Revisiting a modern classic AND taking a glimpse of what might be the future of Mario
It’s been 10 years (crazy) since Nintendo first released the 3DS. Upon release, the system was praised for its visuals and the innovative 3d effect on its top screen. Unfortunately, due to its insane 250 dollar price tag and lack of games it sold very poorly right out of the gate. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (my favorite game ever by the way) which came out a few months later would help, but the system really needed a new killer game to call its own. Luckily, later in 2011 (along with a price cut to 170) it would get that game in the form of Super Mario 3D Land. A sort of semi sequel to the Galaxy games 3D Land was designed to be a ‘3D Mario game that plays like a 2D one’. Instead of sandbox gameplay the player would traverse a 3D space, but in a linear fashion with a fixed camera until they reached the flagpole at the end of the level. 3D Land proved to be a huge success helping give the 3DS the boost it needed to become as popular as it did.
Enter E3 2013, a new 3D Mario was expected to be revealed for the WiiU and indeed was, but it wasn’t what people had expected. Instead of a follow up to the Galaxies Nintendo opted to make a sequel to 3D land named Super Mario 3D World. With prettier HD visuals, gamepad features, and drop in drop out 4 player coop 3D World was looking bigger and better then 3D Land. Despite this the reveal was mixed with many (including myself) disappointed that we weren’t getting a ‘real’ 3D Mario sequel. Much of this negativity was quelled fortunately when the game released to rave reviews from both critics and fans.
Now 8 years later Nintendo has decided to port the game over to the Switch (an ongoing pattern due to the WiiU’s poor sales) with some new additions and a new big side adventure called ‘Bowser’s Fury’. At full retail price 3D World plus Bowser’s Fury is a steep ask, but one that is definitely worth it so lets get into it. (Note: 3D World and Bowser’s Fury are pretty much separate games so I’m going to talk about them separately. I’m also going to have a score for each of them plus a score for the entire package).
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
Release Date: February 12, 2021
Review By: Andrew Wright
Review Date: March 11, 2021
Super Mario 3D World – A Modern Classic Revisited
The story like any Mario is very simple. Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad are walking down a road in the Mushroom Kingdom enjoying a fireworks display (they really like to party in the Mushroom Kingdom huh), when they come across a random see through pipe that is broken sticking out of the ground. Being plumbers for once the Mario Bros. fix the pipe and out pops a Sprixie. Some Fairy princess thing from the Sprixie Kingdom. In one visual bubble the Sprixie explains to our heroes that Bowser has invaded the Sprixie Kingdom (cause I guess he has given up on Mario’s World for now), and has taken the other fairy folk hostage. Then outa nowhere Bowser pops out of the pipe and takes this fairy as well. Rushing down the pipe the Mario crew find themselves in a whole new world ripe with a whole new adventure (despite the fact that the Sprixie Kingdom looks exactly like the Mushroom Kingdom).
Gameplay like I said before is based on Super Mario 3D Land. Instead of the behind Mario camera and opening feeling of other 3D Mario’s the camera is fixed and level progression is pretty much in a straight line. Get to the flagpole is the term I like to use for it. This definitely simplifies the complexity, but it’s still very much fun. Mario’s moves are still pretty diverse ranging from a long jump, to rolling, ground pounding etc, and a new mid air dive move (which has saved my butt countless times) has been added to the port. You also have four different characters to start out with all with different features. Luigi jumps higher then the others, but is slippery like always. Peach is slow, but can float in mid air for a couple seconds providing kind of an easy mode to players. Toad runs crazy fast, but is hard to control due to it. Finally, Mario is just an all around kind of character like always. The Switch version adds speed to each character as well helping the flow of each level. These different characters add a lot of depth allowing players to choose a character that fits their own playstyle. I’d also like to appreciate the fact that Peach is actually a playable character, the first time since Super Mario Bros. 2. In fact, the whole crew is reminiscent of Mario 2, even Toad is colored blue like in the NES game.
Multiplayer is here as well. Running around each level with up to three friends is a blast, although with four people the game can get quite hectic. The Drop in and drop out nature of coop is also perfect for the Switch, and if you don’t feel like being a team you can just be a jerk to your teammates and throw them off the stage which is hilarious. The player with the most points collected at the end of each level gets to wear a crown in the next stage adding some nice competition to multiplayer as well. There is also online multiplayer in the Switch version, but I was unable to test it (yeah I don’t have friends don’t yell at me haha).
As for the power ups 3D World has a bevy of assortments. The first of which is the classic super mushroom. Like I said since this is like the 2d Mario games getting hit means becoming small Mario (unless you have a different powerup in which case you just go back to being big Mario) so you have to use a mushroom to become Super Mario again. There’s also the fire flower you can use to burn your enemies. The Tanooki suit can be used to float a bit in mid air or you can use its tail to whack enemies. The boomerang suit does just that, allowing you to throw boomerangs at your enemies. The Cat suit a brand new power up allows you to scale up walls, and smack enemies with your paws. There are more power ups, but many of them are level specific which we will get into now.
