E3 2011: Super Mario 3D hands-on preview

After all the hustle and bustle of Nintendo’s E3 press conference, the one thing I wanted play more than its new-fangled iPad-esque controller was Super Mario 3D. A new Mario platformer is always something to be excited about, but in this case, Mario 3D is notable for three reasons: one, it’s from the Super Mario Galaxy team, so we can already assume a level of brilliance; two, it’s Mario’s big 3DS debut and the first time Mario’s been portrayed in actual 3D; and finally, it marks the return of the Tanooki suit, one of Mario 3’s most beloved power-ups (though we’re still fond of Kuribo’s Shoe).

Above: The announcement trailer, which shows off some levels not seen at the show

The brief demo showcased four different snippets of the game, starting with a green field in World 2-1. The look and feel was somewhere between Mario Galaxy and New Mario Wii; the modular, bite-sized worlds of the former have been replaced with linear levels more akin to the latter, where you guide Mario on a relatively straight path to a flagpole at the end. The trip was fairly light, beginning with a small open field that narrowed into a straight path with a few wall jumps and enemies to stomp. Kind of sparse, but then again it’s an early Mario level, which are routinely easy and hand-holdy.

While running around this first level, I tested Mario’s abilities to see which moves carried over from prior games. He does have a long jump similar to Mario 64, as well as the usual backflip and butt stomp, but it appears he doesn’t grab on to ledges when near. Instead, he either slides down the side or merely falls into the abyss. Would have liked to see that ability make the cut…

The level did offer up the Tanooki Suit, which allows Mario to use his brand new tail to break blocks and slow his descent by wagging furiously. Now, almost anyone who’s reading this site knows the Tanooki/Raccoon tail makes Mario fly, but in this case, the suit does not – Nintendo devs said making Mario fly on a small screen, in a 3D world, would be problematic, so he won’t take flight in this version. That said, I think it’s possible later levels could place Tanooki Mario on rails and fly him around a swiftly moving world. This is the Galaxy team, after all, so they’re accustomed to tossing Mario all around the level.

World 1-2 was a typical Mario “underworld” level, and played almost exactly like New Mario Wii. Mario was mostly confined to a 2D plane while elements of the level pop out in 3D. The 3D effect is nice in areas seen in the trailer (where huge spikes launch at your face), but this particular early level was rather sparse on enemies and effects.

The next area, World 3-3, was hands-down my favorite of the bunch. Here, green switches on the floor caused floating platforms to unfold across a huge pit, but then disappear as Mario runs across. This quickly turned into a classic Mario moment, trying to stay one step ahead of these collapsing platforms as they snake across each other and disappear within seconds. It was a real test of platforming prowess, and a great indicator of what other cool moments are in store.

The final demo was World 2-5, which was an airship level similar to those in SMB3 and New Mario Wii. As with those first two levels I mentioned, this one was remarkably easy, and even the boss (Boom Boom, also of Mario 3 fame) was a pushover. Simply hop on his head, avoid his spinning attacks and repeat. I’m sure this E3 demo was intentionally stacked with easy areas so as not to deter anyone on the show floor with advanced platforming trickery. Nintendo usually offers up the cooler, harder stuff with post-E3 appointments, so I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what else they’ve got cooking.

In an E3 roundtable, Nintendo devs said they want Super Mario 3D to be “the most Mario-like 3D Mario game” they’ve ever made. I’d argue Super Mario 64 beautifully transferred the mascot in the third dimension, but it looks like here they’re trying to incorporate traditional elements like the world map, airships, the Koopa kids and other aspects that are now more associated with the 2D New Mario series. I personally prefer the more elaborate realms found in Mario 64 and Galaxy than the comparatively spartan worlds of New Mario Wii, but a marriage of the two could prove interesting.

It’s set for a 2011 release, which means we could have another look at Mario’s 3DS debut before the end of the summer. Fingers crossed!

Jun 8, 2011


E3 Nintendo


  • ghettogoodiesuluv - June 13, 2011 10:04 p.m.

    I do agree other then the orginals StarFox, Zelda, Mario, and Mario Kart I was not going buy this handheld oh and The Sims :) all the other games seem flawed and alot of functions did not work in the begining and still do not work even after update.
  • Fuzunga - June 12, 2011 7:43 a.m.

