I once said Luigi is the Super Mario Bros. series’ true hero, whereas Mario is simply a sufferer of toxoplasmosis-induced fearlessness-and by God, I still think I’m onto something. Mario’s tendency to charge right into the fray whenever his friends are in trouble isn’t really courage. True courage is mustering up the will to fight even when you’re scared out of your gourd. Luigi is therefore courage personified.
The Luigi’s Mansion series showcases Luigi at his most personable because he’s allowed to step out of Mario’s shadow, outfit himself in unique gear, and do a little ghostbusting. You can tell he’s trying not to shake himself to pieces when he’s called upon to clear out a ghost house, but he presses on admirably. Luigi is a seasoned ghost hunter in Luigi’s Mansion 3, but his confidence in his abilities is still in the negatives. His terror is our gain, since Luigi’s Mansion 3 is the best entry in the series. Satisfying new abilities, dozens of clever puzzles, and tons of charm give this outing the joyful energy of Polterpup after he devours a golden bone.
Luigi’s Mansion is a misnomer this time around, since the game takes place at a fancy hotel named The Last Resort. Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and a handful of Toads are invited to the swank tower, and they accept the invite eagerly. They should have taken one look at that hotel name and said “Nope,” but to be fair, low-cost opportunities to steal towels don’t come by easily.
Unfortunately, everything goes to hell on a literal level. Luigi awakens from a power nap to discover the hotel’s gone from the Four Seasons to the Overlook. Rats and spiders scurry in the now-darkened hallways, and the evil King Boo’s nabbed the souls belonging to Mario, Peach, and the Toads-even though we all know Toads have no soul, but I digress. It’s up to Luigi to clean house once again with the Poltergust vacuum/ghost trapper.
There’s a chance some Luigi’s Mansion fans might not care for 3’s lack of uniformity. Luigi climbs (and in some cases, falls) to different levels this time around, and every time he does, the scenery changes drastically. Unlike the other games, Luigi’s Mansion 3 isn’t about exploring a single house, or even three houses; the scenery changes wildly from floor to floor. Things start off normally with visits to standard hotel rooms and banquet halls, but the closer Luigi creeps to King Boo, the weirder things get. It’s not unusual for hotels to have themed rooms, but the Last Resort contains everything from overgrown gardens to a medieval castle to an Egyptian pyramid.
On one hand, I don’t know how a whole-ass pyramid-complete with poison arrows, snakes, and piles of sand-wound up inside a hotel. On the other hand, the ever-changing scenery in Luigi’s Mansion 3 makes it easy to appreciate the younger Mario brother’s new techniques. The upgraded Poltergust g-00 lets you fire blast of air that forces ghosts to take a couple of steps back when they get in your face, and it can also spawn a gooey green Luigi clone named “Gooigi” who acts as a second pair of hands whenever a puzzle or a fight demands it.
But even though Gooigi’s talent for slipping bonelessly into tight crevices deserves recognition, I feel like the best addition to the Poltergust g-00 is its improved sucking ability (heh heh). Now whenever Luigi grabs a ghost’s tail, he can slam the little slimeball onto the ground, into objects, and even into other ghosts. Doing so causes a great deal of damage to ghosties, and it just feels so danged good. The spirits you snag and throw have a satisfying heft to them-which is a weird thing to say about a ghost, but I’m not complaining.
The thrill of slamming ghosts around like backyard wrestlers piles nicely on top of the most fun thing about Luigi’s Mansion in general: sucking up everything that isn’t nailed down. The Poltergust g-00 in Luigi’s Mansion 3 can eat almost anything that’s put in front of it. Piles of money, tablecloths, crockery, pillows, stuffed animals, mice, crows, spiders-it all goes down the Poltergust’s gullet. As usual, it feels good to “clean up” rooms. It’s also an important job if you want to find all the collectable gems, Boos, and rare ghosts in Luigi’s Mansion 3.
Be warned that trying to find all the collectables in the game will add more than a few hours onto your adventure, which isn’t a quick jaunt by itself. You might find you need to slow down a little and think about the myriad puzzles that impede Luigi’s progress. These diversions make thorough use of Luigi’s old and new abilities, not to mention Gooigi’s versatility. Sometimes you need to switch out to Gooigi so you can access a pipe or a floor drain. Other times Luigi must use his new suction shot to pull away debris blocking his path. The Poltergust’s black light attachment, which can reveal hidden doors and objects, also gets a good deal of use. The puzzles you encounter and how you solve them often depend on which floor you’re visiting: one of my favorite puzzles in the game takes place on a movie set where Luigi and Gooigi carry props from one film to another to liberate an important item.
It’s these clever puzzles and cute ideas that make it easy to smile while playing Luigi’s Mansion 3. Luigi’s flailing and slapstick, along with occasionally adorable cutscenes featuring Polterpup, is a great mood-booster. Kids in particular will get a big laugh out of Luigi falling head-first into piles of sand or slipping on banana peels. This game is one big demonstration of why I’ve been rooting for Luigi since 1987.
That’s not to say Luigi’s Mansion 3 steers totally clear of nightmare territory. I found myself wishing I could control the game’s camera more than once; there are undeniably instances when immovable objects get in the way of solving puzzles. And while the game’s graphics are packed with personality in both docked and handheld mode, those hard-to-see solutions are even tougher to spot in portable play.
I also had a bad time water-jousting with a janitor ghost while mounted atop a rubber duckie float. It sounds hilarious, but the repeated deaths brought on by the awkward change in controls didn’t leave me laughing.
A little perseverance got me through the tough spots in Luigi’s Mansion 3, and my wounds stopped aching once I got wrapped up in the game’s next setting or gimmick. It can also help to recruit a friend to control Gooigi through local co-op But if you ever find yourself severely cheesed after a tussle, you can cool off with the Scarescraper or ScreamPark options, both of which are separate features from the main game and story. Scarescraper is a multiplayer mode that challenges you to clear out ghost-infested levels, and ScreamPark is a series of mini-games that’s also for two or more players-a “Luigi Party,” if you will. Both are fun additions that don’t hurt the final product, but I enjoyed Luigi’s Mansion 3 best when I cuddled up alone with my Switch and soaked in all the ghostly goodness.
“Ghostly goodness” is a great summation of Luigi’s Mansion 3. There are more environments to explore, more ghosts to suck up, more stuff to break, more collectables to dig up, and-most importantly-more Polterpup antics to grin at. True, it’s a little strange to see Luigi check into a hotel instead of a mansion this time, but like a capable handyman, he adapts. Luigi’s Mansion 3 sucks more than anything, and that’s great news.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 occasionally suffers because of its fixed camera and a ghastly boss fight here and there, but the “goo” overwhelms the bad in this haunting adventure. Sucking up stuff with your Poltergust is still satisfying, and slamming ghosts into each other feels so right. Add buckets of charm, and you have a game that proves—yet again—that Luigi is the superior Mario Brother.