Time played: Bowsers Fury: 8 hours / Super Mario 3D World: 12 hours
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Super Mario Bros. 3D World is the best multiplayer Mario game, ever. There – I said it. If you don’t believe that, that’s probably because you’ve never played it as, like many Wii U originals, there just wasn’t that many people buying games for Nintendo’s ill-fated console at the time of its original release.
It’s with a great big Mario ‘Wahoo!’ then that Super Mario Bros. 3D World should finally get the recognition it deserves, reaching a much wider audience in this Nintendo Switch port.
And it’s so much more than a regular port too – not only does it introduce additional on-the-go handheld play and online multiplayer to the original title, but it comes with an all-new Mario adventure set in a pint-sized open world in the shape of Bowser’s Fury. It’s a curious, generous and addictive addition, if a little rough around the edges and on the shorter side.
Regardless, the package comes together to make for a definitive Super Mario Bros. 3D World experience, while die-hard Mario fans won’t want to miss out on the unusual Bower’s Fury.
Super Mario Bros. 3D World + Bowser’s Fury price and release date
- What is it? A re-release of an under-played Wii U Mario platformer, plus an all-new game-sized campaign
- Release date? February 12, 2021
- What can I play it on? Nintendo Switch
- Price? RRP £49.99/$59.99/AU$79.95
Enter the kaiju
- A short-but-sweet standalone Mario adventure
- Smartly recycles ideas from Super Mario Bros. 3D World to create something new
- Giant Cat Mario, anyone?
Seeing as it’s the brand new portion of the package, we’ll kick off with Bowser’s Fury. And what a curious little game it is, too.
Bowser’s Fury is made up of refreshed, revised and re-used assets and mechanics from Super Mario Bros. 3D World, reconfigured to make an all-new game. Taking the speedy wall-climbing catsuit, floaty Tanooki suit and a few others from 3D World, it shifts the camera predominately behind Mario (a’la Odyssey), and opts for a mini open-world setting spread across a number of small islands, each with its own challenges and secrets to uncover, rather than the level-based rush of 3D World.
In many ways, it’s a lot like what Nintendo did with The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask back on the Nintendo 64, which used assets from the previous game in the series, Ocarina of Time, to build a whole new adventure.
It’s not the only thing that Bowser’s Fury pilfers from Zelda either – just as Breath of the Wild had its ‘Blood Moon’, temporarily enhancing enemy strength, and Majora’s Mask a day-and-night cycle that would affect progression, so too does Bowser’s Fury have a similar central conceit. You’re tasked by cutie-at-heart Bowser Jr to help save his pops, who has become consumed by an oily goo that turns him into a fire-breathing tyrant of Godzilla-like proportions. Every ten or so minutes (and increasing in frequency and destructiveness as the game progresses) Mario’s age-old nemesis Bowser will emerge from his gloopy slumber and rain down hellfire on the entire open-world setting. It’s all you can do but to survive the onslaught until Bowser wears himself out and goes back into hiding.
It’s heart-racing stuff, and quite unlike anything a Mario game has done before. There’s a genuine sense of dread as the music changes and rain begins to fall, signaling Bowser’s imminent arrival and giving you a few seconds to find a few powerups and a well-protected area to weather the bombardment from.
How can Mario defeat him? By ringing one of several ‘GigaBells’ dotted around the archipelago, activated by collecting a set number of ‘Cat Shines’. Like the Stars of Super Mario 64 or Power Moons of Super Mario Odyssey, these collectibles are awarded for completing different challenges set on each island and their surrounding lakes. You may have to run a platforming gauntlet to reach the base of a lighthouse covered in black goo, restoring its lantern, or take on a challenging boss in a colosseum, race against the clock to collect blue coins set along a treacherous path, or scour the map for five hidden ‘Cat Shards’ on each island that come together to make a single complete Cat Shine. As ever, there’s excellent imagination and variation in tasks – though some challenges follow similar formats, you’re never doing the same thing twice in Bowser’s Fury, while the ever-present threat of a Bowser appearance means your best laid plans for hitting a challenge can be upset by one of the Koopa king’s rages, mid-run.
