Warning: 233 Toads were killed in the making of this review.

Recent Mario games favor to stay at a safe zone. Each one does little to change the formula and unfortunately tend to blend together. 3D World is at a comfortable middle. It does enough to feel like its own game, with its unique level designs, excellent pacing, and surprisingly addictive multiplayer. But 3D World doesn’t feel as innovative as Super Mario Galaxy felt before it. All in all, 3D World is a fantastic addition with enough personality to be its own game.

Bowser is at it once again but this time instead of taking the princess, he has kidnapped several fairies and locked them away inside bottles. The team makes hot pursuit and follows Bowser into the fairy’s kingdom. After years of playing the damsel in distress, Princess Peach finally joins the cast once again for the first time since Super Mario Bros 2.

This time around the player gets to choose from four characters to play as; Mario, Luigi, Peach, or Toad.Each character has their own unique abilities and flaws similarly to Super Mario Bros 2. Mario is the most balanced character as he is the most agile, Luigi has the highest jump, Peach is the slowest and can float during a jump, and Toad is the fastest. Players can reselect a new character before any level making quick changes in play styles simple. Most levels don’t call for a specific character so playing the game in its entirety as your favorite character is welcome. This refreshing tweak in the formula is an excellent change as it gives players variety as well as a chance to play as their favorite character.

While 3D World is a blast to play in single-player, the fun multiples in co-op. The unique and colorful 3D worlds with New Super Mario Bros.’ chaotic four player co-op action is an excellent blend. Everyone can work together or create chaos, sabotaging each other’s game. Tossing friends off cliffs, stealing every power-up, and doing whatever it takes to get the highest on the flagpole always keeps every teammate active. Each player has their own score tallied against each other at the end of each level and the player with the highest wins a wearable crown. This subtle system keeps players looking out to being number one and getting the crown when everyone is supposed to be working together.

 The classic power-ups including the Fire Flower, Star, and Boomerang Flower make a return as well as joined by a few new power-ups. The main new power-up this time around is the Cat Suit, a power-up that transforms the character into a cat. With the suit, the character struts around on all fours and gains new abilities including a scratch attack as well as a dive bomb move adding new offensive options. The cat suit also allows Mario and the gang to scale walls, helping them escape enemies and find new hidden passages. The new power-up also allows the user to climb to the top of the flagpole from any angle. The cat suit is a useful and fun new addition to the line-up of powers.

The other new power-up is the Double Cherry. With this power-up, a player duplicates their character and adds another duplicate with each new cherry pick-up. While it is a neat mechanic, as you control multiple clones of your character, it isn’t as useful as a full time power-up. If one clone strays too far away or gets hit you lose a clone, so the fun with clones ends quicker than it began.

Green Stars and Stamps replace Star Coins as the collectibles in this game. As the Star Coins before, there are three Green Stars in each level as well as one Stamp. A few levels can only be opened by having a certain number of Green Stars so returning to past levels and clearing them completely is both rewarding and satisfying. Bonus stages also appear after the credits, encouraging many to return and gather up Green Stars. You can even unlock a recognizable bonus character.

My only issue is the game’s camera. Players familiar with Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS will recognize the same camera. There are times where the focused camera can feel a bit annoying even confusing. One accidental leap of faith can lead to uncertain death until the “too bad” chime plays. There were a few insists during my play through where my character would do the cat diving move far off camera and dive off into an unseen death pit. It takes a bit of getting used to, especially during chaotic four-player sessions. Another small issue I had is that the game features no controller options so player can’t remap their buttons. With the multiple controller options, including the Wii U Pro Controller as well as Wiimote and Nunchuk, it’s a surprise this feature wasn’t included.

Super Mario 3D World doesn’t reinvent the Mario formula, but it is a refreshing new addition to the current Mario line-up. The game delivers with both an outstanding cast of characters and both nostalgic and unique level designs. This game has been one of the most fun experiences I had with a Mario game in a while. 3D World truly delivers challenge, fun, and surprise for all to enjoy.