There’s a purity to . Stomping goombas, racing to the flagpole, and battling Bowser’s forces in end-of-world castles – this is classic Mario in a new perspective.
Of course, you knew that already if you played the game back on the Wii U. This is yet another example of Nintendo porting their old games to their latest console where it will reach a bigger audience than before. And really, do we need another excuse to play more multiplayer Mario?
Unlike his other more cinematic 3D adventures – Super Mario Odyssey and those in the 3D All-Stars collection – Super Mario 3D World on the Switch takes everything we love from the traditional 2D games and twists the camera for a 3D view. Here, rather than rescuing Princess Peach, Mario must rescue the Sprixie Princess from Bowser’s clutches. There’s not much story though, before we’re thrust straight into an explorable over world littered with levels to complete, power-ups to collect, and secrets to uncover.
The new perspective is initially tricky to comprehend. With the camera pitched at a distance from Mario, jumping on enemies can be difficult to judge and there’s a slipperiness to his movement – now sped up slightly for this Switch version. What’s more, his move set is reduced compared to those other 3D games – there’s no triple jump or somersault here – so the feel of movement isn’t quite as satisfying.
Soon, though, you’ll be leaping through pastel coloured worlds of jiggling scenery, collecting stars and coins along the way. Though they follow an expected formula (fire, ice, haunted house, castle), the wacky levels on offer here are full of creative challenges that make considerable use of the varied power-ups. The adorable catsuit is new to this game, allowing Mario to scramble up walls and swipe at enemies, while collecting a double cherry spawns a clone to activate special switches and platforms. Best of all are the Captain Toad puzzle levels in which the cute little helmeted guy must collect stars from mini diorama levels. They’re so good, Nintendo gave him his own game.
Beyond that, Super Mario 3D World is at its best in multiplayer. Up to four players can experience the game in full on the Nintendo Switch, playing as Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad – both in local play and online. It’s certainly chaotic, but the wide open levels and multiple obstacles were made for this type of play. It adds an extra layer to what is otherwise an enjoyable but slightly predictable Mario game.
New to this release, however, is the Bowser’s Fury expansion. Available separately in the main menu, it’s a standalone game that’s far more experimental. Taking the main game’s catsuit as inspiration, Mario travels to the feline-themed Lake Lapcat that’s covered in sticky black slime and dominated by a colossal Bowser who’s, well, furious.
The setting is an intriguing mix of previous Mario games. The shimmering, tropical lake is a nod to Super Mario Sunshine, while the open world design sees Mario solving puzzles and challenges to collect Cat Shines akin to Super Mario Odyssey. Perhaps the biggest inspiration, though, is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Like that game’s blood moons, here the angry titan Bowser intermittently rears up to smother the world in darkness and wreak havoc. Mario must either survive long enough, or collect a shine to light a nearby lighthouse and fend him off.
Bowser has a nasty habit of appearing at inopportune moments, which can be frustrating. Yet his arrival is a real test of your skills and forces you to improvise. There are even secrets that can only be uncovered during his appearance, so it’s worth putting up with his tantrums. Collect enough shines and you’ll unlock a Giga Bell, turning Mario into a giant cat for a King Kong vs Godzilla-esque battle that’s as satisfying as it is visually impressive.
Again, Mario’s move set feels limited in this 3D space, but it’s put to creative use in the multitude of challenges – from coin collecting, to invisible walkways over glistening oceans, mazes of those iconic pipes, and racing across the water on the back of Plessie the sea monster. A second player can also join as Bowser Jr; his abilities are restricted but provide some appreciated assistance. Add in Bowser and the game puts a unique twist on familiar gameplay. Plus, with almost everything having cat ears in this themed setting, a Mario game has never looked so adorable.
Both the original Super Mario 3D World game and the Bowser’s Fury expansion are full of hidden collectibles – stars, stamps and cat shines – so there’s a tonne of content here, even after the core adventures are complete. Together they’re an absolute joy to play, offering the first essential Switch game of the year. One side is a solid update of Mario’s past, the other a glimpse into an exciting future.
The game is available on physical copy from Amazon here or download version from Amazon here.
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