It’s Luigi time.
Luigi’s been living in the towering shadow of his brother for as long as he’s been around, with everyone from his fictional friends, to the gaming audiences, to Nintendo themselves letting him sit back and let Mario do all the heavy lifting, with nary a thought about what he might be capable of doing. Every once in a while though, the stage turns from red to green, and we get to see Luigi coming into his own, and while there’s been a few examples of this over the years, the one that always stands out the most is Luigi’s Mansion, Luigi’s own series of horrors, charm, and comedy.
After over six years in hibernation, Luigi’s Mansion returns with its third entry, bringing its tried-and-true formula to the Switch. And as is the case with literally every Nintendo franchise that’s graced this platform, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is the best this series has ever been, taking everything that was good about its predecessors, improving upon those strengths, and adding in its own unique ideas. It’s almost surprising how good Luigi’s Mansion 3 is- when I entered this haunted hotel, I was expecting a fun but unspectacular journey, but by the time I left, I was thoroughly impressed with the game in almost every single thing it tried to do.
"It’s almost surprising how good Luigi’s Mansion 3 is- when I entered this haunted hotel, I was expecting a fun but unspectacular journey, but by the time I left, I was thoroughly impressed with the game in almost every single thing it tried to do."
Luigi, Mario, Peach, and a bunch of Toads have been invited to spend their vacations in a beautiful and luxurious hotel, but upon getting there, it quickly becomes clear that things are amiss, and the invitation was little more than a trap. The hotel is soon overrun by ghosts, and it falls to Luigi – armed with his trusty ghost-sucking vacuum cleaner called the Poltergust, and with Professor E. Gadd once again providing support – to rescue his friends and recapture the ghosts running amok.
If you’ve played any of the last two entries, you’ll be familiar with how Luigi’s Mansion 3 works at its core. Luigi traverses the various floors of the hotel, sucking up ghosts into his vacuum, solving puzzles, and exploring the environments, all the while tackling tasks given to him by the Professor and rescuing his friends. The central mechanics of Luigi’s Mansion are as fun as they ever have been, but a couple of smart additions throw interesting wrinkles into the mix, making the experience noticeably more enjoyable and layered.
When Luigi sucks up ghosts and certain objects into his Poltergust, he can now also smack them around into the environment and into each other, and the action is as gleefully fun as it looks and sounds. Meanwhile, Luigi can now also fire a plunger of sorts at objects, and then use the Poltergust on it to give himself more leverage to move around heavier objects. And of course, there’s Gooigi, the Luigi clone made out of goo, who might be weak to fire and water, but can walk through pipes and grates and over spikes, thus being able to access areas and secrets that are inaccessible to Luigi. These mechanics are integrated into the puzzle-solving, exploration, and combat wonderfully, with certain obstacles requiring Luigi to make use of his new tricks, and various boss battles challenging the player to use them in interesting ways.
"The central mechanics of Luigi’s Mansion are as fun as they ever have been, but a couple of smart additions throw interesting wrinkles into the mix, making the experience noticeably more enjoyable and layered."
Luigi’s Mansion 3 understands the value of variety, and rather than settling into a comfortable loop of core mechanics, it keeps throwing interesting twists and elements into the mix to keep players engaged and stimulated. For instance, to avoid getting blinded and stunned by Luigi’s flashlight, some ghosts might be wearing goggles, which you would then have to remove using the Poltergust before being able to stun them- a very basic example of the way Luigi’s Mansion 3 keeps having fun with its own core mechanics. If there’s one issue with the game on the mechanical side of things, it’s that the controls aren’t always the most accurate, and aiming and movement can feel a bit too weighty and unresponsive at times.
The biggest strength of Luigi’s Mansion 3’s gameplay lies in how enjoyable the exploration is. Traversing the Last Resort – the hotel Luigi finds himself trapped in – is a joy from start to finish, and a lot of that is down to the environmental variety. The game takes liberties with its settings, and rather than being beholden to the hotel schtick that serves as its central conceit, it uses that conceit to do some truly bizarre and wacky stuff. Earlier floors of the hotel start out in pretty ordinary fashion, taking you from a shopping complex in the hotel to a restaurant and the like, but as you get higher and higher into the structure, the themes of each storey keep getting crazier. By the time you’re done, you’ll have seen a pyramid, a dense forest, a disco floor, and more.