It’s an addictive cycle then of racing to as many Cat Shines as you can before Bowser’s fireballs and flaming breath appears – or risk grabbing a Cat Shine during an attack to force him back to the depths.
But it’s not a particularly challenging one – this is definitely on the easier side of the Mario Difficulty Sliding Scale™. You’re able to bank as many as 25 powerups (five each of the Super Mushroom, Fire Flower, Boomerang Flower, Super Bell for the Cat Suit and Lucky Bell for the coin-spewing Cat Suit variant), and call them into action at the press of a button, swapping powers on the fly, while only one grueling island has instant-death lava to contend with.
You’ve also always got Bowser Jr. to offer a helping, too. The game can ostensibly be played in two-player, with the second person controlling Bowser Jr, who can fly around levels bashing bad guys, collecting items and floating up towards hard to reach secrets. It’s definitely a support role for the second player though, playing second-fiddle to Mario’s gymnastics, and a solo player can still direct Bowser Jr. to points of interest using motion controls. There’s also the return of Plessie, the amphibious speed-boat-like dinosaur who plays a key role in the end game, and is useful for completing racing challenges and darting around the archipelago at speed with immunity to collisions with baddies. All these tools combined mean Bowser’s Fury only offers a relatively light challenge.
The moment-to-moment play is still top-notch though. Opting for Mario’s 3D World reduced move set, with a rocket-up-his-butt dash and no triple jump to take advantage of, makes for precision-based action, well explored by the levels here.
But ringing the GigaBell is the show-stopping centerpiece of Bowser’s Fury. With enough Cat Shines under your belt, these huge powerups turn Mario into a giant ‘GigaCat’, ready to lay the smackdown on Bowser at his own towering scale. At this size, you’ll be able to do some damage to Bowser, stomping around the now-pint-sized islands and lobbing stone shards at his soft underbelly. It’s Mario as a kaiju battler (if not overly complex) and wholly different from anything Mario has attempted before.
Lax difficulty aside, the only point that lets Bowser’s Fury down is on the visuals front. It’s clear that the production value of this game isn’t on the same level as that of, say Odyssey or even the original 3D World – which is fair enough, given its humble building-blocks origins. But there’s a lack of polish in this regard that is uncharacteristic of Nintendo – Mario has a strangely shimmering outline throughout, while the islands, from an artistic point of view, lack the wow factor the most gleeful Mario games offer. 3D World plays out often from diorama-like perspectives, benefitting from a depth-of-field affect and pulled-back camera placement that is kinder to the assets than the closer view of Bowser's Fury. Bowser’s attack sequences are strong though, with the nightmare sky and flashing fireballs proving very dramatic.
You’ll get a solid four hours of play from Bowser’s Fury in order to see its finale, and you can stretch that to around eight hours in order to uncover all its secrets, which is well worth doing – though Fury Bowser fights get a little too familiar by the game’s ultimate end. If you see Bowser’s Fury as a freebie (given that the Wii U version of Super Mario Bros. 3D World did not include it), it’s incredibly generous, and a fun title in its own right, with set pieces and mechanics worth double-dipping on for returning fans. It’s a chapter that Mario die-hards won’t want to miss.
The return of a great
- The best multiplayer Mario game, hands down
- An excellent mix of course-based rushes and hidden secrets
- Introduces the delightful Captain Toad puzzles
The meat of the game however remains in Super Mario Bros. 3D World. And time has been more than kind to the 2013 title. Underappreciated on its first release, it’s become something of a cult classic in Nintendo circles. The popularity of the Switch will see it finally reach the audience it deserved.
Little has changed – Super Mario Bros. 3D World sits somewhere between Mario’s free-roaming adventures, and his side-scrolling heritage. Courses are against the clock gauntlets of obstacles, baddies and death-defying leaps, capped by a race-to-the-flag finish. But by taking the principles of the 2D Mario sensibility and throwing them into a 3D space, 3D World becomes like a toy box of ideas, vying for your attention and being replaced by fresh lunacy every minute.
