Super Mario 3D World is good, clean fun. It's chock full of content, and brimming with creativity, with gimmicks and twists that never overstay their welcome. You can have heaps of fun on your own, or double, triple, even quadruple your enjoyment with a group of friends, even if four players make things chaotic.
I never owned a Wii-U. None of my friends did either. As I recall, it wasn’t an especially in-demand console when it released in 2012, and I feel that’s somewhat of a shame.
Disappointing console or not, it had its fair share of games – good games – that I never sunk my teeth into. Fortunately, Nintendo is giving me a second chance to play some of these games by bringing them to a much more popular console, the Switch.
Super Mario 3D World is one such game, and the Switch version comes with some impressive new content to sweeten the deal in the form of Bowser’s Fury.
Levels, levels, levels
Like so many Mario games before it, Super Mario 3D World is chock-full of everything that makes a Mario game, well, a Mario game, with enough uniqueness to make it fresh without tearing away from the familiar framework we all love (I challenge you to tell me that there isn’t even one Mario game you like).
Bowser’s captured a bunch of adorable and understandably shaken fairies called Sprixies, and rudely shoved them into jars, stashing them in castles at the end of several different worlds. Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Toad are tasked with bringing them back. You can play as any of them (plus Rosalina once you’ve unlocked her), with up to four friends taking control of the rest of the cast. Each character has some idiosyncrasies to them, which is great for keeping things fresh. Bored of Mario’s all-rounder approach? Switch to Peach for her float ability, or Luigi to add some extra kick to your jump.
Everything is gorgeous. The design, the colours, the music. Flowers dance in levels and worlds, and why wouldn’t they? Everything in the game is bright. The colours pop out of the screen; hills, caves, and castles are brimming with cartoony wonder, and the soundtrack compliments every visual perfectly. Presentation is key in a video game, and Nintendo has nailed it here.
Each course you finish unlocks the next one or two, as well as the item houses and mini-games you can hop into if you need a power-up or just a quick break from smashing blocks and stomping Goombas. Fun mini-games are dotted throughout the game, like Captain Toad levels wherein you rotate a big block of a map and trek your way about it with the titular Captain and hunt down stars.
Levels themselves feel like a good blend of both 3D and 2D Mario games. You can move around in a similar fashion to the way you do in Odyssey or Galaxy, whilst sprinting along a linear path to beat the clock like in any of the many side-scrolling games. They’re also pretty short, which means that (as long as you don’t get stuck on a particularly hard jump or enemy) they never outstay their welcome.
One thing I loved was that each level was almost always significantly different from the last, keeping every course fresh and new. Many levels have a unique twist, like platforms that flip when you jump or a silhouette effect that you need to pay attention to in order to find stars and power-ups. The craftsmanship that went into this game constantly keeps things fresh, shifting and entertaining.
Each world also has a kind of “challenge” level that tasks you with completing a set of timed objectivies which, if completed, will reward you with a hefty number of stars. They’re a great way to make up any stars you need to unlock boss fights, which are also a fun departure from standard gameplay.
The power-ups are a huge part of the fun in Super Mario 3D world. Aside from growth-spurt prompting mushrooms and flowers that let you fling fireballs, there are several others that change the way you make your way through levels. The tanooki suit lets you hover in the air for a bit and swipe foes away with your tail. The boomering outfit lets you, shocker, throw returning projectiles. There are several blocks that mount to your head, like a propeller that lets you jet into the sky, and even a straight-up cannon.
My favourite costume, and the one I found the most useful, was the catsuit, which is unique to Super Mario 3D World. When donned, you can swipe enemies with your claws, launch yourself through the air, and even climb up walls. If you complete a level still wearing it, no matter where you jump onto the flagpole, your character will scamper to the top of it and net you the rewards that come along with that. Nice.