Now when it comes to the levels I already mentioned how straight forward they are, but they are still crazy good. The amount of ideas thrown into each and every level is staggering. From scaling moving walls as Cat Mario, to riding down a current on a dinosaur named Plessie, to auto scroll levels that up the ante with insta kill fuzzies right on your tail the level design in the game is nothing short of genius. Some of the levels have these double cherry power ups that will make a copy of Mario appear that you control as well. Get enough of these and you can get up to like five Marios you can control its crazy. This idea was actually built from a mistake. When developing the game the devs accidentally created 2 playable Marios at once and ended up turning it into a gameplay mechanic. This mechanic is very well implemented as well. Each level its in challenges you to get to the end of the level with a certain amount of Marios left so that you can push a switch and get a reward only obtainable if you have enough clones with you.
There are also some levels that take advantage of the gamepad. Using its touchscreen you could raise and lower platforms and such for you to jump on and more. The Switch version uses gyro instead to fix the fact that there is no gamepad. You can also use the touchscreen or gyro to stun enemies or reveal coins and such, a nice convenience. The music for each of these stages range from good to amazing as well which is expected of the Mario team. Graphically, everything looks great too, and the game runs at 1080p on Switch compared to 720p on WiiU. I’m only scratching the surface here with the levels, but honestly I don’t want to spoil them. All I’ll say is that there is also a level based on friggin Mario Kart and it’s awesome.
Almost every stage also has three green stars and one stamp for you to collect. They add some depth to the levels because in order to obtain them the game will challenge you a bit. Sometimes you’ll have to explore and area a bit to find one. Sometimes you’ll have to beat a mini timed combat challenge, and sometimes you’ll have to click a switch with the right character etc. It’s a nice challenge and a great task to grab all the green stars and stamps in the game. The game has a camera function that allows you to take pictures of the scenery and such. Stamps can be placed in these pictures to add a nice touch. Green stars at times are actually required to unlock certain levels on the world map in order to progress.
Speaking of the World map, the one in this game is interesting. Instead of being locked to a certain path you can just free roam around it. You can even find secrets like coins, or secret boss fights, or mushroom houses that give you power ups. There are also two types of optional levels one in each world that offer unique challenges.
The first are the mystery houses. These levels task you with either doing a combat or platforming challenge to get a green star in just ten seconds. The twist is that you’ll have to do a chain of challenges in a row and get multiple green stars to actually complete the mystery house. These are mostly easy, but the last mystery house in the game has like 30 mini challenges in it, and if you fail one you have to restart so it can be tense.
Secondly, we have the Captain Toad stages. These challenges will have you controlling Captain Toad in a small stage that you have to rotate around entirely in order to complete. Also another twist is that moving is the only thing you can do, no jumping allowed. This forces you to be extra cautious of platforms and enemies as you venture with Captain Toad to collect each of the green stars in the stage. These levels proved to be so unique and fun that Nintendo literally made an original game out of it. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker which is another WiiU to Switch port. The Switch version of 3D World also adds four player coop to these great levels.
As you can see Mario 3D World has a fair amount of depth and content in it (I didn’t even discuss some things like the boss fights which are pretty fun) and is worthy of its praise. All of its clever ideas, fun level design, and tight controls come together to make a game that’s nothing short of special. With that said its not without its gripes. Multiplayer as I stated can be pretty tough and hectic with four people, and unless you use the infinite lives trick it can be pretty easy to game over. Also, since the camera is fixed the depth of field can be pretty frustrating at times (I died a lot because of it). Finally, despite all this praise the game still doesn’t soar to the same heights as say Super Mario Odyssey, but that is no easy feat. It plays it safe, but is still a joy to experience. Luckily, Bowser’s Fury also part of the Switch package does indeed soar to those heights (even if its brief).
Bowser’s Fury – The Future Of 3D Mario?
The story of Bowser’s Fury sees Mario walking along that fateful road once again (when will he learn?). This time he is by himself and falls into another world again this time through some goopy portal on the ground (does Nintendo have a thing for isekai or something?). When he comes to he is confronted by Bowser Jr who tells him that his dad got all effed up, and is now a giant huge furyious (haha get it) monster. So monstrous in fact that even Jr is scared of him. So the only choice they have is to team up and take down the big bad Bowser.
Bowser’s Fury takes place entirely in one huge world called Lake Lapcat, that’s right an OPEN WORLD Mario game. Odyssey had pretty big sandbox worlds, but it wasn’t truly open world. You have to unlock some islands in order to access everything by progressing in certain other islands, but other then that you just go where you want. No load times or anything like that. The seamlessness gives it a sort of breath of the wild vibe in fact.
