Maybe you prefer 2D Mario. Maybe you prefer 3D Mario.
Me, I’m a little old-school; I’ll always have a fondness for Super Mario 3. How can I not? But after spending a few hours with the upcoming re-release of Super Mario 3D World, which includes the brand-new add-on, Bowser’s Fury, my love has grown for Mario’s 3D adventures. Odyssey’s great and all, but there’s something to be said for the classic level-based design here. Plus, Cat Mario is on a whole new level of cuteness.
My time previewing Super Mario 3D World has allowed me to play through the game’s first four worlds. As you’d expect from a Mario game, each world has its own theme; we’ve had the traditional grassy world, we’ve had ice, and we’ve had a desert. The quintessential Mario staples are all still here. What stands out to me about Super Mario 3D World is that, despite being a fully-3D platformer, it retains all of the charm of a classic Mario game. Levels are entered through a map. New levels and events pop up on the map as you progress. You can even visit Toad’s house now and again for a free power-up. It captures that nostalgia that we all carry for SNES-era Mario games, but it still feels wholly modern.
That’s quite a feat, considering Super Mario 3D World itself is still over seven years old. That’s right; it originally released on Wii U back in November 2013. With the Wii U being one of Nintendo’s worst-selling consoles, there’s a high chance many Switch owners will never have played it back in the day, so the game will be a brand new experience. And it feels like it; there’s nothing here that feels archaic or out-of-place. Okay, there’s the occasional mechanic that requires you to use the touchscreen, but that’s not unusual for a Switch game anyway. It all works, and feels right at home.
There’s a lot of content to Super Mario 3D World, too. Each world packs in plenty of levels, and they’re all incredibly varied. One of them might have you racing down a waterway on the back of a giant sea creature. Another one will have you racing left to right along a bumpy raceway. No two levels feel the same, even if your goal every time is to simply reach the end flagpole. Add to that the hidden stamps and stars in every level, and you’ve got plenty of reason to play them multiple times.
There are some improvements over the original Wii U release, of course. Super Mario 3D World looks fantastic, especially when you’re playing handheld. I’ve experienced a bit of slowdown when playing docked, but it’s never bad enough to ruin the experience. It’s a colourful extravaganza – as you’d expect a Mario game to be. It’s beautifully detailed, and each level is a pleasure to explore. Even when you know one of Bowser’s minions is waiting for you at the end of it.
If you’ve played Super Mario 3D World before, it’ll likely be exactly as you remember it. Some tweaks have been made, though: characters move more quickly than before and their dash powers up quicker, allowing for more fluid and fast-paced gameplay. There’s also a brand new Snapshot Mode added. Essentially a photo mode, this allows you to stop gameplay at any time and play around with creating fun and beautiful scenes within the game. Being able to add your own stickers allows you to get truly creative. It doesn’t add anything to the actual gameplay, of course, but it’s a welcome diversion. Any game this pretty deserves its own photo mode, after all.
Also new to this Switch release of Super Mario 3D World is the ability to play online. Up to four players can team up to tackle any of the game’s levels together, either locally or via an online connection. While playing with one other person is fun and allows for useful co-operation, playing with a full roster is rather chaotic. Enjoyable, sure, but chaotic. The game’s camera struggles to keep track of all four players, so if you end up too far from the pack, you’ll find yourself falling off the screen. It’s not the end of the world; you’ll be placed in a bubble until you rejoin the group, so there’s nothing lost. But keeping track of what’s going on can be a little tough. It’s certainly not the best way to play if you’re a completionist who likes to find all secrets in a level.
But what’s truly new to this Switch release is Bowser’s Fury. Rather than being extra content tacked onto Super Mario 3D World, it’s actually its own standalone experience. On loading up the game, you’ll be asked to choose whether you want to play Super Mario 3D World or Bowser’s Fury, and both offer a very different experience. Rather than being level-based, Bowser’s Fury takes place in one open world. Here, the already detestable Bowser has become enraged; so much so that even Bowser Jr. is afraid of him. And that’s where Mario comes in. With Bowser Jr. as your sidekick, it’s up to you to stop Fury Bowser in his tracks.
In order to do so, you need to explore the area in order to find ‘Cat Shines’. The world in Bowser’s Fury is split up into small islands, with each island having a number of Cat Shines to collect. Once you’ve collected enough, you’ll be able to activate the ‘Giga Bell’, turning Mario into a giant cat and enabling him to fight against Fury Bowser. But you’re going to have to do this numerous times before he’s gone for good.
Worse yet, Fury Bowser will randomly show up as you’re adventuring around the islands, collecting Cat Shines. You’ve always got to keep your wits about you!
I’ve much more of Bowser’s Fury to experience, but it offers a pleasant diversion from the ‘classic’ gameplay of Super Mario 3D World. The open world aspect feels very different, but both games compliment each other nicely. Plus, there’s nothing quite like the threat of a giant, fiery Bowser showing up to ruin your fun at any given moment.
It’s safe to say that Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is going to be a title that any Mario fan will want to add to their Switch collection. It’s the perfect blend of classic and modern, and it feels right at home on Switch. With just a few weeks left until release, I can’t wait to experience more of that lovable plumber’s latest adventure.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury releases on Switch on 12th February.