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With Super Mario Odyssey taking the gaming scene by storm, selling 2 million copies in only 4 days, everyone is falling head over heels for Nintendo's favorite plumber again along with his new companion Cappy, who is linked to the new and beloved capture mechanic. Every 3D Mario game has added some sort of gimmick to spice up the platforming formula. Some gimmicks have been better than others and have added interesting dynamics to Mario's platforming, while others have actively detracted from the experience, but which one was the best?
Without further adieu, every 3D Mario gimmick ranked worst to best:
6. F.L.U.D.D. - 'Super Mario Sunshine' (GameCube)
The GameCube was a console where Nintendo felt comfortable taking risks and moving their franchises in new directions. Their risks were usually lauded, from Wind Waker's cel-shaded aesthetic to Metroid Prime's first-person perspective and even Donkey Konga's unconventional control scheme. One of their more polarizing decisions though was to add the F.L.U.D.D. (Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device) to Mario's second 3D outing. Competing against 64 already proved to be an uphill battle, but Nintendo's decision to move in a different direction proved to be a weak one. F.L.U.D.D. completely altered the focus from Mario's platforming ability to new mechanics based off of the water cannon. Players had to now focus on third-person aiming and resource management, rather than just putting the pedal to the metal with silky smooth platforming. Sunshine is still a phenomenal game, despite F.L.U.D.D's best efforts.
5. Stereoscopic 3D - 'Super Mario 3D Land' (3DS)
Super Mario 3D Land is one of the best, if not the best, games on the 3DS because it finally showed that the 3DS' glasses-free 3D could enhance gameplay. 3D Land is the only portable 3D Mario game (depending on how you classify the hybrid Switch, but Nintendo calls it a home console first) and the stereoscopic 3D helped execute a large 3D platformer on the 3DS' relatively smaller screens and lower resolutions. Mario's 3DS outing only ranks in the bottom half because, in the zeitgeist of 3D Mario games, it didn't particularly add much. The platforming is perhaps the most linear in the series and while it was great having Mario on-the-go, it was very vanilla.
4. Multiple Characters - 'Super Mario 3D World' (Wii U)
Like Super Mario Bros. 2, 3D World brought a variety of characters to the world of 3D platforming. Every character had their own unique platforming skills as well: Mario was the all-around character, Luigi had the higher jump and the slippery run, Peach was the slow runner who could float in the air, and Toad was the fastest but had the shortest jump. The introduction of different characters also brought substantive multiplayer to 3D Mario games. Unfortunately, 3D World suffered in the same way 3D Land did because of its linear level design. The gimmicks in World added a lot of fun, but they didn't significantly alter the tenets of Mario's platforming.
3. Capture - 'Super Mario Odyssey' (Switch)
Mario's newest gimmick adds an immense amount of variety to the gameplay. The ability to take control of different enemies and objects creates intriguing and unique platforming challenges that Odyssey always makes sure to reward players for. The gimmick is applied with breadth instead of depth in mind so that each level provides a slew of different possessions options, making each open area in Odyssey distinct. This is one of the few gimmicks that help enhance the world building of its respective title. It isn't a gimmick that will likely endure, nor should it be applied to every future 3D Mario unilaterally, but what it does in the vacuum of Odyssey is simply astounding.
2. Gravity - 'Super Mario Galaxy and Galaxy 2' (Wii)
What is so spectacular about the different gravity levels in the Galaxy series is how it effected platforming. In almost every level, players would have to take the gravity into consideration, meaning that the gimmick changed the baseline formula of Mario's platforming. It helped that the gimmick wasn't too overt either; that the addition of gravity felt like it was authentically needed and not thrust upon players is a testament to the design of the Galaxy games. By the end, it hardly even felt like a gimmick.
1. Athleticism - 'Super Mario 64' (Nintendo 64)
Throughout this list, the concept of a formula for 3D Mario platforming has been thrown out quite a bit. Super Mario 64 and the advent of 3D gaming with the Nintendo 64 created that formula. Making Mario into an Olympic level gymnast and free runner acted as the base for which every other game on this list was built upon. All of Mario's flips and wall jumps originated in 64, his first 3D game, and have persisted through the series. Calling it a "gimmick" almost feels like an understatement.
But which gimmick did you feel was the best? Let me know on Twitter!