Super Mario 3D World is released on 29 November for the Wii U.
- Four playable characters, each with different abilities and strengths
- Amazing variety of 3D gameplay
- Seven worlds with inventive levels and ideas
- New items including the 'Cat Bell' and 'Double-Up Cherry'
- Captain Toad 3D puzzle stages
"Journey with Mario, Luigi and more to the Sprixie Kingdom in SUPER MARIO 3D WORLD! Bowser has kidnapped the Sprixie Princess, and it’s up to Mario and his friends to rescue her, racing to the Goal Pole at the end of various stages along the way!"
Whatever happens to the Wii U - whether it's destined for glory in 2014, set to wilt into a long-tail afterlife on eBay, or more likely somewhere in between - it now has its stone cold, stand-out, stand up and shout classic game.
Super Mario 3D World is the best Mario game since 2007's Super Mario Galaxy.
What Nintendo has done is combine the essential elements of any Mario game - basic platforming, tight controls, colourful worlds, inventive level design and challenging-but-not-frustrating gameplay - and combine them into something almost wholly new and more entertaining than you'd have a right to expect.
Yes, this time around the game is 3D. Instead of running left to right, you're running up, down, sideways and shooting through tubes to get to your goal. But this isn't just a case of placing a few blocks in different places, or making a sort of Mario-themed Tomb Raider. It's about rethinking level design and game mechanics from the ground up.
So why does it work? Like any great work of art, it's hard to know by deconstructing its basic elements. But one of the essential ingredients is the new role of multiplayer. For the first time you're able to play with your friends, and compete against them, in a seamless, silly and competitive way, without sacrificing any element. The score rankings at the end of each level let you fight for supremacy, but the generous way in which respawns and catch-ups happen means no one is ever left behind. Taking on bosses is easier and more fun en masse, but you can still hurl your friends off a cliff if you're feeling nicely mean. It's a really fun and entertaining - and new - way to play a Mario game.
As ever, there's a silly story involved, and multiple themed worlds with different levels and side quests. But more important than the variety of locations is the gentle but sensible difficulty curve. 3D World isn't frustrating, but it is challenging - and provides a real variety of tasks. Sometimes you're battling bosses in all-out action sequences. Other times your working on a neat 3D puzzle in which Captain Toad (who cannot jump) has to navigate a little cuboid map (which you can rotate with the Gamepad) before the time runs out. It's a lovely change of pace, and illustrates the thought that's gone into the title.
There are also some neat new items - particularly the Bell which turns you into a scurrying cat able to run up walls and even the end-of-level flagpole, and the 'double up' Cherry which turns you into two (or more) of the same character, able to attack obstacles in greater numbers. But the joy here is in discovery, and the cool little twists which turn up every few minutes and make you reconsider every element of what you're doing.
If you have a Wii U, Super Mario 3D World is an essential purchase. If you don't have a Wii U and love Mario, we highly recommend you jump on board. Preferably with three friends in tow.
Pokemon X & Y (Nintendo 3DS)
The latest Pokemon is the best yet, adding totally revamped and (partially) 3D graphics, great new pocket-monsters to collect, handy experience-sharing features and - as ever - hugely addictive quests to build you team and defeat whoever, for whatever reason. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/10/04/pokemon-x-y-review-3ds_n_4037123.html" target="_blank">We loved it in our review</a>, and for Pokemon fans it's a must.
Forza 5 (Xbox One)
Forza 5 is the Xbox One's flagship release racer, and it looks utterly amazing in person. The graphics and handling really are a step above anything you could have seen on the previous generation, and it gives us hope that there's a lot more graphical and mechanical power to wring from the next-gen in the year's to come.
Killzone: Mercenary (PS Vita)
Sony's handheld games machine hasn't had a lot of stand-out AAA games this year (indies is a different story). But the latest Killzone was different. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/09/11/killzone-mercenary-review_n_3906328.html" target="_blank">It's a rock-solid, feature complete FPS</a> with a dramatic (if silly) storyline, clever level design and touch-enabled features that make the best of the PS Vita's unique hardware.
Dead Rising 3 (Xbox One)
There are a few key things that the next-gen consoles enable you to do. One of them is mow down literally hundreds - <em>literally</em> hundreds - of zombies at once in a tank attached to a deadly fireworks rocket. It's amazing fun - shallow? Yes. Hilarious? Also yes.
Bioshock Infinite (Multi-Platform)
Bioshock Infinite came out much earlier this year - but Christmas is a perfect time to finally pick it up and give it the time it deserves. With an amazingly engaging storyline and rock-solid combat mechanics, it's hard to find fault with a landmark game of the generation. And with the new DLC - which takes you back to the underwater world of the previous two Bioshock games - there's never been a better reason to play it through again.
The Last Of Us (PS3)
Critically lauded at the time of its release, and rightly so, The Last Of Us is another gold-plated classic of the generation - and Christmas is exactly the right time to go back and see why it made such an impact for yourself.
Super Mario 3D World (Nintendo Wii U)
The new 3D Super Mario game is the best in the long-running plumber's series of Princess (or in this case, fairy) rescuing adventures in years. The 3D worlds themselves are charming, fun, fast and creative. It's a riot in multiplayer, and the new "Cat" power-up is adorable.
Make no mistake - the PS4 has its share of big-budget AAA games at launch. But this family-oriented 3D platform adventure is up there with the best of them thanks to its beautiful next-gen graphics, attractive and welcoming design and innovative use of the PS4's raw power to tell a story - as well as render amazing chainsaws.
Zoo Tycoon (Xbox One)
The idea of Zoo Tycoon might not set your heart racing. But trust us - there's something about building an ethical animal park with nothing but 12 kinds of bear, which you can feed with your own hands thanks to the new Kinect - which is oddly, totally thrilling.
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (Multi-Platform)
The new Assassin's Creed <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/10/30/assassins-creed-4-uk-review_n_4177896.html" target="_blank">is a snappy, fast and engaging open-world title</a> which rejects the last instalment's lumbering story for a truly free, fun and exciting adventure.