Nintendo showed off two big projects last year to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Super Mario franchise: Super Mario 3D All-Stars and Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury. Perhaps pushed by the awful forced scarcity of Super Mario 3D All-Stars – which was removed from sale arbitrarily last month – but also excited at the prospect of replaying Super Mario 64, that was the game I picked up on release day. And it was an underwhelming experience; £50 not particularly well-spent.
Don’t get me wrong, Super Mario 3D All-Stars is okay, and for someone who’s never played any of the games included I could recommend it under some circumstances. All three games work, and there have been some very minor improvements to the way Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy look. But that’s all you got for £50 – three games, the newest of which is from 2007, slightly tweaked. Super Mario 64, one of my favourite games of all time and the title I was most excited to replay, looks pretty crappy in the 3D All-Stars collection, with a strange frame resolution that leaves black bars around all four sides of the screen. They couldn’t even get it to fit the screen top to bottom! Even an emulator can manage that!
So I was unimpressed with the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection, and it’s the one game in the last couple of years that I genuinely regret purchasing. I broke my own rule about day-one purchases, and picked it up without waiting to see any reviews or gameplay assuming that Super Mario 64 alone would make it worthwhile. Given that the version of Super Mario 64 is itself underwhelming, the entire collection felt disappointing and was certainly very overpriced.
The other Mario game announced for the 35th anniversary was Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury. 3D World had been a Wii U title, so this is a port, but Bowser’s Fury is entirely new. Even though it’s been out for a couple of months now I avoided picking it up. I don’t have an unlimited budget for video games – or anything else, come to that – and after my recent disappointing experience with Super Mario 3D All-Stars I was not overly keen on spending more money on another Mario title. But earlier this week I got a reasonable deal on a second-hand copy and decided to give it a shot.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is unquestionably the title I should’ve picked up instead of Super Mario 3D All-Stars. It’s superior in practically every respect. The Wii U gameplay has been perfectly ported to the Switch, and while it perhaps doesn’t look quite as shiny as Super Mario Odyssey, it’s a perfectly acceptable 3D platformer with a cute Mario aesthetic that matches the rest of the franchise. And the cat costumes are just so adorable – I’m a cat owner (I have four) and I love practically anything cat-themed!
Bowser’s Fury is a brand-new mode made for the Switch. To call it a “mode” is a bit uncharitable, as Bowser’s Fury could just as easily be a standalone game in its own right. Perhaps not a full-priced one, as it’s relatively short, but it easily stands up against other Switch titles in terms of how much fun it is to play. The new addition adds a lot to Super Mario 3D World, elevating the experience of the original Wii U title. And it’s fair to say that, without Bowser’s Fury, Super Mario 3D World on its own would be a harder sell – especially for someone like me who’s already played it.
Gameplay-wise, Nintendo’s expected high quality is present, with no major bugs, glitches, or crashes getting in the way. And I’m having fun playing Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, which I really haven’t been able to say about the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection.
Nintendo have had some great successes since the Switch launched in 2017. It seems clear to me, though, that the 35th anniversary of the Super Mario franchise was originally supposed to be bigger. Bowser’s Fury is really the only new game that’s been part of the celebration, and while we know that Nintendo suffered a lot of production delays due to the pandemic, that doesn’t account for all of it. Super Mario 3D All-Stars felt rushed; a collection cobbled together at the last minute perhaps because Bowser’s Fury wasn’t ready.
Unfortunately, talk of a new or updated “Switch Pro” is hanging over Nintendo at the moment. Having ported over the main Mario games present on the Wii U, now could have been the time for the company to build on the successes of Super Mario Odyssey and now Bowser’s Fury, launching new titles in the franchise. With the 30th anniversary of Mario Kart coming next year, perhaps a new title in that series could be in the offing. But this rumour of a potential new console needs to be cleared up as soon as possible – fans need to know what they can expect from Nintendo in the short-to-medium term.
Bowser’s Fury takes advantage of the Switch’s hardware to do things that Super Mario 3D World couldn’t have managed on the Wii U. And that offers a pathway forward; an opportunity to build on its successes and develop new titles in the series for the current console. With the number of units sold rapidly approaching the numbers Nintendo saw with the Wii, shifting focus to new hardware now seems positively stupid. The Switch easily has four or five years’ of life left in it at the very least, and there should be many more games in the vein of Bowser’s Fury to come. I hope this talk of a new console or a variant which will have exclusive titles can be put to bed ASAP so Nintendo fans can focus on enjoying the current system to its fullest.
For my money, Bowser’s Fury makes Super Mario 3D World worth the buy. If you weren’t one of the nine people besides me who owned a Wii U a few years ago, the base game is also great and will be new to you as well. On its own, Super Mario 3D World isn’t as good as Super Mario Odyssey, but it’s a solid title in its own right. The cat suits which are the game’s big new feature are more than just a visual gimmick, as the power-up they offer does change the way Mario (and the other characters) interact with the game world.
I don’t have any friends to sit down with on the couch and play Super Mario 3D World with. Wait, that sounds sad! What I mean is that the game offers a multiplayer mode for up to four players, and while I haven’t been able to take advantage of that for myself, if you have people to play with, you’ll get a classic-feeling Super Mario experience that can be enjoyed together.
I was left disappointed last year with Super Mario 3D All-Stars and Nintendo’s anniversary of the Super Mario series. But it turns out that I just bought the wrong game. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is an appropriate celebration of Nintendo’s mascot and his 35th birthday, and I’m glad to have picked it up.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury was developed and published by Nintendo and is out now for Nintendo Switch. The Super Mario franchise – including all titles mentioned above – is the copyright of Nintendo. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.