While I'm a Mario fan, I was utterly baffled by the appeal of the four-player co-op play introduced in New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
People tell me: "It's chaotic and fun!" But all I ever experienced was that little jerk Luigi distracting me while I try to make a precision jump. In Super Mario 3D World, however, four player multiplayer manages to avoid the chaos found in New Super Mario Bros. and it's actually preferable to playing alone.
In Super Mario 3D World, momentum is much less important. Momentum counts for a lot in New Super Mario Bros., whether it be jumping over a chasm or dodging an enemy. Having three other players around can affect that momentum, which could lead to a lot of funny but unnecessary deaths.
In general, the action is slower and more measured in Super Mario 3D World than the typical 2D Mario game. There's more on-screen real estate to work with, too, lessening the chance of running into some errant enemy or falling off the screen by mistake. Super Mario 3D Land gives the modern Mario series a much-needed jolt with its tweaks to the game's precision of movement.There's so much happening on screen in Super Mario 3D World, that its multiplayer doesn't feel more measured. The action is frenetic with four players bouncing around the screen, each throwing themselves around competing for coins. I really enjoyed running around with my co-op partner as the returning Princess Peach, fighting for coins and climbing walls while wearing the new, adorable catsuit power-up.
The tweaked formula worked well while chasing Bowser, which was a nightmare in the New Super Mario series with Mario, Luigi and the toads bouncing off each other in an attempt to avoid various projectiles. The Bowser battle is essentially on rails with each character chasing Mario's nemesis as he drives what looks like Wario's purple Cadillac. Since player characters could overlap while avoiding Bowser's bombs, it was much easier than ever before for them to co-exist on a single screen.
The Super Mario 3D Land style of game feels better suited for a large television screen than a tiny handheld. The camera sits further back than it does on the 3DS version, making it much easier for me to get a feel for the landscape and avoid obstacles. The platforming still needs world, since it's really awkward to properly judge the distance over a chasm from Super Mario 3D World's awkward pseudo-isometric perspective, but it's mostly deemphasized in the name of rapid-fire exploration.
Super Mario 3D World may be the first co-op Mario game that I wouldn't mind playing with some frequency with friends. True simultaneous co-op had never seemed like a very good fit for Mario; unless your idea of fun is trying to kill your on-screen buddies. In a game like Super Mario 3D World though, where the world is more open and easier to explore, it works. More importantly, it's entertaining.
Kat Bailey is a freelance writer based out of San Francisco, California. Her work has been featured on multiple outlets, including GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, gamesTM, and GameSpot. You can follow her on Twitter at @the_katbot.