Super Mario 3D World: when the end isn’t the end

Tom: Super Mario 3D World has more endings than the Lord of the Rings movies. Just when you think it’s over, it’s not because there’s more to do. And then you do all that, and you get to the end and…well, I’d rather let you discover that. Suffice to say that this game diary probably could have gone for another day or two.

But we set out to write up eight worlds, so let’s write up the eighth world in Super Mario 3D World.

After the jump, eight is enough?

Scott: Fresh off the final confrontation fake-out I head up a pipe to World 8, Bowser World. Time to put this baby to bed. As I pop out of the pipe I see this:


Then, suddenly I’m surrounded by a crazy neon Nintendo circus:


Tom: That is quite a show when the lights come up. I can’t deny a sort of child-like wonder at that moment, following by the overwhelming urge to just run in there to play. Which is what we did.

Scott: World Eight serves as a perfect summation of Super Mario 3D World. It has three of the best levels in the game — Floodlight Lane (platforms illuminate as you walk over them), Deepwater Dungeon (you swim through moving globes of water), and A Beam in the Dark (you get a spotlight powerup that kills ghosts) — followed by an exquisite form of torture: Grumblump Inferno. I lost ten lives in under five minutes before I figured out what to do on those damn blocks!

Tom: I had the good fortune to play through most of World Eight with several friends, one of whom figured out the trick to Grumblump Inferno: stop jumping already and just run along the blocks as they turn! The jumps were killing us. I’ve also had the good fortune to play a fair bit of this with my roommate’s nine-year-old son, who’s more than happy to play helper on the gamepad, tapping to keep monsters at bay and to pick up coins. It really makes all the difference on some of these levels. But you’re right that there are some really nice levels in World Eight. And then you get to the gates of the boss level.

Scott: And of course I’m locked out. I have 152 green stars and I need 170.

Tom: Hey, that’s exactly where I was! We’ve reached star parity!

Scott: It’s deflating and at this point I’m pretty fed up with the game. But I have to see the end, so I go back and start replaying levels. Starting at World One I figure the best way to grind stars is to replay levels where I haven’t unlocked any stars or only one star. I do this from world to world. I replay levels I hate. I die a bunch. I replay boss levels. I die a bunch more. After a few hours of this I want to give up. But I manage to score the necessary 170 green stars and head back to World Eight.

Tom: You and me both, brother. I eventually Googled “Super Mario 3D World star locations” and just watched videos on YouTube for some of the levels that still had hidden stars. Once I was just dashing directly where I needed to go, it was pretty painless. I even learned a few tricks watching some of those videos. Did you know you could pick up potted Venus flytraps and carry them around? Who knew? And this bit from Shadow Alley drove me crazy when I first found it:


What a delight to finally discover the solution. Even if I did “cheat”.

Scott: I have a feeling there is a lot I don’t know about this game. And at this point, standing at the threshold of the huge super neon Bowser castle, I’m pretty much done with Super Mario 3D World. I’ve had enough. In fact, if not for this diary, I probably would have quit right then and there, or at the very least put it down for a few weeks. I want to play other games! I want to get back to my PS4, Xbox One, Vita. There is a freaking Steam sale on, for chrissakes!

When I enter The Great Tower of Bowser Land all of this impatience and frustration melts away. I’d love to sit here and break it down. To go over every frame of the best boss battle in the history of Mario. To spell out in detail how Super Mario 3D World has been training me from level to level, world to world, for this fight. What happens in The Great Tower of Bowser Land is a secret. It’s too good to spoil. At the glorious end I was left grinning like an idiot, as happy at a game ending as I can remember.

Tom: I’m not as enamored of that final level. I didn’t really enjoy having to memorize patterns and power through with a bunch of lives. Fortunately, I had about 20 lives from grinding out those last few stars. But The Great Tower of Bowser Land took a whole mess of retries and setbacks and, oops, I went left instead of right, or, oops, I didn’t wait long enough before doing that jump, or, oops, I’m here at the end and I had no idea this guy was going to start breathing blue fireballs at me. Here was the pain-in-the-ass boss fight that I was spared in the other seven worlds.

Scott: I’ve tried to stay humble for this diary, despite my long history and considerable Mario skill. But since we’re at the end I think it’s okay if I flex the epeen a bit: I got through that end sequence without losing a life. I climbed and dodged and trapezed and ran and blew through that level. I felt like I was on the edge of dying the entire time. It was thrilling!

Tom: It took at least five lives for me. But probably less than ten. More than I cared to spend, at any rate. Why couldn’t I have just thrown a rock at a car again?

Scott: Anyone who knows Mario games knows this ain’t the end. After the credits roll a notification pops on screen saying high scores are now unlocked and “fast ghost Miis” will now populate my levels.

Tom: And now it’s tracking our best times for each level as well as our highest scores. So that’s why people were putting their times in some of the posts at the ends of levels. I had previously wondered why anyone would care, much less even know what his time was. Were people using stopwatches? And although I appreciate the option to care about speed runs, and particularly the option to follow a fast ghost that specifically helps you get better times, I have to wonder about high scores without leaderboards. How am I supposed to know if I’m better than my friends? How am I supposed to try to beat Scott’s run through The Great Tower of Bowser Land? Do we just post our scores and times on Facebook?

Scott: After that last green star grind I could care less about high scores, speed runs, or leaderboards. I do however want to get my ass on the thing those fairies just made and see where it takes me! So, Tom, have two weeks of nonstop Mario been enough? Not quite the Bataan death march, eh?

Tom: Well, what follows is somewhat brutal. Maybe somewhere between the Bataan death march and the launch of But certainly better than I expected.

Click here for the previous entry.
Click here for the first Super Mario 3D World entry.