Feature: 12 Days of Christmas - Super Mario 3D World Captures Hearts

A perfect Christmas Day game

Over the past two weeks we've covered eleven games, trends or events from the year that we feel represent some of the best of Nintendo in 2013; we'll have a lot more 2013 reminiscences and Game of The Year awards in the coming week, too. Yet it seemed appropriate to end this series on potentially the biggest high for many Nintendo fans this year: Super Mario 3D World.

Although we strived to debunk the impression in our own review, in which we awarded 10/10, there's still the impression for some that this is simply a HD expansion of what was seen in Super Mario 3D Land, which is like saying that Super Mario World: Yoshi's Island is simply a lazy retread of Super Mario World; in both cases each title is fantastic, but also unique and fresh. Super Mario 3D World has topped a number of Game of the Year charts around the web — perhaps it will here on Nintendo Life too, we'll find out soon — and was critically acclaimed. We're confident in saying that the vast majority of gamers — as there are always exceptions, which is valuable and important — will have fallen in love with this game, or will once they try it.

As a 3D Mario début in HD, it'll likely stand the test of time as one of the series greats. It bursts at the seams with creativity, with each level having little to do with the overworld map as it dives off to try a new idea or play with a particular theme. With crisp, bright visuals and a 60 frames-per-second performance accompanying perfected physics around breathlessly imaginative courses, not a great deal can go wrong.

Some of our highlights of the game, among the Nintendo Life team, are the new ideas that are so cleverly implemented throughout. A star mention should go to the Cat Suit, as whether a cat lover or not it's once of the most charming power-ups Nintendo's devised for its mascot; it prompts thoughts of "why wasn't that done before now?" The animations of the characters in these suits are impressive, whether dashing, clambering up walls, pouncing or slowly creeping up on unsuspecting foes. These are little touches that aren't all necessary, but at the same time become indispensable.

Then we have the Cherry power-up, with its duplicated character chaos. In multiplayer this leads to absolute madness, without a doubt, with so many characters on screen that keeping track is a fiendish challenge, while in single player it's a strategic, clever mechanic that necessitates precise running and jumping.

That power up represents a key strength of the title, and something we hope Nintendo will continue to strive to emulate in 2014 and beyond. Super Mario 3D World can feel like a different experience in single and multiplayer — an accolade also due to Rayman Legends. It's a fun, polished and outstanding platformer in single player, while multiplayer — perhaps unlike in Mario's 2D titles — is both manageable and anarchic at once; it can be hilarious fun. If any game highlights the benefits of local on-the-couch multiplayer, it's this one.

It's also a title that finally utilises the Mushroom Kingdom cast in meaningful ways, with each character having unique abilities and Peach being a team member rather than a damsel in distress. Mario is the all-rounder, Luigi is the tricky athlete with a great jump, Toad is the quickest, Peach is slower but with a useful floating jump, and there's the fifth character — you probably know who she is but let's avoid the spoiler — that has some useful moves. It caters to different play styles when gaming with others, and each can be invaluable at different points when pursuing the unlockables and goodies in the toughest levels. It adds an extra layer to the formula.

If Super Mario 3D World struggles for commercial success due to its platform issues it'd certainly be a pity, as it deserves to be played by millions of gamers. Its sales and long-term prospects are yet to be made clear, yet its status as a top-notch Mario platforming experience is assured. It seems like an excellent Christmas Day game to us.