The thing that makes the 3d Mario games stand out so much is the movement. Even Sunshine, often regarded as the worst of the bunch, provides a level of freedom to approach many levels that developers couldn’t possibly even think of. What makes 3D World stand out is having a far more limited moveset, with the fancy skills being more or less useless in this. Even many of the level ideas seem to be meant for another game, with many new obstacles feeling like they were added to create more visual variety than to add a new challenge for players to overcome. There was also , but the way he moved was at odds with some of the design choices like there being a timer. It felt like a solid idea that was rushed to be included. That changes in Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, where the idea seems more fully thought out and planned.
Like many Mario games, the thing that stands out in Captain Toad is movement. The playable characters have far more restricted skills, lacking in jumps and the speed of Mario. The Toads can’t really do much except pick things up and slowly run. That might sound boring, but these limitations do make the game that much more enjoyable than 3D World. Things like the rolling grass that did nothing in 3D World are an actual obstacle in Toad and enemies like Goombas that are no threat to Mario are a concern to Toad. That’s not to say it relies solely on 3D World though. There are some pretty fun ideas, like a a few rail rides where Toad shoots turnips, a train stealth level with a hint of Metal Gear Solid
In many Mario games, it’s clear that the developers are encouraging players to get through the level as quickly as possible. That’s rarely the case with Captain Toad. Instead, it’s pushes to observe the many details of these small levels to find those green stars and any secrets hidden away. Even the more frantic levels are more relaxing than the easiest Mario level. This ain’t a game for speedrunners, this is meant for an audience that just wants to sit down, enjoy the sights, and occasionally feel smart.
Captain Toad is a pretty good showcase on how much movement matters in a game. Many of the interesting ideas that were poorly suited for Mario feel far more at home in Captain Toad. Like many of the Wii U’s best games such as Bayonetta 2, Pikmin 3, and Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, it got a new chance to find an audience on the Switch. If you are looking for something laidback but creative, this is the game for you.