    There are stars in this game too? Why is there a star!?
  • Aletheon - June 12, 2011 1:08 a.m.

    it looks amazing. i've been wanting a more linear 3D mario experience for a long time, and here it is. crazy geniuses. by the way, everyone will continue to use the IP's that sell and are popular. Nintendo is not unique here. Look at Halo. Suddenly there is a "new trilogy" coming. I guarantee any series that is popular will continue to make sequels, just like Nintendo has done in their long career. It's just how it is.....we should be happy that we continue to get more and more upgrades to the things we love in gaming, not COMPLAIN about it!!!!
  • Spybreak8 - June 10, 2011 6:25 a.m.

    I enjoyed NSMB on the DS but I have no idea what it looked like in the initial stages so It looks like this game has room to breathe.
  • StickyLungs - June 10, 2011 2:02 a.m.

    I feel like a sucker, but I'll buy this. If nothing else, I need to justify my 3DS purchase. I'll buy Ocarina, Starfox and this, but I'd love to see some new IP on the 3DS. oh well.
  • Felixthecat - June 9, 2011 7:57 p.m.

    Cumming everywhere.
  • robotmand - June 9, 2011 12:01 p.m.

    @Brett Elston How did you find the controls to be? I heard from another website that they had a hard time getting a hang of it.
  • humpiedumpie - June 9, 2011 8:02 a.m.

    I am buying a 3DS because of this and Zelda, oh and Starfox looks cool to, just old-times sake
  • Balaska - June 9, 2011 5:59 a.m.

    I want big open levels like Mario 64, the Galaxy games were great, but ultimately 64 is still the benchmark for Mario games. I am tired of linear levels and small play areas.
  • SparkleDevon - June 9, 2011 3:39 a.m.

    I really want them to develop a sequel to Super Mario Sunshine on the 3DS. That would be really quite amazing. Oh yeah, and this game looks like it's shaping up to be pretty nice too :D
  • WelcomeGhosts10 - June 9, 2011 1:09 a.m.

    This is what I have been holding out for with the 3DS, I will start saving now to get one. This game as a whole just looks like a great way to bring back the Mario franchise to the classic roots
  • shawksta - June 9, 2011 12:47 a.m.

    A Mix of both the 2D and 3D series does seem interesting, Nintendo does love to experiment, especially with Mario. Also remember in the trailer, theres that giant spikey log from New super mario bros wii except on the ground and face mario head on? Perfect position and 3D will look like its gonna stab your eye XD @mynameismyname You seem to be unaware of the past mario titles. Nintendo mixes new elements with nostalgia to keep it fresh and memorable.
  • AuthorityFigure - June 8, 2011 11:46 p.m.

    "...the first time Mario’s been portrayed in actual 3D." Doesn't Mario Clash hold that distinction?
  • markshell - June 8, 2011 11:27 p.m.

    Looks absolutely amazing. The graphics are surely Wii-like and that's awesome. Already feeling good for buying a 3DS.
  • Manguy17 - June 8, 2011 11:18 p.m.

    reason to buy 3DS found
  • therawski - June 8, 2011 11:02 p.m.

    @Redeater Same here, but I would add that kid icarus might be a promising franchise!
  • number1hitjam - June 8, 2011 10:45 p.m.

    Just looks like there's less info on screen, it's like a cross between mario 64 and smb3 but it just comes out super guided and easy...
  • alphaman - June 8, 2011 9:41 p.m.

    According to the Kotaku live feed last night, Mario can wall jump in this one again, so you should be able to escape pit deaths.
  • Redeater - June 8, 2011 9:34 p.m.

    I know this isn't part of the article but since it's Mario... Was anybody else groaning watching "New" Super Mario Bros being played on that tablet controller? It's not enough to have that bastard shit on my childhood nes/super nes memories but now you can wreck your beloved memories anywhere in the house! Sorry to rant but if you had told me I would have been waiting years and years to get a fucking penguin suit and a helicopter hat......
  • glasspantsss - June 8, 2011 9:23 p.m.

    Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

Showing 1-20 of 22 comments

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