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Mario can perform a large variety of actions. He can walk, run, crouch, crawl, swim, climb and jump at great heights or distances using the game controller's analog stick and buttons. As jumping was Mario's signature move in earlier games, particular attention was paid to this category of moves. In addition to regular jumping, there are multiple special jumps that can be executed by combining a regular jump with other actions, including the extra high double and triple jumps (jumping two and three times in a row, respectively), the long jump, and somersault. There are also special maneuvers, such as wall jumping, jumping from one wall to another in rapid succession to reach otherwise too high areas.

Additionally, Mario has a number of physical attacks other than jumping. Mario's standard attack is the punch, and attacking in the air becomes a kick jump. Attacking while running will cause Mario to lunge forward. Crouching while in the air will execute a power stomp (also called the ground pound)—these can be used to negate fall damage if they are done close to the ground. Crouching while running and then immediately attacking will execute a slide kick. Mario is able to pick up certain items and carry them around, an ability which is used to solve various puzzles. Mario can also swim underwater at various speeds. Mario's life slowly diminishes while underwater (representing how long he can hold his breath), and he must either find coins or air bubbles to replenish it, or return to the surface so as not to drown.