2013 Game of the Year: Super Mario 3D World

Created in Nintendo's vacuum, 3D World eschews modern gaming trends. It doesn't aspire to justify the medium to Hollywood types. Instead, it focuses on the singular goal of just being fun, gosh darn it.

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"Are games art?" Many of this year's best are easy examples to point to, with their emotional narratives and nuanced performances. But our Game of the Year, Super Mario 3D World, doesn't aspire to justify the medium to Hollywood types. Instead, it focuses on the singular goal of just being fun, gosh darn it.

Created in Nintendo's vacuum, 3D World eschews modern gaming trends: there's no open world, there are no RPG elements, there's no online multiplayer, nor are there microtransactions or DLC. Yet in spite of Nintendo's resistance towards adopting modern conventions, 3D World is far from primitive. What elevates 3D World to the top of our list is how fresh it is. Every level introduces a new way to surprise and delight players--either by innovating with new gameplay mechanics, or tapping into Mario's storied legacy in an unexpected way.

One subtle feature exemplifies Nintendo's mastery of creating fun. In multiplayer, the player that earned the highest score in the previous level dons a gold crown on his or her head. However, if that player gets hit, the crown goes flying off, encouraging players to go after it. The addition of the crown doesn't have any meaningful impact on the gameplay (you don't earn any extra powers by wielding it). However, this minor feature encourages all sorts of mischief when playing with others.

The fact that such a small detail can have such a large impact on the overall experience only emphasizes how carefully crafted the 3D World experience is. It's easy to point at the large strokes--beautiful graphics, inventive worlds, and multiplayer characters that control drastically different from each other. But it's the small stuff--like being able to run up the flag pole with Cat Mario, or the way Toad is animated when he has a block stuck to his head--that separates 3D World from the competition. How often can one say a game is so through-and-through designed to delight?

Financially, the Nintendo vacuum has resulted in quite the dire situation for the company. However, gamers are reaping the rewards. In 2013, we've seen Nintendo boldly reinvent its key franchises to tremendous critical success. Super Mario 3D World is the pinnacle of Nintendo's gameplay-first ethos--a strategy that may be reconsidered in Nintendo's brave new world.


The Shacknews Best of 2013 Awards were determined by ballot voting across the entire Shacknews staff. Previous Game of the Year Awards have gone to The Walking Dead, The Witcher 2, and Red Dead Redemption.

From The Chatty

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    January 22, 2014 10:00 AM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, 2013 Game of the Year: Super Mario 3D World.

    Created in Nintendo's vacuum, 3D World eschews modern gaming trends. It doesn't aspire to justify the medium to Hollywood types. Instead, it focuses on the singular goal of just being fun, gosh darn it.

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      January 22, 2014 10:08 AM

      One of the really cool things for me this year is the number of different games I've seen picked as the GotY from a variety of different outlets and people. There were so many great games in 2013 that were all good for different reasons, and I think that's pretty neat.

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        January 22, 2014 11:00 AM

        Well put. 2013 was surprisingly good in my opinion. At the start of the year, I remember I was only excited for one or two titles and I was thinking it would be a slump year. Then a bunch of titles arrived that I'd never even heard of.

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      January 22, 2014 10:14 AM

      What song is that in the video?

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      January 22, 2014 10:16 AM

      Thank You Shacknews Staff. You guys are awesome

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      January 22, 2014 10:17 AM

      Mario 3D World! Wahoo!

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      January 22, 2014 10:45 AM

      I definitely agree with this--it's my game of the year as well. I'm never a completionist in games but right now I'm working on getting 100% stars and stamps for this game because I don't want to stop playing. I'm hoping they have an expansion similar to what New Super Mario Bros Wii U had with Luigi U.

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      January 22, 2014 10:53 AM

      It was by far the most popular game at my house last year, and we aren't done yet.

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      January 22, 2014 10:58 AM

      Video should have had titles overlaying the games. I have to go figure out what that Pokemon game was. ;)

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        January 22, 2014 11:49 AM

        100% agree. I went back and added annotations to the title cards. They should show up in the video now.

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          January 22, 2014 11:51 AM

          Your rock

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          January 22, 2014 11:59 AM

          That works -- thanks! You'll have to keep it in mind next year. ;)

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      January 22, 2014 11:13 AM

      Ha, I knew it! Nintendo takes both #1 and #2. All the haters can go cry now.

