Owners of Nintendo 3DS handheld video-game systems have a hard choice to make this holiday season. When it comes to getting some Mario in your stocking, do you go with Super Mario 3D Land? Or Mario Kart 7?
The two latest games in the Mario franchise from Nintendo were developed with the 3-D capability of the 3DS in mind, and while you don’t have to play the games in 3-D, there are some manoeuvres and environmental puzzles that are next to impossible without using the feature.
Super Mario 3D Land (Nintendo; 3DS; rated everyone) has the usual power-ups—the super mushroom, invincibility star, and fire leaf—you expect, as well as others like the super leaf, which turns the plumber into Tanooki Mario, with a racoon tail for attacks and the ability to float, and the boomerang flower, which gives him ranged attacks. You also have a storage slot for power-ups, so you can have one active and one in stand by at any time.
You’ll collect coins along the way, of course (get to 100 and get an extra life), and there are three star medals hidden in each level. You’ll need to collect those to access special worlds in the game.
There is great variety to the levels, too. In some you’ll be on a traditional, linear course while others sport the open environments of the Super Mario Galaxy games.
And the recent Nintendo practice of not endlessly frustrating novice players continues here. After you’ve died five times in a level, an invincibility leaf is offered which turns you into an invulnerable Tanooki Mario. Die 10 times in a level and you’ll be given the option of using the P-wing to fly right to the end of the level so you can move on in the game.
It’s been three years since Nintendo released an update to the kart racing genre it popularized, and six years since there was a new version for handhelds. And while it’s fun to race against computer-operated opponents, the most fun you’ll have with Mario Kart 7 (Nintendo; 3DS; rated everyone) is while taking advantage of the online multiplayer, which can support up to eight players.
It’s a racing game, so what makes Mario Kart different than others is the smooth controls that make it easy for anyone to drive the vehicles, and for new players to be able to have fun and compete with experienced gamers.
The environments are incredibly varied. Many are based on other Nintendo properties and some require gliding, others take the race underwater, and as usual, finding alternate routes through the courses is one key to victory.
Another is to use weapons—like turtle shells, bananas, and fireballs—against opponents.
Players can customize their vehicle prior to racing, choosing a chassis and tires that affect speed, acceleration, and handling. Accessories like hang-gliders are also provided. Collecting coins on the tracks will unlock other vehicle options.
So which game should you put on your wish list? Easy. Both.