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Unlike Many Games, Modern Mario Games Are a Delight to 100% Complete

They're one of the few games who genuinely reward you for the effort.
Image courtesy of Nintendo

I'm not a completionist. While the nature of my job means I'm quickly moving from one game to the next, it wasn't true before writing about games became my career, either. I dabbled in nabbing achievements and trophies when they first showed up, and may have been guilty of buying a cheap game or two whose achievement lists were easy to check off, but the appeal waned. It's different when it comes to Mario games, though, especially the more recent ones. Starting with Super Mario 3D Land, I became enthralled with hitting 100%. I have the fever.


My gripe with being a completionist in most games is twofold: the amount of boring, mindless tasks required to get there, and the lack of a meaningful reward for making the journey. A fancy icon next to a virtual profile is not sufficient, nor are a mound of meaningless points. 3D Land, however, managed to provide satisfying answers to both problems.

Every stage in 3D Land had three special coins for you to collect. Some were obvious, many were not. But each of them was a tiny, delightful puzzle hidden for players to work out. Many coin locations were more rewarding than the stages themselves. They weren't required to beat the game, but if you collected them (in addition to hitting the top of the completion pole in each stage), the game opened up a super secret, incredibly difficult level for you to tackle.

This stage was so goddamn hard, and when I beat it, I screamed into the void.

When making the case for Super Mario 3D World being one of the year's best during Giant Bomb's game of the year podcasts in 2013, my colleague, Jeff Gerstmann, couldn't get behind the nomination, citing the game's lack of difficulty. He wasn't wrong; World was not a challenging game. I pointed out how the designers hid the best and most challenge parts of the game behind the three special coins in each stage—discovery was the reward. Finding them required a combination of mental and physical dexterity the rest of the game didn't ask of you. Gerstmann didn't buy it, arguing more of it should have been on the mainline path. Fair enough.


(In culling the list to a top 10, I sacrificed 3D World's place to ensure Paper's Please was represented. I still feel bad about that, but Paper's Please deserved it.)

Your reward for collecting every secret coin in 3D World was an equally wild stage:

Sadly, in reviewing 3D World, I ended up having to switch consoles, which meant I lost my progress, and I've never found the time to go back and collect everything. I'd found most of it, though. If Nintendo were to re-release 3D World on Switch—which they should—I'd be happy to climb that mountain.

So far, I'm getting the same vibe from Odyssey, the only problem being how much dang stuff there is to find. That's a nice problem to have, though.

I'm sure other people have different measuring sticks for what prompts them to be a completionist. Maybe it's a desire to stay in a world you like, rather than a secret level.

What games have you taken all the way to the edge?

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