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      January 22, 2014 11:33 AM

      Hell yes. You brought a tear to me eye, Shacknews. Just one eye, but I'm very manly, so.

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      January 22, 2014 11:34 AM

      Can't wait to play it!

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      January 22, 2014 11:36 AM

      This is my choice too. So many laugh out loud moments, and the post-Bowser levels are platforming bliss.

      It's true that this game is so good because Nintendo sticks to their guns. They aren't going to make their marquee Mario title anything but perfect. I hope their next project is Galaxy 3, though I doubt we'll get anymore Mario platformers for the Wii U. The Gamecube only got one.

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        January 22, 2014 1:45 PM

        I bet we'll get another one towards the end of the Wii U's life cycle, if it survives that long. But there's no doubt that they'll be very much focusing on Wii U Zelda for now.

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          January 22, 2014 2:18 PM

          I am sure Wii U will survive until the end of its life cycle...

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      January 22, 2014 11:37 AM

      I love mario and nintendo, but there is something about mario world 3D that just doesn't work for me, not quite sure what it is, i think mainly its that I wish it was just Mario 64, which was infinitely better, but its not. I bought 3D world and New Super Mario Brothers, and i've had *WAY* more fun with new super mario brothers.

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        January 22, 2014 11:51 AM

        How far have you gotten? First 3 worlds were pretty hit and miss for me.

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        January 22, 2014 12:02 PM

        Since Mario 64, there's been this expectation among players that every 3D Mario must come from Mario 64's mold: single-player, huge worlds. The thing is, that mold doesn't accommodate multiple players. Huge worlds like the ones seen in Galaxy, Sunshine, and Mario 64 would make tracking more than one player difficult.

        Nintendo built Mario 3D World as a multiplayer game that you can enjoy on your own. It's like they took the flat, 2D worlds of classic Mario games and inflated them like a balloon. Those worlds throw more obstacles at you and are more linear, but also simplify tracking player movements. It's basically a cross between 2D and 3D platforming. Some may like that, some may not. I enjoyed the hell out of it.

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      January 22, 2014 11:44 AM

      Awesome :) \m/

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      January 22, 2014 12:19 PM

      Sucks that this will likely be the last non-side scrolling Mario.

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        January 22, 2014 12:30 PM

        I really, really doubt that. I'm betting Galaxy is going to get a sequel (spiritual or direct) on the WiiU.

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        January 22, 2014 1:41 PM

        Haha what? Why would you think that? I don't know whether we're going to get a third Galaxy, or even better, Nintendo cooks up something awesome that's entirely new, but I doubt we've seen the last of Mario. That's their flagship IP!

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          January 22, 2014 2:38 PM

          Its barely sold over a million and a half units world wide. The side scrollers break that within a month in NA

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      January 22, 2014 12:28 PM

      Only game I played on your list is Infinite.

      And it doesn't belong on the list honestly, generic gunplay with an overrated story. Tomb Raider was way more fun.

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      January 22, 2014 3:29 PM

      I completely agree with your choice for GOTY. I am surprised that GTA V was left off of the list. Was it the torture mission?

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        January 22, 2014 3:42 PM

        I can only speak for myself, but between GTA V and Saints Row IV, I personally had more fun with SR4 than I did with GTA.

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          January 22, 2014 6:50 PM

          Yeah, it came down to which one I looked back on more fondly for me. GTA5 had a really grand scope and was technically impressive, but I just found it kind of empty and lifeless compared to the other games on the list (including SR4).

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          January 22, 2014 8:12 PM

          GTA V is the most impressive thing man has every built. More impressive than the pyramids.

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        January 22, 2014 3:44 PM

        In my opinion, GTA V was a great technical achievement , but the story and dialog were meh.

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      January 22, 2014 3:45 PM

      I can get behind this (although my personal pick would have been Zelda).

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      January 22, 2014 7:30 PM

      Excellent choice!

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      January 22, 2014 7:48 PM

      Great game. Nintendo was the best publisher this year, hands down full stop

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        January 22, 2014 7:52 PM

        Yeah. Pikmin was a blast as well.

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        January 22, 2014 8:15 PM

        Mario 3D, Fire Emblem, Pikmin 3, Luigi's Mansion, Zelda HD, Zelda LBW, Wonderful 101... so much amazing stuff!

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          January 22, 2014 8:34 PM

          Oh, and M&L:Dream Team, and Lego City Undercover, and Pokemon. Hell of a list!