Review: Super Mario 3D World

A new world has opened! Again!

Console: Nintendo Switch

A while back I reviewed the game that finally gave the Nintendo 3DS a must-buy title after its rough launch: Super Mario 3D Land. After the release of that game, Nintendo started work on a new Mario title for the upcoming Nintendo Wii U, meant as a de facto sequel to 3D Land. I find it pretty funny that 3D Land gave a boost to an underselling by quickly becoming a best-selling title and its sequel does the exact same!

Best-selling is relative though. I mean, it launched on the Wii U. But have no fear, the Switch is here! Just like with many other Wii U titles, Nintendo ported the title 3D World to the Nintendo Switch with some changes, added content and online connectivity in 2021. This is the version I’m looking at today since, well, I own a Switch but not a Wii U. That added content though, Bowser’s Fury, won’t be covered here and will instead get its own review because that’s just how I roll. 

This introduction has gone on long enough so without further ado let’s dive in!

Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad are out on a walk when they stumble across a clear pipe, out of which a Sprixie pops out. Bowser has kidnapped her fellow Sprixie princesses and she's looking for help. The Sprixie has barely explained her predicament when Bowser pops out of the pipe, traps the Sprixie in a jar and leaves. The gang quickly jump into the pipe to the Sprixie kingdom set on saving the 7 Sprixies and stopping Bowser from doing whatever he’s planning to do. 

Just as always, the story in this Mario game is basically non-existent and not worth discussing. I’ll say this about it though: I appreciate that we’re not saving Princess Peach yet again. It has been done so many times even someone as relatively new to the Mario games has gotten tired of it. Seeing it not happen here is nice. 

And out pops the Bowser!

Super Mario 3D World, just like its predecessor, takes the classic 2D gameplay, linear designed levels on a timer with a flagpole at the end, and adds in a Z-axis, different camera angles and the move set of 3D Mario for some more freedom of movement. The game thus plays very similar to 2D Mario, just with an extra dimension that gave the designers some more room to play with and with some free roaming elements. 

While the levels in 3D World push you into the desired direction pretty clearly they still allow for quite a bit of roaming. They make good use of the extra dimension, giving you levels in which you don’t just move from left to right and include free-roaming areas. They don’t always stay to the theme of the world, more often than not they don’t, but they are creative, varied and above all else fun. Gimmicks don’t overstay their welcome nor feel underutilized and no level feels like they’re unfair or broken. Oh, and the boss fights are well-designed and pretty darn fun! 

Each of the levels, spread across 12 worlds (8 regular, 4 special), has you collect 3 (green) stars as well as stamps. These stamps don’t do much in the Switch version since there’s no Mii-Verse but you can use them in photo mode and have been coloured in to boot. The stars are needed to unlock the boss stages, but I wouldn’t worry about ever having to backtrack to get stars. They’re not too difficult to find and I always had a dozen or so more stars than required. 

If you are low on stars, the special stages can help you out. In the Captain Toad puzzle levels (which got spun off into its own game: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker) you have to guide him to the 5 stars without jumping. In the mystery houses; a series of 10 platforming or combat challenges await you.

Just like in Super Mario 2 there are multiple playable characters. Each of the five characters plays largely the same but each has their differences. Mario is the all-rounder, Luigi jumps higher but lacks traction, Toad runs the fastest but jumps the lowest, Peach is a bit slow but can glide and Rosalina is the slowest but gets the Galaxy spin attack. The differences are noticeable but don’t make one character better or worse than the other thus striking a nice balance. 

The power-ups are fun but not the greatest selection in my opinion. We´ve got the usual suspects; the mushroom, fire flower, superstar etc. We also have a returning Super Leaf from 3D Land and three brand-new power-ups. The Double Cherry makes duplicates of your character that mirror your movements for some fun chaos, the Super Bell gives you a catsuit which allows you to run up walls, claw at enemies and shoot quickly downward at an angle and the Lucky Bell is the catsuit but with the statue ground pound effect. 

It´s not a bad selection, you´ve got options here, but I wouldn´t call it perfect. The Catsuit is very useful. To useful in that it makes some of the other power-ups, like the Tanooki suit, feel relatively useless in comparison. The Double Cherry is fun but too gimmicky and unwieldy to use and the Mega Mushroom is fun but lacks utility. I also missed the Ice Flower but, let´s be honest, that is just a nitpick based on my personal fondness for the power-up. 

A big focus of the experience is multiplayer. You can play with up to four players, both locally and online and players can drop in and out at any time with a simple press of the button. You work together to reach the end but you each have your own score bar. The player that scores the most points for one stage receives a crown, which can be stolen by the other players and gives the player wearing it at the end of the stage a score bonus. This gives the multiplayer a nice little competitive edge. 

Sadly, it’s a mode I couldn’t experience during my time with the game. Based on what I’ve experienced in singe player and from what I’ve seen online though it seems like a lot of fun to play this way. And honestly? I don’t think you can get the full Super Mario 3D World experience without multiplayer. The game was designed with multiplayer in mind after all! 

That looks like some chaotic fun, no?

This is the Switch version of the game, so what has changed? Well, the graphics look slightly sharper and colours (the reds especially) look more vivid. The performance got a nice little boost and loading times have been reduced. The game even saves on the background now! The music has stayed the same; fun, energetic, jazzy and performed by a big band formed specifically for this game. It’s good stuff! 

Stuff that required the microphone or gamepad has been adjusted. They either have been removed or, like the pointer functionality, have been switched to the joy-con/pro controller gyro. Not the best solution but it is what it is. U.I. elements have been altered to be more streamlined and take up less space on the screen. 

By far the biggest change is the running speed. Every character has been sped up by around 40%, which changes the gameplay flow more than you’d expect. It´s a good change but one that comes with some drawbacks. These levels were not designed for this running speed so you have a moment where you overshoot a jump after a run and alike. The auto scroll levels also haven´t been adjusted (well enough). Running off the screen and/or having to wait until the auto scroll catches up to you is a given in these levels. 

Conclusion

Super Mario 3D World is, if you ask me, a better Super Mario 3D Land. It has better visuals, level design, and music and utilizes its gimmick of a 2D/3D Mario hybrid much better. On top of that, multiplayer makes this the Mario game for the Wii U and Switch to play with friends. The stages are well-designed and fun. The music is upbeat and catchy, the graphics pop, the game runs well and the multiplayer is a lot of fun (I think). 

I would’ve liked a more balanced power-up selection and there are some things that this Switch version lost during porting but for the type of game Super Mario 3D World is, for what it tries to achieve, it’s an excellent title. Pick it up, if you want a Mario/family game and haven’t already. 

But wait! There’s more! This is the Switch version we’re talking about and that means we still have one more thing to look at. The extra content: Bowser’s Fury whose review will drop on the 13th. I hope to see you there!

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