Oh, the Wii U. That poor ol’ console really was a trial for Nintendo. But just because it didn’t sell well, let’s not forget some of the goodies that graced the platform.
Premier of which is Super Mario 3D World, now ported for Nintendo Switch in fine fettle, complete with brand new add-on Bowser’s Fury. The latter of which is the most bonkers Mario game we’ve played since Super Mario Sunshine (also re-released for Switch as part of Super Mario 3D All-Stars).
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We’ve had Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury on our Switch for three weeks, playing our way through its vast array of levels, to see whether Mario’s remastered world, including its online multiplayer, is the platforming perfection everyone needs right now – whether new to the game or already a fan.
Bowser’s Fury review
First thing’s first: the title that people most want to know about, as it’s all new. Yes, it’s Bowser’s Fury. This Switch exclusive has certainly got tongues wagging. So what’s it all about?
Well, Bowser’s Fury is quite unlike any Mario game we’ve played before. Largely because you play assisted by Bowser Jr. – who is available for a second player to command if you wish (otherwise he’s computer controlled – but you can state whether he’s helpful “a lot” or “a little”) – in taking down a very angry Bowser.
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That’s right: you’re helping your usual enemy in the goal of greater good. Mario has such a heart of gold, eh? But that premise is just the start in a rather whacky caper.
Bowser’s Fury feels more open-world than many recent Mario titles. It’s set in a giant expanse where you need to continue to open additional levels by collecting what are called Cat Shines.
In the centre of this expanse is Bowser, his head plonked down in the mud, who becomes rather irritated by this Cat Shine collecting and, intermittently during traversing the open-world – which we think has some elements of Super Mario Odyssey meets Mario 64 about it – Bowser will get, well, furious and start spitting fire in Mario’s general direction.
Bowser’s Fury’s world lovingly takes on elements from the wider Super Mario 3D World game – the most prominent of which is the Cat Mario power-up – and adds further twists. Specifically that, in order to take on giant bowser you need to become Giga Cat Mario – yup, a giant cat Mario! – to defeat your dino-like foe.
Bowser’s Fury is a great add-on. But it also feels just that: like an extra, rather than something quite established enough to be its own packaged title. So it’s the perfect way to release this slice of Mario newness; plus those who have already played through the Wii U version of Super Mario 3D World should see immediate extra worth in their purchase.
Super Mario 3D World: Floaty fun
But back to the main event: Super Mario 3D World. Which, for Nintendo Switch, is given an extra lick of paint with sharper graphics, smoother and faster characters, and three-dimentional platform gaming fun just as you’d expect.
It’s humble to the original Wii U game, so whether you want to relive that experience – from back in 2013, indeed it’s been about seven-and-a-half years now – or learn now why even back then it was a future classic, it’s a great opportunity.
If you’re as old as we are then you’ll find all the references as part of the 1990 SNES original, Super Mario World, extra charming. The boss themes, for example, largely overlap; the music often echoes the original, albeit brought bang up to date. It’s like a 3D homage, as the game’s title ultimately spells out.
But as Super Mario 3D World is, indeed, in three dimensions you’ll quickly need to get to grips with the “floaty” nature of the characters’ mechanics, as it’s very easy to get lost in space and not land where you want to go.
At first we thought this was most likely because we’ve spent two months 100 percenting Sackboy: A Big Adventure on the PS5 – which is a more complex platform game to master – but, actually, we’ve never quite got to grips with the nature of Super Mario 3D World’s controls. Moving camera and distance from character adds to the trickiness throughout.
You can commence your Super Mario 3D Adventure as Mario, naturally, or pick from Luigi, Princess Peach, or Toad. Each character has a slight shift in handling style – Luigi can jump higher, Peach floats farther, Toad is a little faster – but whichever character you pick it won’t affect what’s possible to achieve in the game or any of its level.
In addition to the usual favourites – firepower, mushrooms, mega Mario – there’s also the Cat Mario power-up, obtained in the form of a bell, which gives this game its most distinctive feature. As Cat Mario you can climb walls, swipe at enemies, giving the game a real distinction from any other Mario title. Not that you’re Cat Mario all the time – but you’ll often want to be.
There are plenty of levels to master, plus lots of replay value thanks to collectible stars – three per level – and an individual ‘stamp’ that adds to a sticker book. To achieve all that’s on offer will take an awful lot of practice – and we’re still not that far into those finer details.
Super Mario 3D World: Multiplayer antics
While you can pick one of the four main characters to play as, it’s also possible to play up to all four of them at once – whether in local co-operative play or online multiplayer via Nintendo Online. We’ve dabbled in both and it’s a lot of fun – with a dash of infuriating thrown in for good measure.
That’s part of the beauty with the Switch. The controller, as it’s made up of two parts, can be split to make two mini controllers – more similar to the NES from the 1980s – in order to have two-player co-operative play in your living room (or wherever you Switch lives). Or buy more controllers for a better experience (we would be most at home with the Pro Controller really).
Online takes the idea of co-op but means you needn’t share any controllers at all. Dig into Nintendo Online and find friends to play along with. But, be warned, the camera focuses on who is farthest ahead, and so it’s very easy to counter a lot of your friends’ plays – such as throwing one another off the side of the playfield – which can be both hilarious and infuriating in equal measure.
It also gets competitive, because the highest points-scorer earns a crown, which is taken into the next level. Get hit and you’ll drop your crown, which can be pinched by other players, but you’ll want to keep ahold of it to show-off that you’re the best – plus it’s worth extra points when you cross a level’s finish line (or, more accurately, climb the finish pole – just as you’ll be familiar with classic Mario titles).
There’s a bombastic nature to the multi-player of Super Mario 3D World – note, it’s not available for Bowser’s Fury, that’s local co-op only – which adds another layer to the levels you’ve already explored and, often, loved. Which only goes to enhance the replayability factor yet more – and give you an excuse to buy into a Nintendo Switch online subscription too.