The goal of the game is to collect enough cat shines so that you can power yourself up with the giga bell and defeat Fury Bowser. This forces you to traverse each of the Islands and in between completing platforming and combat challenges, as well as completing puzzles. The variety is very much like 3D World. The main objective on each island is to get to the top of it where the lighthouse stands and collect a shine, but there is a ton more. Sometimes you’ll have to find five cat shine coins littered throughout the Island, or find a mother cat’s lost kittens. Other objectives will have you finding a key that you have to take back to the start of the island to unlock a shine. There is even a shadow Luigi fight here and there, reminiscent of Mario Sunshine (the sunshine love here is crazy). You’ll be repeating a lot of certain tasks at every island, but it rarely feels repetitive especially since each island itself is so different. The islands are incredibly lively as well, and I mean LIVELY. Seriously, pretty much every living creature in the game has cat ears, even the birds. They definitely upped the catness even more compared to 3D World.
On top of all of this is Fury’s big twist mechanic. Every so often Fury Bowser will awaken from his shell and try to slaughter you. When this happens the whole world turns dark and platforms and fire will rain down on you. The once lively folk such as the kittens will become corrupted and hate you. Bowser himself will breathe fire at you that feels like it can stretch across half the stage. Cleverly, you can use his fire to break these Bowser blocks that have shines in them, so this mechanic is hectic and useful. Grabbing any shine or running for your life long enough will cause Bowser to rest for a bit and the world goes back to normal… Until he comes after you again. The game already really didn’t need the Bowser rampage thing, but its such an awesome mechanic.
When it comes to the actual feel of the gameplay its almost like a mix of 3D World and Odyssey. The camera is fully rotatable of course, you venture across a big open world, and collect shines not grab flagpoles. But at the same time the engine and such is 3D World. You lose health and have powerups just like 3D World, and your moves are also the same. You can even traverse the waters between islands on plessie (who has to be used at certain points to grab shines on the water). Its pretty cool because it gives 3D World a ‘what if it was a traditional 3D Mario’ kind of vibe to it. You can also have five of each powerup stored meaning if you find yourself in a situation where you want or need a certain type of powerup you’ll always have it.
Bowser Jr also helps you (you can set how much help you want) by uncovering certain items painted into walls. He can also distract enemies, and will laugh at you if you get hit (which is a nice touch). A second player can also control him for some coop. Its a cool feature like the ones in the galaxy games, but its not a huge deal.
Now when you collect enough cat shines you’ll gain the ability to turn into giga cat Mario and fight fury Bowser. It’s pretty much like a DBZ fight haha literally just look at Mario he is Goku. The boss fight itself is friggin good. Your so big that the you can jump on entire islands like they are just simple platforms. In order to defeat Bowser you have to dodge his moves and either wait for him to mess up and fall on his back where you ground pound him, or pick up and throw these big @$$ spike blocks at him. Once you beat him he goes back to his shell and you have to collect even more shines to face him again.
The music that accompanies all the Bowser happenings (and all the games music for that matter) is just absolutely epic. Seriously, the Bowser fight theme itself sounds like Mario One Winged Angel. Overall, its another banging OST by the Mario makers and quite unexpected with all this bowser music as well.
Graphically, the game looks fantastic like 3D World, but its definitely pushing the Switch to its limits. Its not a full 1080, and the framerate itself can suffer when Bowser is attacking. Handheld mode itself is only 30fps in fact (compared to 60fps docked), its a bit weird for a Mario game. Maybe that rumored Switch Pro can fix it?
Overall, Bowser’s Fury is an absolutely phenomenal adventure. It’s creative, tight, epic, and most importantly fun. Literally, the only big problem with it is that its only like 3-6 hours long, but even that almost didn’t matter to me. Jumping, swimming, and finding my way around Lake Lapcat exploring every nook and cranny to 100% completion was bliss. It also feels like Nintendo might be testing the waters for a future bigger 3D Mario with it perhaps being open world. I really hope they do because Bowser’s Fury really can feel like BOTW sometimes. Like there is an actual floating island platform that you have to wait for on top of a mountain island in order to climb on. Its awesome.
Super Mario 3D World plus Bowser’s Fury is an incredible package. 3D World is still a great game eight years later with a ton of love and polish gone into it (as well as some nice additions). Then there is Bowser’s Fury which was so good and addicting that it might signify the future of 3D Mario which I’m looking forward to seeing. Don’t hesitate to spend your dollars on this package, even at full retail price its more then worth it.
JOYS: 3D World: Tight controls- Great level design- banging ost and pretty visuals- meaty collectables and postgame Bowsers Fury: Jam packed open world- epic Fury mode feature- Bowser fight is awesome- great controls- banging visuals and pretty EPIC ost
CONS: 3D World: Not as ambitious as other 3D Mario games- Sense of depth can be frustrating Bowser’s Fury: Sometimes the wait for Bowser can be a little time consuming- Performance is meh
Super Mario 3D World Review Score: 9.4 out of 10
Bowser’s Fury Review Score: 10 out of 10
Overall Score: 9.75 out of 10