In the midst of the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 debuting and throwing their muscle around, Nintendo is like the kid in the corner: quiet, patient, unnoticed. While the Nintendo 3DS might have found some staying power, the Wii U remains a problem console. Make more games like Super Mario 3D World, however, and that might not be the case.
Nintendo's latest game featuring its tentpole franchise mascot lives up to the reputation, and is a heck of a lot of fun. In fact, it might be my favorite game of the fall, even surrounded by the PS4 and the Xbox One. That's no small feat. The best part, however, is that this game's kid-friendly. And it plays well with up to four players.
Microsoft and Sony have given up the young-kid-friendly part of their video game campaigns: the days of the Kinect family games and PlayStation Move sports titles seem like decades ago. Those weren't great days, but at least these companies were trying to figure out how a family with three young kids could all enjoy games together. Right now, Nintendo's the only one really trying to crack that, and the Wii U might start gaining some traction as a family-friendly game system because of it; deservedly so, in my opinion, because when Nintendo's on its A game, it's nearly impossible to beat.
There have been better, more innovative Mario games: Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel were far more wow-inducing. But Super Mario 3D World is, maybe, the perfect fusion: it takes that creativity and blows it into the more old-school-style jumping platform game design of the New Super Mario Bros games. Most levels are seen from an semi-overhead perspective, much like Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS. This game doesn't play in actual 3D, which can make some platform-jumping a little tricky, but you can change the perspective in most levels with a flick of the right analog stick.
Check out more coverage of Super Mario 3D World on GameSpot.
Much like the capable but underwhelming New Super Mario Bros. U that debuted with the Wii U, Super Mario 3D World is designed for up to four players at once to dive in with their own Wii Remotes (or any Nintendo Wii or Wii U controller, really) and play side by side through manic, cooperative/competitive worlds as Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, or Toad. 3D World's a little easier to play through together because the landscape's larger and more spread out. Younger kids can play along and try their best, but if their character falls it'll pop back on the screen. The game gently ramps from beginner to super-challenging in a very smart way.
For single players like myself, the game still has a ton to offer, with the requisite eight worlds plus many surprises. There's plenty to keep playing even after finishing, lending it great replay value. And the game, while not jaw-dropping graphically, does a stellar job creating big, colorful, really fun cartoony worlds at every step, and the variety of suits and abilities: giant mushrooms, cherries that create clones of your character, and a pretty handy wall-climbing cat suit.
This game doesn't make huge use of the Wii U's second-screen capabilities -- only a few levels make use of screen-tapping and microphone-blowing. But you can use the Wii U GamePad to play away from the TV if someone else is using it to watch a show -- a feature not all Wii U games support, but should.
The Wii U still doesn't have enough top-tier games, but this is a flagship addition to the catalog; any Wii U owners should be thrilled...and it might be enough to cause family-minded gamers to cross over to Nintendo-land this holiday. Maybe there's hope for Nintendo after all.
Super Mario 3D Land is available November 22 in disc and download formats.