The gaming world is full of series whose titles we can never have enough of. Mario is not just one such series but also the king of games we can easily be showered with and rarely be bored to play. This is why Super Mario 3D World is such a welcome Switch port, despite it being an upgrade to an existing Wii U title. It’s also a far more acceptable package for the price when compared to last year’s Mario 3D All-Stars as it boasts an additional open-world take on Mario games, Bowser’s Fury.
Super Mario 3D World retains the kitchen-sink approach of its Wii U counterpart and then some. Every level feels like an homage and celebration of nearly every element and evolution of the Mario universe. From levels that look and feel like a Mario Kart track to the Captain Toad puzzle mazes scattered around the world, Super Mario 3D World is the definitive culmination of all things pertaining to the most famous Italian plumber and his crew. Even though the triple jump that has been around since Super Mario 64 is gone, there are more than enough powerups and tricks to help you traverse the game’s incredibly designed levels. We particularly loved the Cat costume which grants some of the most flexibility, especially when we’re struggling to reach some of those pesky green stars. What’s also a welcome addition is the ability to store an extra powerup that also carries over post-death if it goes unused.
The best thing about Mario games has always been playing with others and Super Mario 3D World allows for that in spades. The sheer effortlessness of dropping in and out of games, especially locally, is reason enough to get your family and friends in on the fun. Or should we say chaos? Because once more than a couple of people are playing at the same time, Mario 3D World goes from being a hunt for green stars and stamps in Cat costumes, to a hectic race where you toss your friends around…in Cat costumes. This may sound like an exercise in frustration on paper, but we can assure you it’s Super Mario at its finest. You know you’re playing a good game when there are more than a few ways to play and experience it. Playing any of Super Mario 3D World’s levels in co-op turns the game into a unique blend of a cooperative and competitive game. It’s equal parts racing and assisting the rest of your group until you get to the little flag at the end to see who gets the coveted crown. In a world where children, in particular, are bombarded by competitive games left and right, such genius levels of design feel like a breath of fresh air.
And this takes us to the second game in the package, Bowser’s Fury. If you’ve ever wondered what a truly open-world Mario game would be like, then this title should satisfy that curiosity well enough. A true feat of Mario design, Bowser’s Fury manages to bring the red plumber into the open-world genre without losing the spirit of what makes the series so charming. Apart from a whole world to traverse, you even get a day and night cycle, complete with ominous weather changes. Nighttime herald’s the awakening of Fury Bowser whose massive size is nothing short of epic. You can even engage with him as giant Mario in Kaiju scale battles. It’s an incredible design choice because when you couple it with the darker undertones of nighttime, you get a version of Mario that feels almost geared towards mature audiences. That isn’t to say that Bowser’s Fury can be enjoyed by a younger crowd as the goofiness and charm that comprises the Super Mario DNA are all still there. Quite frankly, we don’t know how Nintendo has managed to pull off something so incredibly balanced in terms of tone. It’s brilliant beyond belief.
Bowser’s Fury isn’t, of course, without its flaws. In many ways, the open-world approach feels more like an experiment rather than a fully polished product. There were times where we felt the open-world wasn’t giving us enough of the fun-filled action 3D World’s short but sweet levels provided so regularly. Naturally, there are canned instances where platforming and puzzle-solving are present which begs the question of whether Mario can be a true honest-to-god open-world game. It’s clear from what we’ve seen from Bowser’s Fury that Miyamoto and Co. are looking at the genre and seeing it through a Mario lens so it’ll be interesting to see if future titles will flesh out the title’s ideas further.
Overall, Super Mario 3D World and Bowser’s Fury are both unmissable by any gamer worth his or her salt. Even if you haven’t gone on one of the red plumber’s rollercoaster rides in a long time, 3D World is approachable and familiar enough to feel like going back on a bicycle. For a family, it’s the perfect game to introduce young children as the levels are incredibly bite-sized with just the right amount of challenge. Bowser’s Fury, on the other hand, is there to give die-hard Mario fans a taste of what might possibly come down the line. If you’ve been concerned about this package being yet another port with a haphazard extra title slapped in there, then you can rest easy. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is more than worth the full price of admission as it expands the Wii U game and sends it soaring into new heights. Although 3D World can feel slightly unchallenging to the trained Mario player, the end-game secret levels should be worth the trek as they’re quite brutal. Even though Bowser’s Fury has more room to grow, it’s a brilliantly designed open-world experience that may just allow you to see Mario in a different light.