The Luigi’s Mansion series has always been a curious Super Mario offshoot — a sparsely-released series that eschews most of its Mario lineage beyond a few aesthetics. They’re odd, but they’re also lovable in their weirdness, and Luigi’s Mansion 3 is no exception. This third game takes many of the best elements from its predecessors. But it’s been refined, expanded, and improved. It’s by far the most well-structured game in the series (not to mention the funniest.
The conceit this time is that Luigi has been lured to a luxury hotel for a break from… whatever he’s usually up to while his brother’s off adventuring. Ignoring any suspicions about large buildings he should definitely harbor at this point, Luigi gathers up Mario, Peach, and some Toads to enjoy a hotel stay. Naturally enough it turns out that King Boo was behind the whole thing, and once again Luigi finds himself on a rescue mission. Luigi — as well as Gooigi, his doppelganger made of viscous goo (don’t over-think it) — must rescue everyone by, uh, sucking up a bunch of ghosts with a super-powered vacuum cleaner.
Luigi’s Mansion 3, curiously enough, does not actually take place in a mansion. Instead your quest has you navigate the hotel, finding and defeating ghosts so that you can retrieve elevator keys they’ve stolen and move up each floor. This gives the game a clear sense of direction and progression; you always know the next goal you’re working towards in the story, and the theme of each floor allows the game to move you between distinct levels. Every section feels unique in terms of aesthetic and gameplay, too. A jaunt through a medieval-themed floor is largely puzzle-based, requiring heavy use of Gooigi (who can slip through cracks and double Luigi’s suction power) and a keen eye for details, whereas a museum floor a few hours later centers around a single boss fight. Each floor is self-contained, so you lose a lot of the interconnected feel that made the original Luigi’s Mansion so interesting, but that also allows for some more interesting variation.
Switch or Treat
The hotel is, of course, haunted. The cast of ghosts and ghouls in Luigi’s Mansion 3 hits the sweet spot between the second game’s somewhat samey enemy set and the original’s copious mini-bosses. While the combat repeats a lot (you’re often swarmed by generic blue ghosts) there are enough deviations and unique enemy types that things never get tedious.
The boss fights, which range in scope and scale, are generally a pleasure, too. Luigi’s Mansion 3 loves destruction. You can suck up or break just about everything up with that vacuum. And that’s particularly well-realized in these big fights, as Luigi deals with haunted objects that careen around the room, destroying everything in their path. The combat isn’t particularly challenging (I never actually saw a game-over screen) but the guttural feel of hoovering up a ghost up in your vacuum, then slamming it into any object within reach, often including other ghosts, never gets old.
Navigating through levels is rarely too much of a challenge, though. I found that when I got stuck, the solution to whatever problem I faced was often triggered by just cycling through every available action, rather than engaging in any lateral thinking. But there are some very clever moments in the game, too. One set of puzzles requires sending Gooigi into a bunch of movie sets and swapping items around between them. It’s a particularly inspired highlight, especially as it ends in a wonderful kaiju-inspired boss battle directed by a ghost clearly based on a certain Hollywood auteur.
Mario Can Stay Missing
Part of the joy of the Luigi’s Mansion series, and its influence on the wider Mario mythology, is the the emerging sense of Luigi as a true character. Mario, for all his charms, always feels more like an avatar than a flesh-and-blood man of the Mushroom Kingdom. Luigi’s extremely expressive animations and his visible, hilarious fear, as he jumps and screams and tentatively creeps through the adventure, are extremely endearing. It feels like Next Level Games was given more rope than most development teams with these characters. Although Luigi never says more than a few words at a time, this is the most talkative he’s ever been (and it’s one of Charles Martinet’s best Nintendo performances).
The game itself has abundant personality, too. It’s not just the wonderful art style, or the fun of ruining every room. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is just absolutely packed with secrets that make a deep-dive exploration of every room a pleasure. There are Boos hidden around the mansion, just like in the first game, but also hidden gems to track down, rare ghosts to find, and cash hidden in every nook and cranny.
That’s cash that can be spent on different radars to help you find more gems and Boos. The Mario series has always understood the allure of a big pile of gold, and just about every interaction you have in the game is liable to send notes, coins, and giant bars of bullion come spilling out. You’re literally showered in riches. You’d think that would mitigate Luigi’s anxieties somewhat…
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is an excellent single-player experience, but it’s also geared towards multiplayer in a few key ways. The game is fully playable in couch co-op, with one player controlling Gooigi. It feels like a great mode for helping a younger player (or for gamer pals, housemates, and couples) to work through the adventure together. Although it’s not essential. More substantial is the Screamscraper mode, which tasks a team of up to four Luigis with clearing out a multi-level home. It’s something a bit closer to a mansion than the core game, in fact. It’s not particularly tenable as a single-player experience, though, and nobody was online during the review period for me to test it with. Yet the right ingredients are there for an enjoyable, hectic co-op mode.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 continues to more like an oddball cousin to the Mario games, despite starring his brother, but its sense of purpose has never been stronger. You could nitpick the repetition, or wish it was a bit more complex, or mourn the interconnectedness that was lost after the original Luigi’s Mansion. But on a moment-to-moment, room-by-room basis, Luigi’s Mansion 3 wins you over with its charm — not to mention its enormous piles of gold.
Luigi's Mansion 3
Luigi's Mansion 3 has a completely solid setup for another ghost hunt. The hotel environment makes every floor stand out, the bosses and basic enemies feel like a great mix of the last two games, and Luigi himself really shines. It's a ghastly great time.
- Luigi has more personality here than ever before
- Gorgeous designs make the mansion extremely fun to explore
- Going deep and trying to find everything is extremely fun
- The ghost combat can be a bit samey
- Lots of puzzles essentially have the same solutions