Super Mario 3D World: Redefining What it Means to be the Best

This game has been a long time coming.  Yes, I do also mean in the way of our waiting for the newest 3D Mario game, but more so in a long-term sense.  Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U is a 3D Mario game that has been in the works essentially since before Super Mario 64 was released.  This latest installment in the Mario series is filled with everything a Nintendo fan could want out of a platformer: great gameplay, it's addictively fun, and the inclusion of new and returning franchise mainstays.  This game has it all.

Everything that makes this game good originates from one original and important concept:  Make the game fun for everyone.  Nintendo wanted to create an experience different from any other, and to make it as entertaining as possible.  They succeeded, and did so by changing their time-tested formulas a bit, re-introducing classic Mario game elements, and including features that have been needed for decades.

 Despite being a 3D Mario game, Super Mario 3D World (SM3DW) takes off in a slightly different direction than its predecessors in terms of the play style.  While it is still a 3D platformer, SM3DW plays much like a Mario sidescroller.  The goals of the previous 3D Mario games were typically to collect an item (e.g., Star, Shine Sprite) to complete a selected level.  This at times could be tedious, especially when a star was hidden, making the entire level about finding it.  Now collecting items is not the sole objective.

For this game, Nintendo chose to make the primary goal to reach the flagpole at the end of each level, akin to the first Super Mario Bros., New Super Mario Bros. and the subsequent sequels.  This level objective was also utilized in Super Mario 3D Land, the predecessor to this game.  And for those who enjoy the older formula, you do still collect key items in each level, but they are not the main focus, and are obtained more “on the way” to the flagpole.

The change in objective aids in Nintendo’s attempt to differentiate this game from the earlier games in the series.  While finding the key item in the previous games is undeniably fun, making the goal reminiscent of the sidescrollers gives SM3DW certain dynamics that were frequently absent from the older games.  The first of which was to make the player focus on the action happening occurring in the game.  When you have to go from point A to point B, and must do so while avoiding all the dangers in between, you focus more on what you are doing.

If a game makes the player focus, the player will do the one thing the developers want most to happen: keep playing the game.  This game is all about accessibility, which is amplified by drawing the player’s attention.  Ever since the first 3D Mario game was released back in 1996, the main issue has been how to get more gamers to play the non-2D games. 

The 3D games are more complex, and as such require the player to dedicate more time to the game to learn how everything operates.  The 2D Mario games are easy to play, for the most part.  Millions and millions of people have played them.  There isn’t much to picking up a controller and making Mario run to the right side of a stage.  It doesn’t demand that the player have an in-depth understanding of the game mechanics and a higher level of gaming experience.  It is pick up and play.

If simple, traditional platformers are what you are used to, and that is all you’re willing to spend your time learning, then requiring you to master a 3D game would be a turn-off.  This has been proven true by history and sales figures.  More people buy and play the 2D Mario games.  Why do you think Nintendo created as many of the New Super Mario games as they did?  It was because consumers proved time and again they would buy them.  A change needed to be made in the 3D games’ format.  It needed an original concept that jogged the player’s memory.

This isn’t to say 3D World is one big rehash, though.  These returning elements are there to help connect the dots between the two types of games.  They build a bridge for the players of the 2D games to cross so they can start playing the 3D ones.  People will see the familiar elements, remember the rush and imperative-esque nature of having to reach the goal before the time runs out, and enjoy themselves more and understand the new game better.

The arguably most important addition to the series was the inclusion of multiplayer (aside from the adorable cat suit).  This is the first 3D Mario game to support multiple players playing on one screen.  Gone are the days of waiting for the controller to be passed on to you for a turn.  Now everyone can play, compete, win, lose and rage together.  We saw this type of multiplayer action in the New Super Mario Bros. games, but I believe it works even better in the 3D environment, and also because of the decision to make each selectable character have unique play styles.

Now you and your friends can enjoy the same about of frustration you felt while playing New Super Mario Bros, and I do mean enjoy.  We all love it.  The thrill of being happy with everyone one moment and being at each other’s throats the next.  It’s all part of the experience.  Now we can have that in 3D.  What’s not to love?  Just make sure to remember how expensive the Gamepad is when you get mad at your friends and want to throw it at them. 

This multiplayer Godsend for the Mario series is yet another part of the accessibility puzzle.  People will be able to learn, and enjoy, a game much more quickly and fully if they can play it with others.  Group experiences have actually been an instrumental part of Mario’s success, it’s just hasn’t been a built-in part of the game until now.

Nintendo held nothing back in creating Super Mario 3D World.  The game is bursting at the seams with content.  The gameplay is superb, and the multiplayer is hilarious and outstanding.  A Mario fan, Nintendo fan, and even a gamer in general could not ask for much more, and it’s all as easy as turning on your Wii U and starting the game.  What a good game should be.


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