E3 2011: Super Mario and Mario Kart 3DS, Still Surprising After All These Years

Is it heresy to launch a Nintendo system without a Mario game? Many would think so, but fret no more, as Nintendo is set to rectify this weird Mario-less situation. There is, in fact, a brand new Mario game launching this year for 3DS, but strangely enough we do not yet know what the title is. So far Nintendo is only calling it, “Super Mario”. I was able to get some quality hands-on time with Super Mario and the latest Mario Kart at E3 2011. Let’s find out just how super Super Mario is and how…kart-ish Mario Kart is, or something.

So, what is going on with Mario this time? After playing through all of the levels available, I think I can safely say that the new Super Mario game for 3DS is a mash-up of Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Bros. 3. It has the controls and some of the visuals and enemies of Super Mario Galaxy, and also some of the enemies of SMB 3. Nintendo decided to do away with both of Mario’s back flips and his long jump has been shortened. While I was a bit down about that, my theory is that the smaller screen size required that the levels be smaller, so Mario’s moves that got him around so quickly had to be cut from the portable version.

Super Mario Bros. 3 characters are in full effect.

Once I got over that initial shock, I was happily hopping my way around Mario’s new playground. There was plenty of challenge to be had including blocks that formed together to create a temporary path laden with spikes. After a short while, the blocks would start disappearing, gently requesting that players get the hell to the other side or die. There were giant spiked balls that swung in and out of the background, bullet-bill-shooting pirate ships, and even one of the koopa kids could be found in the demo. Nintendo decided to throw a bit of Mario Kart in their Mario by including inky piranha plants that cover your screen in sludge, making it much harder to play. Then there was something else I found that threw me off balance.


Tails!? Tails!

You’d think that after 25 years of Mario games, Nintendo had no more cards up its magician sleeves. I then found myself totally dumbfounded, staring in awe at the 3DS’ screen, as I discovered that there are goombas in this game sporting raccoon tails! As I stood there staring, the goomba swiped his tail at me, making me mini-sized. I mean, I knew Mario was going to have a tail in this game, but apparently Nintendo decided to toss them around the mushroom kingdom for everyone to enjoy. All it took was attaching a tail to a character who previously didn’t have one, and it was like I was entering the Matrix for the first time again — they have tails now!?


The 3DS' 3D visuals will help you better navigate Mario's crazy new world.

Miyamoto had previously made a statement regarding the 3D in the 3DS, saying that it would better allow players to discern the distance between objects in a 3D space; and you know what, he wasn’t wrong about that. I definitely had an easier time figuring out exactly when I had to jump to make a landing, or to hit a question block from underneath. There were also secrets in the background that were more noticeable because of the 3D effect.


I really enjoyed Super Mario, and it may just be the game to get me to buy my own personal 3DS system when it launches this fall.

Finally, moving onto Mario Kart, well, there was another surprise I wasn’t fully prepared for. I had recently seen that Nintendo was including paragliding in the game, but just seeing it in videos didn’t do it justice. My initial thought when I booted up Mario Kart was, “hmmm this seems pretty familiar”. Though there are still power-slides, insanely surreal race tracks, and everything you expect in a Mario Kart game, the paragliding is what makes the difference. When you hit the end of that jump, and the wings pop out of your kart, you get a whole new mechanic to play with that gives you a greater sense of freedom. You can tilt the 3DS’ thumbstick in any direction, and the wings feel like they’re actually reacting to wind resistance. There are hoops to fly through, and various obstacles to dodge while flying. I also love the fact that you can choose to remain in the air for a longer period of time, or dive downwards to get your wheels spinning on the track again. Based on everything I’ve seen, it looks like Nintendo is really playing up this new feature, and it injects a lot of fun into the tried and true Mario Kart gameplay we’ve come to love. Mario Kart is also scheduled to be out sometime this fall for 3DS.

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