In this series of articles we'll write about one or more Mario games per day (apart from when we miss a day), each representing a different year as part of our Super Mario 30th Anniversary celebrations.
We have a fond story we like to recall about Super Mario 3D World in Nintendo Life HQ. It was E3 2013, Nintendo opted for a Nintendo Direct broadcast rather than a press briefing - this was before the first excellent 'Digital Event', remember - and there was a feeling of nervousness. Nintendo had basically already announced a few big games that would be shown, including a new '3D Mario'. Trouble was Nintendo was using the awful uStream during E3 - or Twitch was terrible at the time, one or the other - and we were watching in 240p despite having a connection speed to make most people weep in admiration. Super Mario 3D World then popped up.
"Huh, it basically looks like Super Mario 3D Land 2 with multiplayer".
Of course, we then learn it's a Wii U game, but it's hard to gauge its merits until an hour later when we see a YouTube upload of the trailer. It didn't blow many pants off, though, if we're being blunt - Nintendo had chosen some of the 'safest' levels for the trailer too, to avoid intimidating the mainstream audience that never really follows E3 fully. The reaction among many vocal dedicated fans online was modest - thousands of shoulders shrugged.
Then we played it at a preview, and we realised it was the real deal. It became clear that the multiplayer mechanic delivered chaotic but fun gameplay, and that when running in 60 frames in HD the game looked and felt terrific. It delivered the same 2D / 3D hybrid approach that pushed buttons for those seeking freedom of movement, while having enough structure and guidance to accommodate those with a preference for 2D design. The 'crown' in multiplayer was ripe for causing priorities to shift and friends to full out, and beyond multiplayer shenanigans it seemed like a game that could enthral in single player.
The final product was when the pieces slid together, and it became clear that this was the most creative Mario title since Super Mario Galaxy. Worlds and levels didn't really follow a coherent theme all the time, but rather experiment and mess around. A cool concept can appear early on and barely feature again, yet the game was full of clever ideas and twists that it barely mattered. It also featured an outstanding Big Band soundtrack to complement the action.
With the Cat Mario power-up, the duplicating Cherry and more it was certainly a 'busy' game, and as this excerpt from an Iwata Asks interview highlights that was due to a "put everything in" policy.
I've always worked on course design, so I think about games from the perspective of how you organize and construct the courses. But no matter how you looked at it, we had more stuff than would usually ever fit in.
You appeared to have too much? How did that happen?
Simply put, it was because of Motokura-san's policy of "Let's put everything in!" (laughs)
Yeah. The schedule didn't change. But up until the end, neither did his desire to put it all in!
As a result, it feels condensed and packed solid.
Though debates will rage around 3D World in terms of its place in the great pantheon of Super Mario games, its performance in our recent poll - with a respectable number of votes in 6th place - show that it's considered as a strong entry by plenty of Wii U owners. It's the fourth best-selling Wii U game to date, and with 4.3 million sales is just half a million units behind system launch title New Super Mario Bros. U.
While the Wii U's '3D Mario' perhaps hasn't stolen as many hearts as the Galaxy games on Wii, it's nevertheless a wonderful slice of Mario gaming.