Wii U
Highly Recommended
5 stars
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$49.95
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Overall Grade
5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Game Itself
5 Stars
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
4.5 Stars
The Audio: Rating the Sound
5 Stars
Replay Factor
4.5 Stars
Bonus Content
4 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Super Mario 3D World

Street Date:
November 22nd, 2013
Reviewed by:
Review Date:1
December 12th, 2013
Game Release Year:
2013
Platform:
Wii U
Publisher:
Nintendo
Developer:
Nintendo
ESRB Rating:
E (Everyone)

Editor's Notes

'Super Mario 3D World' supports the Gamepad for off-TV play. Wii remotes and pro controllers are also supported for both single player and multiplayer.

Introduction

Once again Nintendo's plumber is out to save a damsel in distress, only this time it's the Wii U. Peach, Toad and Luigi are along for the ride in the first cooperative 3D Mario game, 'Super Mario 3D World.' As a direct sequel to the 3DS title, 'Super Mario 3D Land,' this latest adventure isn't releasing with quite the same fanfare as the phenomenal 'Super Mario Galaxy' titles, but leading up to the release, trailers and gameplay footage have shown off convincing evidence of the franchise's ever-fertile creativity. The Wii U certainly needs Mario back to form, and it falls on Nintendo to produce another gem, one that is distinct enough from the other 2D Mario Wii U titles to be considered a system-seller.

The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

The expectations for Mario games are astronomically, comically high, and to assume a sense of entitlement for a better Mario than the last, particularly of his 3D adventures, is to embrace irrationality at its heart. And yet we, I, do. That's the burden of historical greatness.

The Wii's 'Super Mario Galaxy' games dwarfed other 3D platformers and thereby defined generation; it's that simple, but Mario's comeback to the 3D platformer on the 3DS with 'Super Mario 3D Land' didn't achieve the same heights. As good as that game was, to match the expansiveness and zaniness of the Galaxy titles might've required a bit more drugs than is safe for your average game designer. Nevertheless, the sequel, the game in question, 'Super Mario World 3D,' is, in the format of its direct predecessor, a seemingly never-ending well of novelty and creativity in level design, lacking only the awe and cosmic attributes of the Wii classics.

Far and away, this is the Wii U's best game. Surprised? You will be when you play it.

Like 'Super Mario 3D Land,' this game is set up with an overarching structure much more similar to the 2D counterparts. Replacing an overworld with a traversable map, and affixing each level with essentially the same exact goal – get to the flagpole – 'Super Mario 3D World' might initially seem less ambitious that its console predecessors, but the further you go, the more you realize the team is focusing with laser precision on one very important thing: level design. Between the map and flagpole are a trove of ideas that fill each level with pinpointed and poignant entertainment.

And not a single level feels redundant or wasted. Importantly, not a moment or mechanic feels broken or unfair. You'll be riding on the back of Plessie, a water-surfing dinosaur, zipping by boost pads on a Mario Kart-inspired level, trading blows with baseballs in cooperative play and crawling up previously insurmountable walls in your new cat suit. But to list every little twist would take far too long, because it's the crux of the gameplay to never stay the same. Nothing becomes tired because nothing is overused, and everything, like that cat suit, like the duplicating cherry powerup, like Plessie, serve their purpose in an exacting and dazzlingly efficient way.

Speaking of Plessie, expect to see the might level mechanic/creature multiple times, but as a mid-level switch-up instead of a full-level challenge. Cat suits appear in levels of a vertical nature, but can also be saved to aid you elsewhere. Chucking baseballs at each other is as much devious fun as it is integral to capturing green stars in the off-kilter Mystery House levels. This kind of mix and match keeps the game fresh for as long as you want to play it.

With 'Super Mario 3D World,' the plumber has transcended arguments of redundancy, even as the game representis one of the few franchises out there that iterates fun-focused dynamics rather than as a TV show scratching for life. Mario is the testament to Nintendo's same character, fresh gameplay mantra.

Even more astonishing is the cooperative play. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is lost in the translation from one to two, three or four players, and the addition of friends transforms the game brilliantly. This is in stark contrast to the animosity-filled cooperative play from the 2D 'New Super Mario Brothers' series. Whether you're guiding a young nephew through some of the earlier levels or hunkering down with fellow diehards, juking it out for top score and a ridiculous crown worn in the next level, 'Super Mario 3D World' deserves a spot alongside 'Nintendo Land' as a premier party title for the console. Getting into it is easy, getting away from it is difficult.