Courses are distinct and separated over a connecting overworld map (itself withholding secrets), with each course hiding three stars and a decorative stamp (for the game’s photo mode) for true masters to uncover. The variation is wild – with the afore-mentioned powerups seen in Bowser’s Fury in tow, you’ll be doing everything from clambering over circus platforms, donning a giant ice-skate shoe, slipping down a water slide on the back of a friendly dinosaur and even taking on some stealth-lite sections. It’s a balancing act between exploration and survival (with the later stretches of the game offering a real challenge), all while trying to figure out just how Nintendo’s design team managed to fit so many ideas into each stage. The fact that so few are reused, with one-off ideas that would be the core of entire games tossed away after one showcase, boggles the mind.
Remember that Super Mario Bros. 3D World also introduces the diorama-like Captain Toad puzzle stages, where you take control of Toad, unable to jump, as he navigates a 3D maze that hides collectible stars. It was a concept strong enough to spawn its own full-length game, and here used as something akin to a bonus stage. Bonkers.
If single-player 3D World is a menagerie of ideas, it’s a whole other beast in four-player. Co-operative? Competitive? A bit of both? It’s chaos distilled, regardless. Each level can be played by up to four people simultaneously, with each player taking the role of either Mario, Luigi, Peach or Toad, each with their own slight strengths and weaknesses, all racing to the finish line and raking up coins to be awarded a literal crown to wear for the next level. It’s purely aesthetic and for bragging rights only, and yet the trinket will inspire such competition it’s hard to believe.
Mario platformers have experimented with multiplayer in the past of course, most famously with the New Super Mario Bros. side scrollers. But where competition there could feel cramped and spiteful, in the breathing space afforded by 3D World’s wider playgrounds multiplayer leads to a more rewarding, tactical experience. When racing to the finish line, should one stick with the pack and take a direct route over a treacherous and narrow pathway, or forge a different, safer, slower route vertically over a nearby peak? There are ample opportunities to undermine your fellow players with the risk/reward gameplay, but other times when your cooperation will make for a far easier journey – if everyone can be corralled towards a common goal.
What has changed, gameplay-wise, for the Nintendo Switch version? Very little that any but the most hardcore of Mario fans will notice. Mario and chums all move slightly faster, and can climb a little higher in the Cat Suit. But that’s about it – tiny tweaks that you wouldn’t spot without side-by-side play with the Wii U version. It makes for a slightly snappier game, but nothing to write home about.
Online co-operative play is also newly supported by 3D World, with four players teaming up over the Nintendo Online network, or two sets of two players per Nintendo Switch console teaming up for local handheld play. We were unable to test online play as per an offline review embargo agreement, but to be honest, four players on a couch, each with their own controller or Joy-Con, with the Nintendo Switch docked for local big-screen action, is where it’s at. This is as much a party game as a platformer, and the comedic chaos of battling for pole position over a course is as much fun as mastery of the levels themselves – you’ll want lockdown to end as soon as possible, in order to see the misery of defeat settle on your quietly-plotting friends’ faces in the flesh.
It’s worth noting that, while infrequent, we did experience some slow down in 3D World, surprisingly more pronounced in docked mode than in handheld. It was rare, but another sign that Nintendo’s Switch could do with a tweak under the hood sooner rather than later, given this is only a light reworking of a game that originally debuted close to seven years ago.
Nintendo is often accused of being a bit stingy with its re-releases – the barebones offering of Super Mario 3D All-Stars didn’t go unnoticed. But this Super Mario Bros. 3D World rerelease, packaged as it is with the Bowser’s Fury adventure, is a generous joy.
Bowser’s Fury is a treat – the topping you didn’t know would work on your favorite ice cream flavor. Its conceit shouldn’t work, but does, with the looping Fury mechanic surely now set to be revived in a full-size, full-fat, wholly-original adventure of its own. It’s definitely worthy of one.
What’s perhaps even more amazing is just how good Super Mario Bros. 3D World still is, all these years later. There’s tireless invention on show, the game brimming with ideas and opportunity for playful interaction with your friends. Having played the original version to death, it remained surprising throughout as well – a testament to how many ideas Nintendo briefly flashes up before replacing them with something equally entertaining. Purists may still find themselves falling into camps championing the merits of the core 3D or 2D games over that of 3D World’s idiosyncratic charms. But in our books, it’s up there with the very best fun Mario has ever been.
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