It also helps that as opposed to the linear, strictly objective-driven approach of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is also much more open-ended. You get an end-goal each time you enter a new floor, but between the starting and finishing lines, there is complete freedom. Taking things at your own pace and exploring every nook and cranny of each hotel floor is a huge blast, especially because discovering the secrets crammed into each room is a rewarding and addictive experience.
The sheer interactivity and unbelievably obsessive attention to detail in the environments also helps make exploration a blast. No matter what you see in Luigi’s Mansion 3, every single object in the environment reacts to Luigi and what he’s doing in interesting ways, big and small. Open a garbage chute, and Luigi’s hat might fall in. Walk into a cloud of dust, and Luigi will begin sneezing. Use your Poltergust near a window, and the drapes might get sucked into your vacuum. Rip a peeling bit of wallpaper using the Poltergust, and you might discover the entrance to a secret room in the wall.
"Earlier floors of the hotel start out in pretty ordinary fashion, taking you from a shopping complex in the hotel to a restaurant and the like, but as you get higher and higher into the structure, the themes of each storey keep getting crazier. By the time you’re done, you’ll have seen a pyramid, a dense forest, a disco floor, and more."
It’s a ridiculous level of detail, making each room in every floor of the hotel feel like a bespoke, handcrafted environment. Not only does this make the moment-to-moment exploration fun and keep it from ever getting too repetitive, it also lends immense personality and sense of place to the game and to the hotel that serves as its setting. Experimenting with these environments, the objects in them, and the way they might react to you, your actions, and each other turned every new room I visited into a sandbox of possibilities that I could happily spend dozens and dozens of minutes in.
There’s one disappointing caveat to this- your reward for exploration a lot of the times is gold, which means you’ll be swimming in money before long if you explore as thoroughly as I did. The only issue is, the shop in Professor E. Gadd’s lab – situated in the hotel’s basement – has a very limited selection of purchasable items, which means most of that money ends up going to waste, and as such, exploration automatically becomes less rewarding. Still, I was more than happy to keep tinkering with my Poltergust just to see what secrets and tidbits I would discover in the new rooms I visited.
The obsessive attention to detail is not the only thing lending personality to Luigi’s Mansion 3. This is a game that is overflowing with charm and humour. The light-hearted and silly nature of the series is retained here, and is, in fact, more pronounced than ever. From the tiny little details, like Luigi’s animations and inside jokes about the failure that was the Virtual Boy, to the more prominent ones, like varying personalities of the ghosts you run into and the gibberish voice-acted dialogue, Luigi’s Mansion 3 confidently exudes a delightful personality in everything that it does.
"Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a game that is overflowing with charm and humour."
It also helps that this is probably the best looking Switch game I’ve ever played. Not only does it have an unbelievable level of detail – which I’ve already mentioned – and incredible art design to prop up its diverse environments, it’s also technically very impressive. Everything looks crisp and sharp, the game runs smoothly on a consistent basis, and the lighting is particularly impressive, injecting the appropriate atmosphere into proceedings regardless of whether sunlight is streaming in through the drapes, or flashes of lightning are illuminating dark rooms, or Luigi’s flashlight is cutting through thick fog. This is one of those Switch games that needs to be played on a big screen- though it’ll still look as good and be as fun if you play in handheld mode, of course.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s surprising how good Luigi’s Mansion 3 is. I expected to like it and have fun with it, but I did not expect it to immediately become one of my favourite Switch games to date- which is saying something. It’s an incredibly well-made game, and every tiny little detail in the experience displays the care and attention that has gone into crafting it. Time and again over the years, the lesser-known of Nintendo’s iconic Italian duo has made his mark, demanding to be given the recognition and love that he deserves, but never before has he been the star of a showing as excellent as Luigi’s Mansion 3.
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.
Sucking up ghosts and objects into the Poltergust is as fun as ever; Additional mechanics improve the combat, puzzles, and exploration significantly; The game keeps throwing in new twists and wrinkles to keep things fresh and interesting; Exploration is a blast; Loads of environmental variety; Obsessive attention to detail; Charming and funny; Possibly the best-looking Switch game to date.
Occasionally weighty and unresponsive controls; Professor E. Gadd's shop has a very limited selection of items.
Time and again over the years, the lesser-known of Nintendo's iconic Italian duo has made his mark, demanding to be given the recognition and love that he deserves, but never before has he been the star of a showing as excellent as Luigi's Mansion 3.