Poor Luigi just can’t catch a break, even when he’s supposed to be on one.
That’s the premise of Luigi’s Mansion 3 when our timid hero is invited with Mario and Peach for a nice getaway at a luxurious hotel that turns out to be a haunted trap. When it’s called The Last Resort, surely you should’ve read up on TripAdvisor beforehand.
Once again it’s Luigi’s time to shine, and while this ghost-busting series is often seen as a minor spin-off from Mario’s stratospheric platforming, third time’s a charm as Luigi’s Mansion 3 follows on from the Switch’s summer of scorching exclusives with a game that’s just as playful and inventive.
What you won’t find is a Halloween fright fest of a game. The atmosphere is less The Shining and more Hotel Transylvania, though a lot better than the latter. In fact, with the many lovingly animated cut-scenes and a few decent bits of character voices, it’s almost like watching a proper Nintendo animated film - it’s just the kind of magic you hope Illumination Studios (Despicable Me) captures for its forthcoming Mario movie.
Strictly speaking, The Last Resort isn’t a mansion but rather a skyscraper hotel (think the Four Seasons rather than the Overlook). But that structure also allows the developers to go a little more crazy in level design, with each floor having its own unique theme, which can go from familiar hotel features like VIP suites to a film set or a museum housing a massive T-Rex skeleton.
If the original Luigi’s Mansion was like a kid’s parody of Resident Evil then Luigi’s Mansion 3 is like the kid-friendly version of Control, set in a towering building where anything goes, while giving you plenty of powers to mess up the decor.
Year of Gooigi
With the Poltergust you can basically ransack each room as you hunt down pesky ghosts and hoover up loads of money. Just about everything is up for grabs from bedding and curtains to kitchenware and that peeled off bit of wallpaper.
It helps that new abilities allow for more physicality, whether its slamming ghosts around or pulling objects with a plunger. This might not be a platformer but there’s a striking similarity to Super Mario Odyssey in how the game invites your curiosity to explore every nook and cranny - before hoovering it all up.
But the crowning glory goes to Luigi’s new sidekick, a green gooey doppelganger called Gooigi, who you can summon at any time to get past otherwise impassable areas like spiked floors or grated pipe covers. He’s not indestructible, as water will melt him instantly, while he has a much lower health pool than Luigi, but it only takes a second to summon him again. It’s also possible for a second player to take control of Gooigi for local co-op.
There’s even more multiplayer options on offer including a Mario Party-esque ScreamPark that can support up to eight players in local multiplayer in three simple but chaotic mini-games, while ScareScraper lets up to four systems team up wirelessly or online for randomly generated ghost raids.
But it’s ultimately the brilliant setpieces of the main campaign that suck you in. What makes each of the floors shine is that each also has a boss ghost, who are all full of personality, while some are genuinely a tricky puzzle when it comes to figuring out their weak spot too. Suffice to say there’s more than just hitting a big red spot three times.
It can however occasionally get a bit too tricky. It’s refreshing for a Nintendo game to trust you to poke around the scenery, but even when a waypoint does show up on a map, or you’ve spent money to unlock the location of the many collectible gems or Boos hidden throughout the hotel, it’s not always obvious what exactly you need to do to reach it.
There’s also a couple story moments involving one character who interrupts your progress, forcing you to backtrack to specific floors, which can drag, even if completionists will find merit in exploring previous floors to locate every last collectible hiding in plain sight.
Still, these moments of frustration don’t spoil the overall charm and time you’ll quite gladly spend messing around anyway. Even when the door you need to open is right in front of you, it’s hard to resist giving everywhere a good sweep first. Who ever thought hoovering up a hotel would be the perfect holiday let alone another consecutive hit for Nintendo?
Luigi’s Mansion 3 Verdict
The series was always a bit of an underdog since its debut as a GameCube launch title, but Luigi’s Mansion 3 is the Switch’s surprise blockbuster that deserves the coveted holiday spot that Super Mario Odyssey had graced just two years ago.
With some of the most rich and charming presentation yet seen for the Mushroom Kingdom’s residents and a delightful variety of fun ghost-busting and gooey mechanics, it’s every bit as essential as the rest of this year's top-tier Switch exclusives.