of it from Nintendo themselves. A Link Between Worlds was great and The Wonderful 101 was something special. Still, 3D World was better. At this point, excellence is so routine to the Mario series it is expected. Somehow, Super Mario 3D World still surprises with it quality.
While the game largely plays the same as the seminal 3DS’s Super Mario 3D Land, 3D World does feature ton of new stuff. There are new power-ups, most notably the catsuit and the double cherry. Both of those work well with the main focus of the game: the multiplayer. Like the New Super Mario series, 3D World is designed for up to four players. While making a 2D game, like NSMBU, accessible for multiple players is relatively easy. The game usually only has to track the players across one plane. Creating a 3D game with single screen multiplayer is much more difficult. 3D World accomplished this, primarily by fixing the camera high in the sky.
The problem with that method is that it makes some jumps hard to judge. Not impossible, but it is occasionally unclear where exactly where Mario is. This problem is becomes bigger with a full four characters on the screen. The camera doesn’t track any one player’s movements, so sometimes you end up in the background, trying to complete difficult jumps blind. This would be a huge problem if it weren’t for the game’s most prominent power-up. The catsuit gives the player a ton of leeway on those jumps, since it lets the player climb on things. It is extra mobility in a game all about mobility.
Even with that, multiplayer can get hectic. That is where the double cherry comes into play. No, it doesn’t alleviate the confusion of multiplayer, it multiplies it. In single player the cherry duplicates can be hard to track, it is nigh impossible with extra players. This is far from a bad thing. They craziness happening on the screen turns a delicate ballet of speed and momentum into an overcrowded party.
Both of 3D World’s signature power ups play with the constraints of multiplayer. The biggest “new” feature of the game is also focuses on that. The Super Mario Bros 2 gang is present in 3D World, along with their unique gameplay styles. Mario is the all-around character, Luigi jumps the highest, Peach floats and I guess Toad runs the fastest. I mean, who uses Toad?
All the focus on multiplayer did not cause the single player to suffer. All the things that help the multiplayer also work well in single player. The double cherry is fun every time it shows up, and the catsuit is fits naturally in with Mario’s usual power ups like the fire flower. The greatest boon are the multiple characters. Switching from character to character drastically changes how you approach levels. Peach acts as an easy mode, with her ability to float to out of reach collectables . 3D World is genuinely smartly designed, with elements that work with each of its different styles of play.
All this and I didn’t really mention that the difficulty curve is pitch perfect and that the level design ranges from great to inspired. Or how the music is delightfully jazzy. Really, the game is just about perfect. Mario is still the king. Since Nintendo tends to limit their Mario releases to one per subseries per console, it will likely be a while before we see another Mario game. I am more than happy to savor this one for a while.