Who it's for: Mario fans looking for something deeper than just jumping on Goombas
Console: Nintendo 3DS
Nintendo declared 2013 "The Year of Luigi," figuring Mario's little brother should finally get his due, and the company hasn't let fans down.
So far this year, we've already been given "Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon," one of the best Nintendo 3DS games ever made, and "New Super Luigi U," an add-on that brought a whole slew of Luigi-centric levels to "New Super Mario Bros. U."
If all that wasn't enough, now there's "Mario and Luigi: Dream Team," a new installment of the Mario role-playing series, a game to extend the party at least another month.
For those unfamiliar, the Mario RPGs feature a much slower, more methodic gameplay. Platform-hopping exploration is mixed with more strategic fights. Battles are active-turn based, where the player chooses an attack but then must execute a series of button presses to make it more effective.
In this adventure, Mario and Luigi follow Princess Peach to a new land called Pi'illo, inhabited by -- you guessed it --pillow people. The evil Antasma has trapped many of the peaceful creatures within dreams, and it's up to the brothers (who else?) to rescue them.
To do this they must not only explore Pi'illo but enter the dream world that exists inside Luigi's head -- fortunately, little brother can fall asleep pretty much on command.
In the real world you will explore a fully realized 3D landscape, but in Luigi's dreams, the game reverts to the familiar "Super Mario" 2D side-scrolling, platform-hopping that made the plumbers famous.
There are a few more significant differences in the dream world.
While Mario and Luigi still fight side-by-side, this Luigi is really just an apparition. Don't believe me? Look on the bottom screen and you can see him sleeping like a baby. And you can use that screen (the touch screen) to pull his mustache, scratch his nose and otherwise torment the poor fellow.
These things will affect the dream world, helping the brothers solve puzzles and navigate tricky terrain. It's a weird concept to get your head around, but in practice it works quite well.
During fights, pressing buttons at the right time will allow your characters to dodge and strengthen moves. But this time players can occasionally move when the enemy attacks in formation, allowing for a particularly effective counterattack. This new feature enlivens things and keeps the game from becoming tedious while you fight enemy group after enemy group.
Also new, you'll find a series of challenges that award medals for meeting certain requirements, such as dodging 10 attacks in a row without getting hit. It's a little something extra for better players to strive toward.
The game's story and wicked sense of humor will keep players entertained over the 50-plus-hour adventure, even on the rare occasion when the gameplay begins to feel a little repetitive.
So anyone who enjoys games packed with surreal gameplay and humor and, perhaps, a little role-playing, as well, should check out "Mario and Luigi: Dream Team." It's downright dreamy.
Since we're on the subject of Luigi, "New Super Luigi U" offers a handy-dandy supplement for those who own "New Super Mario Bros. U" and already have squeezed all the platformy goodness out of it.
Who it's for: Luigi fans or anyone curious what the tall, skinny brother can do
Console: Nintendo Wii U
With 82 happy hoppy stages standing in the way of the plumber with the big "L" on his hat (no jokes please), there is plenty of game here for the low, low price of $19.95. (A stand-alone version will be available for $30 on Aug. 25.)
Of course, Luigi jumps as if he has helium in his knickers, and for some reason the gaming gods have given him only a measly 100 seconds to get through each stage, but that's all part of the fun, right?
Think of this as a group of diabolical challenge stages for the platforming proficient. And, after all, isn't it about time Luigi stepped out of his big bro's portly shadow and hopped into the limelight for once?