Luigi’s Mansion 3 is here at last and Nintendo’s long-anticipated Nintendo Switch entry in its bizarre, beloved ghost hunting franchise does not disappoint. A true return to form after the mixed reception of 2013’s Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon on the 3DS, Luigi’s Mansion 3 combines the best of each of the franchise’s first two entries. Ultimately, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is well worth the 18-year wait for a true console sequel. This review specifically covers the single-player experience with a multiplayer and co-op review to be published separately at a later date.
Luigi, forever the younger sibling to superstar brother Mario, finally received his own spotlight in an absolutely unexpected fashion back in 2001. Quirky as it is, busting makes Luigi feel good, so who are we to judge? While he’s still as terrified of his own shadow as ever, Luigi is ready and willing to do what it takes to save his friends and family when another foray into a ghost-inhabited establishment goes awry. Mario, Peach, Luigi, and a crew of Toads received mysterious invitations to enjoy a vacation at the luxurious Last Resort Hotel. Nobody seems to have learned their lesson about mysterious invitations to luxurious places though because everyone but Luigi winds up kidnapped and only Mr. Tall, Lean, and Mustachioed manages to escape King Boo’s clutches.
I love Luigi, and Luigi’s Mansion 3 most definitely features the Green Understudy at his Luigi-est. Our laconic friend’s babbling, which serves in lieu of dialogue, has hit a peak, with such sweet croonings as “oh yeah,” “Luigi,” and “okie dokie!” The pratfalls are magnificent, his gate is goofy, and overall, he’s just a lovable fool. Also in the category of lovable, Luigi has two great friends to accompany him in this adventure: Polterpup and Gooigi.
Polterpup, who debuted in the 2013 Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon, plays a more overt role in the new game from the beginning. He’s Luigi’s pet now and frankly, he’s more loyal than Luigi’s brother. While you can’t pet this good boy (a crime) he’s an absolute asset to the team and an adorable blessing. Polterpup serves as a guide throughout the hotel, pointing Luigi towards his objectives from time to time. He also serves as the cutest medium for a tutorial when Luigi first picks up his new Polstergust G-00 and the little buddy helps teach you the controls.
Gooigi, on the other hand, is the absurd creation Professor E. Gadd shoehorned into 2018’s Luigi’s Mansion 3DS remake to serve as the co-op partner in that title. While totally strange and nonsensical albeit endearing in an inexplicable way in his original appearance, Gooigi plays a full role in this tale. Not only does Gooigi reprise his role as Player Two in co-op but in single-player, you can set Gooigi loose and switch between the goober and his counterpart to solve puzzles across the hotel. Gooigi can slide through grates or pipes to reach places Luigi can’t and he also comes equipped with his own Poltergust G-00, so the two can combine their efforts to solve all sorts of creative puzzles. Gooigi even has to save Luigi’s life, literally, on numerous occasions. You have to switch and figure out how to save yourself before it’s too late.
The puzzles in Luigi’s Mansion 3 are the best of the franchise. Between Gooigi and the several new Poltergust functions including shooting a plunger, slamming things, and doing a little jump up in the air, there are a lot more ways to navigate obstacles and the enormous, sprawling, honestly physics breaking rooms of the hotel than ever before. Luigi’s Dark-Light also helps him reveal hidden objects and doors, which always feel like an accomplishment when I discover them. They are actually fairly well hidden in most circumstances. There are no unlocked abilities though after the first few sequences, which his a shame, since the elemental powers unlocked throughout Luigi’s Mansion really added to the sense of progression and need to retrace your steps to uncover new secrets.
The basic mechanics of Luigi’s Mansion 3 are the same as ever for the most part though. You shine your flashlight at ghosts to stun them and then suck them up. Pull the joystick in the opposite direction of the ghost to reduce their health until you capture them. Unlike the original game, you can’t just passively shine your flashlight. You have to press a button to really flash the light at them. You can also now use the slam move to take twenty damage at a time or slam another ghost to damage them. There is a tradeoff though because after a few slams in a row, the ghosts escape and you have to stun them over again once they reappear. There are also option gyroscopic controls that actually are my preferred method for looking up and down with the flashlight, Dark-Light, and vacuum. You can also use the right joystick, but the gyroscopic controls are much easier to use.
