The game was fairly well-received by reviewers. They praised the gameplay, but criticized the game for being too short. Wario World has sold over 142,000 copies in Japan and over 256,000 copies in the United States. In 2004, the game was re-released as a Player's Choice title.
Wario Worlds gameplay centers mainly on combating enemies, although it requires some platform navigation similar to Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. The controls are simple, and are only used to jump, run, dash, perform fighting moves, and use the "Hyper Suction" ability to consume nearby coins. The level designs are platform-based with combat elements, and have an overall linear design. The levels contain trapdoors, which lead to special platforming or puzzle-oriented challenges that are optional. Throughout the game, small forest sprites known as "Spiritelings" give Wario advice if they are rescued from imprisonment.
During combat, Wario can grab enemies and either spin them around, throw them, or piledrive them into the ground. Enemies drop coins when defeated, and tend to regenerate if the area is left and returned to later. The coins are used to purchase items, such as life-restoring garlic, and to return to life. If Wario does not have enough money to return to life, the game is over. A new feature in Wario World are the spherical "glue globes", in which Wario is stuck to if he touches it, allowing the player to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. Along the way, Wario can re-collect his lost treasures, which are hidden in treasure chests, and collect pieces of golden Wario statues, which increases Wario's life meter by one half. In order to advance in the game, the player must collect a certain amount of red diamonds in each level. If the player collects all the treasure in the various levels, minigames from the Game Boy Advance title WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! are unlocked, and they can be played by using the Nintendo GameCube Game Boy Advance Cable.
The game begins with Wario enjoying his newly built castle, which is filled with treasures that he has collected from earlier adventures. There is, however, an evil black jewel in Wario's treasure collection that awakens and destroys Wario's castle. The jewel transforms his treasure into monsters, and then turns his castle into four different worlds. After recovering his treasure from the four worlds, Wario attains the key to the Huge Treasure Box containing the Black Jewel. They engage in a battle, in which Wario is victorious, and is thus awarded with regaining his castle.
It was uncertain who was developing Wario World, until April 22, 2003, when Nintendo of America officially revealed that Treasure, the company behind the successful titles Gunstar Heroes and Ikaruga, was developing the game. After the successful development collaboration Treasure and Nintendo shared with the Nintendo 64 title, Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Earth, the two companies wanted to work together again. The R&D1 team wanted to continue their co-development juncture with a 3D installment of the Wario franchise. Wario Worlds music was composed by Norio Hanzawa and Minako Hamano. Wario was voiced by Charles Martinet, who also voices Mario and Luigi in the Mario series.
The overall reception of Wario World was fairly positive. The UK version of Play magazine gave the game a perfect score, and the reviewer commented that Wario World "pays off every second [he is] holding the controller, and that, to [him], is greatness. Nintendo Power said that the game was "tons of fun. GamePro stated that Wario World "stays addictive by weight of sheer design innovation. The American-based publication Game Informer praised the game for including "droves of awesome boss battles." Matt Casamassina of IGN declared that Wario World had "some great control mechanics and inventive level work.
Wario World also received criticism, mainly because various reviewers found the game was shorter than one would expect for a console title. Tom Bramwell of Eurogamer compared Wario World to Luigi's Mansion, a game also criticized for its length, and said that the game was like Luigi's Mansion "all over again. GameSpy stated that Wario World "offers little above and beyond the standard 3D platform romp, and what is offered turns out to be very short and repetitive. GameSpot commented that "the final product is too short and simplistic to hold your attention for more than a day.