Slightly stuck in the past
The game in places does feel like a throw-back to a bygone era. Movement feels stiff sometimes, not as fluid as in Odyssey or Galaxy. The game’s roots are founded in the 3DS’ Super Mario 3D World, and it shows. Levels feel kind of boxy, and the camera isn’t free moving. It can be shifted from perspective to perspective, but nothing more. This, I feel, is perfect for the 3DS, where the 3D gimmick makes the worlds pop with depth, but with the restrained camera on the Switch it can be kind of hard to judge jumps, which is pretty damning in a platformer.
Similarly, and this may be personal preference but bare with me, the lives system just feels outdated in any game these days. Unless there’s a big penalty for losing all of them, having lives that feels archaic. In Super Mario 3D World all that happens when you run out of lives is that you have to start a level from the beginning again, even if you reached the mid-way checkpoint before. The game goes dark and takes you to a try again screen, and then you’re back in it. The only penalty for losing lives is that you have to wait, which grinds the game to a screeching halt and ruins whatever momentum you may have had going through it. Worse, lives disappear exponentially faster when you’re playing with friends, forcing you into even more downtime. It’s not a massive issue, but worth mentioning.
Still, gripes aside, overall Super Mario 3D World is quintessential Mario, and thereby heaps of fun. There’s tons of levels, tons of power-ups, tons of fun to be had. It’s the kind of game that just makes you smile while you play it, particularly with friends.
Bowser is MAD
As mentioned before, Bowser’s Fury is an add on to the main game, and let me get straight to the point: It’s awesome. It would honestly be worth it’s own review entirely were it not a relatively brief experience.
Bowser’s Fury feels like a modernized 3D World. The camera is free-form, and live’s are done away with entirely. Bliss. You play as Mario, helping out Bowser Jr. (who can be controlled by a second player if you’re keen for some co-op), whose dad has been taken over by this black goop that turns him into an uncontrollable mountain of fiery fury.
The add-on takes you to Lake-Lapcat, a gorgeous open world dotted with several islands. There are enemies, collectibles, and power ups galore, all taken from the main game. In single player, Bowser Jr. will swipe at enemies with his paintbrush, helping you out as you run, leap, and swim from island to island. In the options menu, you can even control how much help he gives you.
Every few minutes Bowser will rise out of the sea like something out of a Toho film, turning the sky dark and raining fire and death upon the normally tranquil archipelago. It’s an awesome sight to behold, and presents a nice change in pace to the world. Unfortunately, the thing that suffers the most in the wake of Bowser’s rage is the framerate, but never for long enough to be grating.
Bowser will calm down eventually, but can also be pacified by grabbing an item called a Cat Shine, which will light up a lighthouse and send him begrudgingly stomping back into the goop that has overcome him. You can also eventually use an item to massively power you up, and force the Koopa King to pick on someone his own size, kaiju style. What ensues is a tectonic battle, and is by far my favourite thing to come out of Bowser’s Fury.
When you’re not brawling with a remarkably kranky King, you’re speeding from island to island in search of Cat Shines. Progression is gated behind them, and they’re found near the lighthouses on each island. Island’s vary in make-up and design, which keeps hunting shines from getting boring and creates impressive variation in a relatively small open world. Shines can be found on there own or earned by way of a challenge, like defeating a small horde of enemies or finding several smaller collectibles on an island. Challenges are exactly as they should be: challenging. And they’re never long enough or obnoxious enough to become tedious.
There’s plenty to do and plenty to see in Lake Lapcat, and it’s a welcome add on to Super Mario 3D World. I only wish it was longer.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury – The Verdict
Super Mario 3D World is good, clean fun. It’s chock full of content, and brimming with creativity, with gimmicks and twists that never overstay their welcome, keeping things fresh. You can have heaps of fun on your own, or double, triple, even quadruple your enjoyment with a group of friends, even if four players make things chaotic. Despite being bogged down in some antique qualities, Super Mario 3D World would be a great addition to your Switch’s library. The additional content and unique aspects found in Bowser’s Fury only sweeten an already sugary deal.