The ghosts don’t put up nearly the struggle they used to though once you start sucking them up. You used to have to fight hard to keep from getting hit by things ghosts would throw at you or obstacles in the room. Now, the only real obstacle to catching ghosts with expedience is the nimbleness of your thumb to stay in the opposite direction as the ghost. This is neither fair to people who are joint impaired nor particularly fun, especially since almost every ghost is as easy to catch as the next and look pretty much the same as one another. There is some slight challenge in that you sometimes have to intentionally move towards the ghosts to get closer to them or else they will escape, which I do appreciate. They also often sport paraphernalia that requires you to either plunger or vacuum them away first before you can shine your light on them.
Overall though, they are all just boring looking creatures based on Dark Moon’s designs with different clothes on. There are eventually some more exciting ghosts to catch. Their designs are still lame, and they don’t appear until much too late in the game, but they can only be seen in mirrors for example, or need some sharp-thinking to take care of. The diversity when it exists is nice, but I wish it happened more often and earlier in the game. Catching ghosts will always be a good time, but it is definitely not quite as satisfying as it used to be.
Fortunately, Luigi’s Mansion 3 still does combines a lot of the best parts of its two predecessors. It returns to the single-mansion structure of the original while utilizing the mission system from the sequel. The effect is one grand adventure with just a bit more handholding than the first time around. The central premise of Luigi’s latest adventure is that a whole horde of ghosts with a grudge have escaped E. Gadd’s collection, stolen the hotel’s elevator buttons, and kidnapped Luigi’s friends and family. Now, the Green Gonzo must pursue the ghosts on each beautiful, unique, somehow huge, and absolutely fun floor to make his way through the tower, recover the elevator buttons, and save the Toads, Peach, and Mario from the portraits they are trapped in.
In truth, it’s hard to tell whether it feels more hand-holdy because I’m 15 years older than when I first played Luigi’s Mansion or if it is truly a bit easier. Regardless, the handholding is not necessarily a bad thing. It also follows the trend of first-party Nintendo games in the last several years putting in optional help for younger or stuck players. In addition to the clear missions, Luigi can call up the Professor on his handy Virtual Boo (a clever homage to both the Virtual Boy and the successor to the Game Boy Horror and Dual Screams of the previous games). The jolly gibberish-spewing man will give hints if called on, or even more specific hints if players have his hints turned on in the settings.
A tick against the game though, is that these hints are turned on automatically without warning. I only knew to turn them off because I was searching for vacuum inversion, which does not exist. Subtitles also do not exist in Luigi’s Mansion 3, which the developers probably thought wouldn’t be necessary given the lack of true dialogue; however, people who are hard of hearing or otherwise unable to hear Luigi’s sweet croonings deserve the ability to know what he’s going on about too. The quintessential “Maaarioooo” should not be locked behind a hearing wall.
Speaking of sound, the Luigi’s Mansion 3 soundtrack is good overall, when you can actually hear it. Often, especially at the beginning of the game, I simply did not hear anything in the background at all, and when I did, there was no music or really quiet music. It felt like the sound mix was just off. As I went on though, I found the different floors had different and interesting music, since each floor has a different theme from a dining room to a greenhouse to a medieval castle. I was a tad disappointed that the game doesn’t feel like it has any one memorable theme to get stuck in my head for the next 20 years like Luigi’s Mansion does. Again though, I admit this may be an unfair expectation born out of my nostalgia. Plus, I really couldn’t hear the music without turning the volume up all the way, even while wearing headphones in handheld mode.
The Luigi’s Mansion theme does at least appear throughout the game in fun renditions: in E. Gadd’s lab, which serves as the main hub for the game; in the new shopping network, where Luigi can spend the money he finds strewn around the hotel on extra lives, boo trackers, and gem trackers; and as the Virtual Boo’s ringtone. Visually though, the game is amazing. The graphics are gorgeous, the ambiance and setting are amazing, and the high definition cut scenes all throughout the game are absolutely welcome. I would actually love to see more like these in future Nintendo games.
