Time limits existed because of arcades. When kids purposefully took their time to extend the value of a quarter, profits would drop. So, a ticking clock was a sure way kids rushed, and by the same token, ran hopelessly into death to further the needs of the operator. This idea extended into console games, much as high scores remained dominant even as story and completion became central concepts.
Now, timers are no longer needed. For Mario 3D World, they often soil an experience I would otherwise not hesitate to call perfect. Stages are enthralling, things to explore and lose yourself inside of… then a timer ticks down to tell you to hurry.
There is a reasonable challenge aspect. Give players infinite time and reaching for valuable Stars carries less pressure. Knowing you need to move removes a layer of possible strategy and lessens success. But, buried here is the admittance of a mistake. No Mario game prior has carried this many clock bonuses. Even underground areas of levels, secret spots usually reserved for doling out coins, carry clocks. The disappointment of finding an unknown area only to be greeted with clocks is the ultimate rush killer.
Some stages are designed with limited time. When you begin, the clock panic sounds and you run hoping to complete the task ahead. Those are fun. A certain late game scenario features a sprawling open landscape, arguably the largest open area of any 3D Mario title. Good luck finding its secrets in one go, and that’s not fun, but rather a tease. I ran into more situations involving the clock in 3D World than any other Mario title prior. A simple fix could be to extend the timer by 100 seconds or so, alleviating some of the turbulence, if not enough to house multiplayer. Since it’s hard enough going solo, trying to manage three others is infuriating.
Nintendo, kill the clock. Abandon the tradition. It’s okay. We will forgive because these platforming titles remain at their pinnacle whether they have countdown timers or not. You’re not adding challenge so much as you’re determined to take away the splendor.