Why Super Mario 3D World for Wii U is an Objectively Terrible Game / by Dan Andre

So I just watched some more Super Mario 3D world gameplay, and whenever I see gameplay of that game somewhere, I just get so frustrated, because it is SUCH a poorly designed game. I feel like theres no possible way Shigeru Miyamoto probably even heard about this game coming out, because if he did, he would have had it canceled.

It basically takes the legacy of the legendary Super Mario 64 3D camera that revolutionized camera systems in 3D games, giving the player elegant control over the camera, while also being intuitive and smart on it’s own, and shits all over it.

It makes every mistake that the original cameras accounted for in the original design. It shoehorns a bunch of the mechanics from the 3D Super Mario games into levels that are COMPLETELY thoughtless in relation to those abilities.

The main problem I see people struggle with in playing these games is a problem they solved almost 20 years ago, and whoever designed the new ones didn’t learn from. Depth Perception.

You always see people not being able to grab pickups, or unable to land on enemies heads, or, my favorite, falling off of the front of, and especially the back of the levels, because they didn’t even think to put some form of invisible barrier, something that would be COMPLETELY trivial to do, in place in areas where a normal sane person would think they would put in such a barrier because it’s completely unfair to fall in that sort of way.

They have a lot of sections where the game might as well be 2D, but they still insist on having you be able to move on the Z axis, where it is not only pointless, but most of the time detrimental to the gameplay. Even Sonic Generations accounted for this INCREDIBLY basic problem in it’s 2D sections, and it’s a SONIC game, the king of neglecting basic playability features and shipping before the most basic functions of the game have been tested. (You know I love you Sonic games, but sometimes you just can’t be out by Christmas…)

Another place where they are completely thoughtless in the mechanics of the game in trying to conform to old traditions, is trying to use something similar to the paradigm of Super Mario World/New Super Mario bros where they have the traditional 3 hit system with powerups, with Small, Big, and Powerup states. This would be fine, if it was like the old 2D games where the power ups were actually powerups. But no. A lot of the powerups give you exploration and traversal abilities, and a lot of the gameplay in the levels basically requires you to have these powerups….But if the player gets hit….they lose these powerups…..so what do you do then? Just wait to die because you can’t play the level? Possibly, but then theres also the fact that they throw so many of the required powerup at the player, combined with the fact that if the player already has a powerup, they can stock additional powerups in the style of Super Mario World and deploy them whenever they get hit and lose the powerup.

So this then presents a question. HOW THE HELL IS THAT A POWERUP? It’s not. The player pretty much constantly has the powerup because you basically need it to play the game, and it’s double terrible because that gives you the added terrible bonus of pretty much giving the player infinate health, so enemies are pretty much invalidated. You know, other than their ability to knock you off the level with ease, because of that previously mentioned problem with depth perception and unblocked edges.

But of course, having infinate health doesn’t matter when you run out of time. Yes. In a 3D game where exploration of a large, expansive world is sort of the point…..they put in a timer. But don’t worry, they give you extra time pickups anywhere they want you to explore…….

….So again I ask….WHAT THE HELL IS THE POINT!?

And the worst part of all this, is that all of these bad mechanics have a funny way of pointing each other out like sore thumbs, because they all somehow work in tandum to make incredibly frustrating gameplay experiences when they work together. And even worse than that, is that it seems like the designers deliberately exploited these flaws.

None of the gameplay or challenge in this game results from fair challenges. Pretty much the only way you would lose a life in this game would be because of some combination of these terrible mechanics. Whether it be because of the way the powerups work, ESPECIALLY the new Catsuit powerup, which seems to only exist for the sake of existing, in combination with the complete lack of depth perception, or falling off the level while trying to get a pickup thats places awkwardly in one of their “might as well be 2D” sections, or the best of all, when all three conspire against you in the boss fights. There is no real challenge to the boss fights, no challenging pattern recognition, no interesting attack patterns, they are all very bland and played out, and not even well executed most of the time. The only challenge is hitting the enemy, because most of the time the room is a clusterfuck of things happening, and not being able to see where you are, or perceive your depth reletive to your enemy so jumping on their head is almost impossible. Combine that with the fact that they are practically CONSTANTLY throwing powerups at you, because the boss requires you to use a powerup to fight it, and you probably end up dying NOT from some clever attack of the enemy or even falling off the level due to not being able to tell where you are. No. You usually run out of time. Because the boss fights have clocks on them too.

If you look back at the earlier 3D Mario games, you’ll notice that they had already thought of pretty much all of these problems. And dealt with them in intelegent, super elegant ways. And this game just didn’t learn those things.

Early in 3D games, one of the first things to get jettisoned to the game design wayside was gameplay clocks. They made no sense for the type of exploration experiences being designed, not to mention people who were having trouble adjusting to the switch wouldn’t find it fun to have a gameplay clock killing them off while they were still trying to learn the game. Super Mario 64 and Legend of Zelda only used clocks for very small timed challenges like timed switches, so they could preserve that type of challenge without ruining the entire gameplay experience

You’ll also notice that Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy had powerups. And they were even required for solving particular gameplay challenges. But you never lost them because you got hit. They all ran on timers as well, and instead of taking powers away from you for getting hit, they just gave you a health bar. It gave you the ability to use Powerups in the game, keep them as actual powerups, and still have enemies and health be relevant factors in gameplay. Easy solution.

One of the things that made Super Mario 64’s platforming gameplay revolutionary for it’s time in addition to it’s camera, was something very subtle. A shadow. Between the close up, dynamic camera, and the shadow, the player could always gauge about where they were in 3D space, especially during a jump, there was never any losing visual contact with Mario or his shadow, you always knew where he was. In Super Mario 3D world, they have an incredibly static, practically dead camera that is always SUPER panned out to as wide of a shot as possible, making the characters amazingly small on screen. Now of course, this is so the game can be co-op, and that gameplay experience is a whole different can of game development worms. One that could be a post of it’s own. But suffice it to say, it’s basically just a worse version of the LittleBig Planet camera (Again, LittleBig Planet, you know how I feel about you, but you must even know your camera isn’t the best…)

It’s just disgraceful. It really frustrates me to see a company who basically MASTERED the platformer, botch a platformer so horrendously. ESPECIALLY considering all these problems were already solved long ago. The people who designed this games obviously must have played one of the 3D Super Mario games to know how to do most of the basic movement actions that the previous games had. They just clearly don’t understand the game design behind it, which just burns me up.

They slapped together a couple of game mechanics from a couple of Mario games and expected to get a Mario game, without understanding the underlying dynamics that made all of that work in their respective games. The new class of game designers at Nintendo clearly didn’t listen to Shigeru Miyamoto enough. Don’t blame Mobile games for your fianancial woes, perhaps you should look at the products you are shipping first.  Because it is just plain arrogence to blame players for not playing your games if they are terrible.