What is it about Luigi’s Mansion that Nintendo keeps coming back to it? The game maker has no shortage of weird series in its history (especially Japan-only fare like Captain Rainbow), but Luigi’s Mansion is that odd confluence of a popular mascot—an underdog, but still—getting center stage in a slow, puzzle-filled adventure series.
The results have always been solid—and even gorgeous—but never the stuff of a blockbuster. That may still be true with this year’s sequel, Luigi’s Mansion 3. Like previous entries, it revolves around a slow-and-scared Luigi picking through a haunted mansion. And once again, its slow, thoughtful, and silly gameplay, which revolves around Nintendo’s wimpiest character ever, doesn’t immediately shout “mainstream cultural phenomenon.”
In a gaming world with more justice, this would be Nintendo’s late-2019 blockbuster, a copy-for-every-kiddo delight that you can’t help but tuck into every Christmas stocking (or, this week, every trick-or-treat bag). Luigi’s Mansion 3 is by no means a perfect game, and it stumbles over its own clumsy, Luigi feet often enough to merit some nitpicking. But it’s arguably the most “Nintendo” game I’ve seen from the company in years: one that oozes a sense of playfulness in every direction, from how you interact with its spooky environs to how those aesthetics rival the world’s best kid-friendly CGI films. Close your eyes and imagine a handsomely drawn Nintendo game manual from the ’80s or ’90s coming to life in your imagination, all animated and living and breathing.
At its best, that’s Luigi’s Mansion 3.