Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a great example of a game that both subverts and elevates its genre.
Essentially, it's a 3D platformer with a big twist: there's no jumping. Instead, you guide your little heroes: Captain Toad and Toadette—through intricate 3D worlds, plucking patches, avoiding shy guys, and finding every last treasure.
Because there's no split-second jumps to nail, the game is a little slower, a little more cerebral. It's all about thinking your way around the world, moving the camera over and under every bit, looking for secrets. The best levels have you scouring every bit of geometry, plotting your course and then, taking off across the terrain, only to find out your best laid plans need a little second guessing.
There's stealth—the game usually wants you to outsmart and outfox enemies, rather than bop them into submission. And each stage builds upon the next with unique mechanics—like ghost doors, timing-based structures, and even dizzying drops.
When I interviewed the developers at a previous position, they said they took a lot of inspiration from Super Mario 64, Nintendo's genre-defining success. They took the idea of a diorama, or a garden in a box, and made the many-layered worlds of Treasure Tracker from there.
Like so many of Nintendo's best titles, these stages have verticality and depth. There are secret rooms that you may not notice on your first pass, high towers, pipes and even tiny easter eggs.
Goals are clearly presented and communicated, always hinting towards how to achieve them. It's expertly designed to challenge you on a gentle curve, keeping you engaged with ever-more intricate stages.
That Mario 64 DNA shows in every world, every goal, and even in the colorful joy of Treasure Tracker's characters. It's one of the cutest and sweetest games in Nintendo's library of cuddly critters and adorable heroes. That's saying something!
It is, simply, a game about capturing joy.