Super Mario 3D Land is a very tough act to follow. To this day, I have fond memories of how it perfectly blended the 2D sensibilities of classic Mario within its 3D environments. I would go as far as saying that it’s better than any of the Super Mario Galaxy games. Are the cat suit and 4-player co-op enough to propel Super Mario 3D World above its predecessor? On their own, no. However, combined with the plethora of brilliant new ideas and a remarkable level of polish, this convincingly earns its place as one of the best Mario games ever made.
For the first time since Super Mario 2, you can play as Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess Peach. Along with them are their attributes that made them unique in that game. Mario is the all-around character, Toad runs the fastest, Luigi is the highest vertical on his jump and Peach can float for a short period of time. There are handful of instances where you’ll want (or need) to play as a specific character to unlock a secret, but you’re mostly free to play as whoever you like. Personally, I prefer Princess Peach because of her handy floating ability. However, in cases where a scenario was more easy to handle with someone that was quick on their feet, I would use Toad instead.
Like 3D Land, the camera is largely locked in place, allowing you to focus more on the action. If necessary, you can toggle the camera a little bit in certain spots, though it’s never really an issue. With friends, you’re forced to work together within the same view. Stray away and your character is forced into a bubble and taken back to the centre of the screen. Because of this design choice, you and your friends must move as a coordinated group in order to complete a level. This can be equal parts amazing and chaotic, just like the multiplayer experience in New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
From beginning to end, this game is a non-stop celebration of what the series has been and where it continues to go. I love how many nods to classic Mario games it throws in there as a visual cue or gameplay element without being too much on the nose. More exciting is all of the neat news innovations that 3D World brings to the table. The cat suit adds a layer of verticality to the game while being extremely useful for finding secrets. The cherry power-up duplicates your character and forces you to control them both at the same time. If you collect more cherries, you can actually multiply your character many times over, which is sometimes required in very specific scenarios. While a handful of boss fights with the Koopa Kids are as mundane as they’ve always been, most encounters feature new bosses with unique ways to approach them. Beyond that, there are so many neat gameplay ideas that come to life in every single level that it feels fresh throughout.
Completing a straight playthrough of the game can take about 8 hours, though there’s reason to stick with it after you’ve saved the day. I’m generally not a fan of collecting stuff in video games, though the game does a great job of rewarding players for exploring each level with a well-hidden star or stamp. Also, an “out-of-this-world” 9th world is unlocked after defeating Bowser that is considerably harder than the main game. For experienced players, this grande finale is a real treat.
Wildly creative and tightly put together, Super Mario 3D World is a damn near magical game. Even in the face of the Super Mario games before it, this stands tall as one of best. If you own a Wii U, go buy this game right now. If you don’t, go buy a Wii U for this. It’s easily one of the best games to come out in 2013 and is well worth your time and money.