It’s hard to believe that Super Mario 3D World first released on the Wii U over seven years ago.
When I reviewed the game in 2013, I described it as a reimagining of the Mario series’ classic 2D side-scrolling formula.
Fast-forward to 2021 and that statement still holds true.
It’s easy to be hard on Nintendo for shovelling out several relatively uninspired Wii U remasters for the Switch over the last few years, including, most recently, Pikmin 3 Deluxe (I still really like that game, though). On the other hand, these are mostly classic titles that didn’t get the attention they deserved given the ill-fated Wii U’s dismal sales numbers, so why not give them another chance at life?
Do I wish Nintendo would not charge full price for these re-releases and instead create a cheaper ‘Wii U Classics’ line? Definitely. That said, when it comes to Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, there’s a lot of new content present that helps justify the title’s $79 price tag.
Bowser’s Fury really has surprised me. When this re-release was first announced, I assumed that the add-on was little more than extra Super Mario 3D World stages.
Instead, Bowser’s Fury is an entirely separate experience that in some ways has more in common with Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine than 3D World. In fact, you don’t even have to play Super Mario 3D World to launch Bowser’s Fury; both games are accessible directly from the main menu.
While Bowser’s Fury still plays like Super Mario 3D World, it features a welcome balance between the more open-ended 3D platforming from other three-dimensional Mario games and the carefully crafted, bite-sized stages featured in 3D World. The game’s world is constructed of cat-themed islands, with the player’s goal being to collect several ‘Cat Shines.’
As with most 3D Mario titles, some Shines are easier to get than others, and you don’t need to uncover every single one to complete the game. You spend a lot of time switching between different abilities on the fly since some are more useful in certain situations. For example, the Super Bell that turns Mario into a cat is great for climbing walls, while the Super Leaf can help make precise jumping a little more forgiving since it lets the plumber flutter through the air for a brief period.
Nearly everything in Bowser’s Fury relates to cats somehow, which can be both hilarious and a little offputting. Mario spends much of his time in 3D World‘s signature catsuit, and even enemies, bushes, and birds wear cat ears. The game is definitely one of the more out-there Mario titles Nintendo has released in the last few years — welcome to cat world.
Every so often, a massive version of Bowser shows up to wreak havoc. Once you’ve unlocked the game’s several Lighthouses, Mario can also grow to epic proportions for a one-on-one boss battle that plays out similar to how it would in nearly every other Mario game. The interesting twist here is that the battle’s stage is a pint-sized version of Bowser’s Fury‘s various islands. Further, certain more difficult to get cat shines are only accessible when Bowser shows up to trash the place.
The entire experience clocks in at somewhere between three and four hours, with that playtime increasing to roughly six to eight hours if you aim to uncover all of the Cat Shines. There’s also a co-op mode where the other player takes control of Bowser Jr., though I didn’t find it very compelling. When playing as Bowser Jr., you don’t have much agency over what’s going and mostly just float along, trailing whoever is playing as Mario.
While not exactly a long experience, I’ve had a lot of fun with Bowser’s Fury over the last few weeks and count its inventive level design as some of the best I’ve encountered in a Mario title since Super Mario 64.
Then, of course, there’s Super Mario 3D World. If you’ve played the original game on the Wii U, you’ll know what to expect here, and if you haven’t, you’re in for a treat.
Unlike most recent Mario titles, 3D World is a classic, course-based Mario game where players work their way to the end of the level, all while taking out enemies and collecting Coins and Stamps/Stars. Players can select between Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess Peach, and much like Super Mario Bros. 2 for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), each character has their own strengths.
For example, Mario is great when you need precise movement, especially jumping, while Princess Peach can briefly glide through the air, making some levels far more forgiving. I really like that this mechanic is a throwback to Super Mario Bros. 2 on the NES and it helps add variety to the well-known Mario platforming formula, especially when playing multiplayer.
The game’s level design is some of the best ever to be featured in a Mario title. Stages range from straightforward, with shifting platforms and an abundance of warp pipes, to challenging later levels that require intense 3D platforming precision. Like other 2D Mario games, some stages are very easy, and the game really doesn’t kick up its difficulty level until the final few worlds. This difficulty spike remains just as jarring as it did in the original game on the Wii U.
That said, if you’re looking for more of a challenge throughout the entire experience, you can always aim to hunt down each stage’s Star and Stamp. This makes the 3D World exponentially harder and can sometimes be downright frustrating.
Super Mario 3D World once again features a spectacular four-player co-op mode that in this re-release is, thankfully, now playable online. Co-op is wonderfully chaotic but can also be needlessly grating at times since using a power-up or getting hit by enemies still results in what I’d call a brief stutter, which breaks up the flow of gameplay.
This is featured in nearly every Mario game ever released and normally doesn’t matter, but when you are playing with two to three other people, that momentary halt in movement can quickly lead to disaster.
Regarding its visuals, Super Mario 3D World looks spectacular running on the Switch. In fact, I’d say that the game is nearly as graphically impressive as the far more recently released Super Mario Odyssey despite dropping over seven years ago. This is yet another example of how timeless Nintendo’s simplistic-but-still-modern approach to visuals remains.
As far as notable Wii U titles that really didn’t get the attention they deserved when they were first released, Super Mario 3D World falls at the top of that list. It’s great to see one of Nintendo’s best Mario titles finally making its way to the Japanese gaming giant’s far more successful Switch where it will undoubtedly find a much wider audience.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury releases on February 12, 2021, for the Nintendo Switch.