Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Super Mario 3D All-Stars (and its three constituent games).
Tempted by the promise of replaying Super Mario 64 – which remains one of my favourite games of all-time – I overlooked Nintendo’s godawful “forced scarcity” business model and stumped up £50 for Super Mario 3D All-Stars. And the game is fine. All three titles work, and in the short amount of time I’ve been able to spend with them today, there haven’t been any glitches or bugs that would make me feel it was somehow unfinished. And there shouldn’t be – these games are between thirteen and twenty-four years old, after all.
Let’s talk about this business model, then. I mentioned this when I talked about Super Mario 3D All-Stars shortly after its announcement, but the idea of releasing a game as a limited-time only thing is a blatant attempt by Nintendo to drum up more support than it would otherwise merit. Removing the game from sale – even as a digital download – after a mere six months is just awful, really, and there’s no excuse for it.
This is a shameless marketing ploy, nothing less. And Nintendo is playing right into the hands of scammer and scalpers, who are already selling copies of the game for well over its asking price on sites like eBay. This is something that will only get worse as time goes by and as the deadline for buying the game next March passes.
I guess why I feel underwhelmed by Super Mario 3D All-Stars is that the game could be so much more than Nintendo chose to make of it. There are small details in the games that have been improved – such as the text in Super Mario 64, which has been upscaled. Some of the in-game icons have clearly been polished too; gone are the rough edges where a lack of pixels caused a blocky effect, replaced by the smoother lines a modern title can deliver. Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy have been upgraded to be in 1080p widescreen.
But that’s all. Super Mario 64 doesn’t even get the 1080p treatment, and isn’t even in widescreen, leaving weird black bars on all four sides of the screen when played on a television. Sunshine and Galaxy are at least in widescreen, and as more modern games to begin with don’t look quite so out-of-place.
The soundtracks are a something-and-nothing addition. All three titles’ soundtracks are included, but can only be played via the Switch. If you don’t mind having the console on and doing nothing but listening to music, perhaps that’s okay. If you want to listen to it in the background while working or studying, perhaps that’s okay. If you want to do other things or if you want to listen to the music while on the go, you can’t unless you bring your Switch with you – hardly something easily done while jogging or engaged in any number of activities. An mp3 of the albums would have been a far better offering – perhaps redeemable via a code. As it is, all three albums are stuck on the Switch.
Perhaps I rushed to buy Super Mario 3D All-Stars too quickly. Perhaps I was taken in by Nintendo’s decision to artificially limit the game’s availability. Perhaps… something. Because I feel like for £50, Super Mario 3D All-Stars is quite a big ask. In a way it’s hard to argue that I didn’t get my money’s worth, because I picked up a slightly-updated version of one of my favourite ever games, got the chance to replay a great game I only rushed through once in like 2002/03, and a game that everyone says is amazing that I haven’t played yet. Yet it still feels like a lot of money for these games considering the newest of the bunch is from 2007. Maybe PC gaming, with its Steam sales and heavily-discounted older titles, has spoilt me!
For somebody who got into gaming this generation and thus missed playing all three of these games when they were new, I would recommend Super Mario 3D All-Stars. These are not just classic Mario games, all three are classics of the 3D platformer genre. Super Mario 64 in particular is a piece of gaming history and well worth any Nintendo fan and indeed any gamer’s time. The problem is that in its current form it still feels like a piece of history – its outdated controls and unimproved visuals will be offputting for some players.
Instead of releasing three titles in a bundle for £50, what Nintendo could have opted to do is to release them one by one after giving them a proper remaster. The engine used for Super Mario Odyssey a couple of years ago could certainly be repurposed, and the games rebuilt from the ground up akin to the work Capcom put into Resident Evil 2. A fully-remade version of any of these games would still have been a celebration of Mario’s past, and if they were to make all three they could retail for, say, £35 each or thereabouts.
Regardless, I knew what to expect from Super Mario 3D All-Stars. I can hardly say the game was not as advertised; it absolutely was as advertised. And again, for the price getting three awesome games – one of which I haven’t played in almost twenty years and one of which I’ve never played – is still good value, even if they haven’t been upgraded as much as I would have liked.
For Mario superfans, I think this is a must-buy. And for gamers who skipped these titles for whatever reason when they were new, it’s also a must-buy. For me… perhaps Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a shouldn’t-have-bought.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars is out now on Nintendo Switch, but will only be available until the 31st of March 2021. Super Mario 3D All-Stars is the copyright of Nintendo. Some screenshots courtesy of press kits on IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.