Taking on a few more of the best parts of the previous games, Luigi’s Mansion 3 has several collectible elements, including a hidden Boo to capture on each floor, each armed with a pun-tactic name as always, hidden gems to collect on each floor, and several categories of achievements to unlock along the way. These small additions, collected from across the three previous Luigi’s Mansion releases, help fill out the game and keep it from being purely linear and totally repayable. The game also has a ranking at the end like previous entries. It’s based on how much money you have at the end, so get collecting and don’t go spending your money in the store if you want to get an S Rank.
The Boo hunting delivers the game’s one accessibility feature, and it’s not even designed to be one. You can tell when Boos are nearby because the advanced rumble feature helps guide you. You can also set Gooigi off and he will shimmer when you get closer, which is good for accessibility, but only exists because the Switch Lite and certain controllers don’t have advanced rumble capabilities.
There are a few other small complaints that I must address, including the floor layouts, the boss ghosts, and the menus/UI. The original Luigi’s Mansion had the perfect map. There were rooms that were locked at first and you had to come back to later, places that needed revisiting, and every room felt like it contributed to a sense of progression. Perhaps this changes in the later part of Luigi’s Mansion 3, but the rooms just feel a lot less meaningful.
Perhaps it is in part due to the higher camera angle, but despite the clear theming of each, a lot of rooms just feel cold and empty, and not in a spooky way. The lights also don’t turn on quite as bright when you clear a room, though the lighting is dark overall in the whole game, really. Part of the problem too, I think, is that you can suck up or break almost everything in every room of the game. By the time you leave a room, you’ve often stripped them clean, whether you meant to or not. Sometimes breaking things is part of discovery, other times it just gets frivolous. Overall, I like the big map, but I wish that every room just felt like it had as much purpose as they did in the original.
Part of this sentiment ties into my feelings about the boss ghosts too. In Luigi’s Mansion, there were boss ghosts in a majority of the rooms, each completely unique in both how you fought them and personality. In Luigi’s Mansion 3, they do have unique designs and personalities, which I enjoy, but most of them don’t have any dialogue anymore, which makes them feel more hollow (no pun intended). There’s not even flavor text in the gallery back at E. Gadd’s lab.
The boss ghosts are also basically just the end portion of every floor, which takes away from the surprise of walking into a new room, finding a ghost, and having to figure out how to defeat them. There are also no pearls in Luigi’s Mansion 3 that the bosses drop for sucking them up in one try, which takes away one of the best challenges of the original game.
My last complaint is that the menus and UI are just not great. Pulling up the map is slow, the settings are hard to get to and themselves lackluster in options, and several options are just not available until too far in. You should be able to play co-op immediately, not several bosses in. The store should also be available much sooner. The ability to return to E. Gadd’s lab via the menu is also given way too late.
While the elevator to take you between floors is not usually too far away, Luigi’s Mansion’s ability to use the Game Boy Horror to inspect things and teleport to the foyer via mirrors was both novel and useful. You can’t even inspect things through the Virtual Boo, a total shame, and there’s no reason the copious mirrors in the game couldn’t have been used to return you to E. Gadd’s lab, even if just for the sake of nostalgia.
Overall, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a superb experience for newcomers and longtime fans of the Lean, Mean, Ghost Fighting Machine alike. While imperfect and still missing some of what made the original game a total masterpiece, it is both a worthy successor and a game worth waiting 18 years to finally have. I hope that a Luigi’s Mansion 4 will one day grace our mortal coils, take what this game improved, and combine it with some of the elements that made Luigi’s Mansion perfect in 2001.
Luigi’s Manion 3 is available now on Nintendo Switch.
Luigi's Mansion 3
- Rating - 8/108/10
Overall, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a superb experience for newcomers and longtime fans of the Lean, Mean, Ghost Fighting Machine alike. While imperfect and still missing some of what made the original game a total masterpiece, it is both a worthy successor and a game worth waiting 18 years to finally have.