Director: Hideki Konno
Producer(s): Shigeru Miyamoto & Takashi Tezuka
Released as a launch title for the GameCube after undergoing an extremely in-depth and long-winded development cycle, Luigi’s Mansion took on a much darker and grittier tone than anything seen in the Super Mario series prior, featuring Mario’s brother Luigi as the main character as he traverses through a creepy mansion, wielding nothing but a vacuum cleaner to clear the house of a ghost infestation in the style of Ghostbusters. Going on to become the best-selling game of November 2001, and garnishing a great deal of critical acclaim, the game has rightfully earned its place among the best of Nintendo’s repertoire, and is a game I have personally come back to again and again.
Unlike any other Super Mario game, the title took the scary and dark atmosphere of the many ghost house levels found in the rest of the series, and ran with it. Not only is there a huge haunted house with many twists and turns, but the surrounding area is also extremely morbid and out-of-place, signifying death and the foretelling of death with elements such as crows and dead trees. But of course, it’s inside the mansion where the majority of this game’s chills are housed, featuring not only a wide range of eerie apparitions haunting the place for Luigi to deal with, but extremely effective use of lighting throughout. In areas that have yet to be explored thoroughly, light is limited only to Luigi’s torch and it does an extremely good job of building tension, which is one of the most popular tropes of horror in general; be that in books or films as well as games.
The objective of the game is to clear the mansion of as many ghosts as possible using Luigi’s newly acquired weapon, the Poltergust 3000. There are many hidden areas in the mansion, as well as a fair few side quests in each stage, including tracking down 50 Boos hidden within different parts. The game also has somewhat of an arcade feel to it, with players having to collect as much money and treasure as possible throughout each segment, and thus racking up as impressive a high score as possible. It plays out unlike any other Super Mario game ever developed, or any other Nintendo game ever developed for that matter. It’s extremely satisfying to do everything there is to do, and uncover every secret there is to find.
In terms of controls, the game doesn’t pose too many problems. It can take a little bit of time to get used to how Luigi both moves and aims with the Poltergust 3000 since the c-stick is used to move him around whilst he is using the weapon to collect things like money and treasure throughout each room. But thankfully, this does nothing to hinder the quality of the combat system, as control is then swapped out for the main analogue, making things much easier without the worry of over-complication.
Disappointingly, the game can only be made to last around 5 to 6 hours. Early in development, there was talk of the inclusion of an RPG element to the game, and I’ve always wondered how that would have worked out. As a fan of the genre, I can’t help but think that the introduction of such mechanics would have drastically improved the game, and made it even more interesting than what it turned out to be, and most definitely adding much more longevity to it.
The story follows Mario’s brother Luigi, as he wins a mansion in a competition he strangely didn’t even enter. Upon arriving at the mansion, he soon discovers that it is wrought with danger, and he meets a new character to the series, Professor E.Gadd. Gadd trains Luigi to use his invention, the Poltergust 3000 to rid the ghosts inside, and to free his brother who is trapped somewhere inside the creepy haunted house. Whilst it does ultimately play out in the fashion of a typical Super Mario game, only this time, it’s Mario who’s in danger; it’s the dark and gritty atmosphere that keeps it interesting and unique to every other Super Mario game and it showed that the series’ creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, was not scared to take risks by taking the normally innocent series into more interesting artistic directions.
Aside from standing out from the rest of the Super Mario Bros games that players have been challenged with over the years, this game also offers an extremely unique twist on the survival horror genre, which at the time, was becoming increasingly popular after the advent of both Resident Evil and Silent Hill. The genre would go on to become extremely prominent on the GameCube itself, with the likes of Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, as well as a ton of Resident Evil games released for the system. But out of all of them, none had quite the same atmospheric feel as this game did, and consequently, I think it’s the best such experience on the console.
Overall, Luigi’s Mansion is not only one of the best Super Mario games released, but also one of the best games to have ever been released by Nintendo. It showed that Luigi didn’t have to constantly live in the shadow of the more commercially successful brother, but instead, he could be made to traverse through shadow in order to rescue him.