Speaking of difficult, as has become tradition, the first half of 'Super Mario 3D World' is designed to introduce new, young players to the series. Nevertheless entertaining in sheer creativity, veterans won't find a challenge until later on in those post-Bowser levels. And be relieved, because there are a bunch of worlds designed specifically to amp things up. In fact, this may be the fullest Mario game to date, and the zanier the levels get, the harder they become. A cat suit that seems a bit overpowered becomes by degrees your last bet for survival.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

When the consolation to taking damage is the ridiculously adorable miniaturization of your character, that's charm. Adapting the visual style from 'Super Mario 3D Land' with the Wii U's hardware has resulted in nothing short of spellbinding results. This is the first time I've really seen Nintendo make a strong effort with lighting and particle effects, which combined with Mario's inherently captivating visual language create a jubilant atmosphere. Little touches, like the cartoonish dustup in the wake of Mario's run, or the way a Koopa frantically runs around in search of his shell, create character in the world and its players when a sterile avatar could have dampened the effect. And it's sharp, real sharp, with nary a hiccup to break the illusion.

The only downside is the structure of the game, as a direct siphon from level to level, doesn't have much character in the narrative department, which means the visuals are naturally limited. Some levels are absolutely compelling. A venture through an Asian dojo or a trip through Bowser's nefarious carnival are wonderful deviations from the stock snowy or desert areas, but it doesn't really tie together in a meaningful way. The 'Galaxy' titles and even 'Super Mario Sunshine' are better implemented examples of Nintendo's game-wide themes.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The music of Mario invokes in me a pure joy. It always has, and as the years go on, I imagine it will continue to do so with more intensity as my yearning for nostalgia becomes more feverish. 'Super Mario 3D World' surges forward with a sprawling musical intelligence, somehow simultaneously matching the tone of an individual level, whether it's the quirky Cat-themed levels or harrowing lava lakes, with endless optimism throughout. Some tracks are cherry-picked from previous games, most notably the rousing score of 'Super Mario Galaxy' in later levels. Fans of the past series will be pleased certain inspirations don't go unvisited.

If the visuals were lacking in a cohesive theme, it's made up for with sound, but that theme is simple. Have fun, take it in, be in awe. I might even describe the orchestral tracks present here a top-of-form in all entertainment, not just games, which just goes to show how even the audio is not left out of the all-out presentation of this flagship title.

Replay Factor

Each level contains three green stars and one stamp (to be used on Miiverse posts) hidden throughout, often requiring multiple playthroughs to achieve 100 percent completion. You'll need to find every single collectible in the game to unlock the final world containing possibly the most difficult level in Mario's history. At the very least it's up there. Add to that the fact that each character plays a bit different and doing it all with a couple of friends makes a level feel completely new, and it's clear that 'Super Mario 3D World' joins the ranks of obsessively replayed Mario titles with one of the deepest slates of content to date.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

In-game Miiverse posts similar 'New Super Mario Bros. Wii U' keep you engaged with the community, as do optional ghost avatars uploaded by other players. If you've got no one to play with, racing against another person's Mii isn't so bad.

Final Thoughts

The first mistake you can make is to judge 'Super Mario 3D World' on what it's lacking than what it brings to the table. This is not 'Super Mario Galaxy 3,' but it doesn't need to be. Utilizing the more traditional geometry from 'Super Mario 3D Land,' Nintendo's designers have given themselves a pre-constructed canvas upon which to dispel their captivating ideas. Without the developmental burden of a dramatically changed visual style or tone, those ideas are translated into substantive flourishes of clearly bustling minds, though that isn't to undermine the gorgeous, HD-aided visuals.

Every new level is just that. Every new idea is squeezed of its potential just before turning dry. Nintendo has finally achieved the cooperative play it was looking for in 'New Super Mario Bros.,' and Mario continues to prove that regardless of the big N's evermore questionable hardware direction, Nintendo remains a premier software developer at the top of its game. 'Super Mario 3D World' does no wrong.

I'll be humming those tunes in my head for a very long time.

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Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p

Multiplayer Mode(s)

  • Offline Co-op

Motion Controls

  • No

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