Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is both a welcome return for a platforming classic and a novel expansion of what made the game so special back on the Wii U. There’s a solid chance that millions of players missed out on its excellence back in 2013, so now is the perfect time to take it for a spin.
- Review Price: £49.99
- Developer: Nintendo
- Genre: Platformer
- Release Date: 12/02/2021
- Platform: Nintendo Switch
Super Mario 3D World is an anomaly in the world of Nintendo platformers. It’s both a classic homage to the structure of its 2D origins, and a bold exploration of new ideas that refuses to abide by the standards set by the Super Mario Galaxy series before it.
It’s also daringly simplistic, hurling players onto a board of worlds with distinct themes and locales, before giving them the freedom to progress through levels alone or with a group of friends. This new port for the Nintendo Switch adds a few subtle enhancements, but the base game remains the same as it did back in 2013, and that’s no bad thing.
However, it’s bolstered by the inclusion of Bowser’s Fury. This is a brief yet delightful adventure with an emphasis on Cat Mario as he explores an island in search of adorable feline collectibles. But be careful, our titular plumber must also avoid a calamitous depiction of Bowser who could awaken at any moment, twisting the world into a blistering hellscape of fire and brimstone.
I can only talk about a selection of levels from Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury right now, despite much of it being a remaster. Putting aside such restrictions, it remains a masterfully executed platformer that’s a joy to play. Each level is immaculately designed, brimming with novel ideas and creative designs that instil a sense of wonder that few games can achieve.
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After eight long years, this is still Nintendo platforming at its best
- Fans of the original will find the core experience intact, but enhanced with improved contrls and shinier visuals
- This is still one of Mario’s finest platformers, and will be a new outing for millions on Switch
Super Mario 3D World doesn’t open with Princess Peach being kidnapped. Bowser clearly isn’t into her anymore, opting instead to imprison fairy-like creatures known as Sprixies, spreading them across the land for Mario, Luigi, Toad and Peach to uncover. I opted for my main-man Luigi, who is easily the most stylish of the quartet as he dashes across each stage with a lovable dose of clumsiness.
Each character controls differently, although the basic act of running, jumping and throwing remains consistent through all of them. Playing alone allows each level to feel like a meditative exercise in hoovering up all three green stars and the elusive hidden stamp, while bringing a few friends into the mix unleashes untold amounts of chaos.
I found myself erupting into bouts of laughter as I accidentally hurled allies into the abyss, dwindling our lives down as we slowly but surely reached the finish line. Fortunately, 3D World makes a few useful concessions, so multiplayer doesn’t turn into a bloodbath. Power-ups are shared, meaning if someone picks up four fire flowers by mistake then they can still be distributed evenly.
Some hidden items are also much easier to find with a friend, alleviating the need for precision platforming. Those still after a sinister slice of competition will be happy to learn the crown makes a return, planting a gaudy monument to victory on the head of one player at the end of stage. It can be callously stolen, making multiplayer sessions anarchic jumbles of cloddish competition that fit the tone of 3D World beautifully.
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Whether alone or with friends, 3D World is an absolute delight
This port also incorporates online multiplayer functionality, which through testing worked very well indeed, displaying minimal latency. Progress is tied to the player who opens the lobby, meaning you’ll need to earn stars and other collectibles for a second time in your own world. I prefer this approach, since there’s a huge difference between playing alone and with an avaricious group of friends.
3D World’s opening four worlds follow the archetypes you’d expect from the franchise. Green hills, scorching deserts and snow-covered mountains are all present and accounted for. Aside from the expected arenas, each world houses a healthy number of excellent surprises that go against the grain of Mario’s usual design conventions.
One stage places an emphasis on shadows as they emit pitch-black spectres onto walls, forcing me to reconsider my perspective and move towards the screen in pursuit of new discoveries. Another introduces new cherry power-ups that allow Mario to multiply. You’ll need to bring as many versions of yourself to the finish line as possible to activate platforms and panels, an act that’s made infinitely easier with two or more players.
Moments such as this help 3D World shine as it hurls out creative highlights that other platformers would sacrifice so much for – but here they’re a dime a dozen, cementing how Nintendo remain masters of the genre. I’ll admit that 3D World is rather simplistic in its design, doing away with any semblance of a hub world or progression beyond its core collectibles. This might be a drawback for some, just as it was back in 2013.
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Bowser’s Fury is an inventive expansion with so many cool ideas
- Bowser’s Fury is a brilliant expansion of the ideas first explored in 3D World and Odyssey
- Working alongside Bowser Jr is a fun twist on co-op mechanics, making you think outside the box
Bowser’s Fury exists independently of 3D World, and can be selected from the main menu. You play as Mario, although a second player can take control of Bowser Jr so you take down enemies and hunt after Cat Shines together. The premise is simple: Mario finds himself in a new realm that’s been taken over by a mysterious darkness. Even Bowser has been affected, with his adorable son begging our hero for help.
He cries for help while displaying a cutesy selection of hand-painted illustrations, getting his point across without a single line of dialogue. From here, you’re given ample freedom to explore a selection of land masses that feel like fully fledged levels in their own right. I can only speak about the opening areas, but it honestly feels like a cohesive mixture of 3D World and the open elements of Super Mario Odyssey.
The showdown with Fury Bowser channels the spirit of classic kaiju cinema, as you grow into a towering feline known as Giga Cat. Now on a level playing field, the prehistoric pariah has to do battle with a plumber with a sudden interest in the furry community. I’ll be able to talk about this expansion in greater detail once the full review rolls around – but for now, it feels like something that returning players will adore.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury Preview – First impressions
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is both a welcome return for a platforming classic and a novel expansion of what made it so special back on the Wii U.
There’s a solid chance that millions of players missed out on its excellence back in 2013, so now is the perfect time to take it for a spin.
My only concern is the brevity of Bowser’s Fury, which is honestly one of the only concrete reasons for returning players to pick this up beyond a few quality of life improvements.