Let’s face it – 2021 hasn’t exactly been the best so far.
From its oppressive grey skies to seemingly never-ending lockdowns, this is a time where joy’s been hard to come by. Thank Koopa for Nintendo then. Much like last year’s perfectly-timed Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Nintendo has once again attempted to deliver a colourful care package when we all need it most.
I am of course talking about Super Mario 3D World on Switch. Originally released on the ill-fated Wii U in the before times of 2013, Super Mario 3D World showed Ninty’s moustachioed-mascot in something of a transitional period. Much like the Wii U itself, Mario’s first 3D multiplayer outing sought to bridge the gap between casual and hardcore, all while its creators adapted to the challenges of HD game development. Sadly, we all know how well that turned out. Yet despite the piddling performance of the fisher price-looking Wii U, Super Mario 3D World was a stupendously brilliant platformer.
For this writer, the Wii U represented a time where I would regularly have mates around, crack open a few beers and navigate through my own awkward transitionary period - my early twenties. In other words, Nintendo’s misunderstood box brought people together. Between multiplayer mainstays Nintendoland, Rayman Legends and 3D World, the Wii U gave my friendship group countless hours of joy – and now, eight years later, this vibrant-looking platformer has been revived in a bid to unite players once again.
Here We Go (Again)
Multiplayer Madness In The Mushroom Kingdom
The question is, now that 3D World finds itself on a platform inundated with great games, does it still hold up well enough to achieve its mission? In the words of the plucky plumber himself ‘OH YEAH!'
Much to 29-year-old me’s delight, Super Mario 3D World is still a triumph almost a decade on. From its grin-inducing, toy-like aesthetic to its continuously inventive level design, 3D World is not only Nintendo’s greatest multiplayer platformer but one of the genre greats. Still, 3D World on Switch isn’t all an exercise in nostalgia.
The double-stalked cherry power up on top is that it also comes packaged with all new expansion Bowser’s Fury - Nintendo’s most experimental Mario outing to date. This six-hour romp is weird, wonderful and wildly inventive - taking 3D World’s obsession with cats to furry-baiting new levels.
Before we give you the lowdown on Bowser’s Fury though, let’s look at what’s changed in 3D World. In a time where local multiplayer is all but redundant, Nintendo has wisely brought this once offline classic online – allowing up to four mates across the globe to fight over virtual cat onesies.
Alongside the welcome networking upgrade, movement speed has also been massively dialled up for this remaster, transforming Mario’s run from what once felt like a jog into a Usain Bolt worthy sprint. This new-found sense of speed feels like a perfect fit for 3D World, giving an already wonderful game a pleasingly punchy pace.
Otherwise, the original’s already charming figurine-esque visuals have been given a slight resolution bump, switching from the fixed 720p of the Wii U original to a dynamic resolution when docked – shifting between 720p and 1080p. If you’re playing in handheld mode, however, you’ll experience 3D World in that familiar-feeling 720p resolution.
TLDR? Not a lot has changed in 3D World’s transition to Switch, but when the original is this good, it’s hard to complain.
Feel The Fury
Giant Cat Mario For Smash?
Given how conservative 3D World’s port is, it’s surprising to see Nintendo go in the complete opposite direction with Bowser’s Fury. Where the plucky plumber’s outings can often be fairly predictable, this Mario expansion is downright bizarre.
Doing away with the multiplayer element of 3D World almost entirely (aside from a rather redundant companion mode) Bowser’s Fury instead feels like what would happen if fan modders decided to mash together Breath Of The Wild and Mario Sunshine.
Abandoning 3D World’s 3D side-scrolling for a tower-filled hub world, this sandbox-style adventure sees Mario teaming up with Bowser JR in order to stop a corrupted Giga Bowser from terrifying a tropical paradise. Bringing back 3D World OG ( and the secret best Mario character) Plessy the Plesiosaur, the inflatable-looking dinosaur serves as your very own derpy Epona, allowing you to ride the 'squishysaurus' from island to island as you unlock purge towers from Bowser’s corrupting influence.
Bowser As A Kaiju Feels Ripped Out Of Our Dreams
Swapping the classic Mario stars for Shines, and even equipping companion Bowser JR with a familiar-looking paintbrush, this experiment from Nintendo’s younger team clearly sees them paying homage to Sunshine while adding more than enough new twists of their own.
Which brings us to Bowser’s Fury’s killer feature – it’s gargantuan, Godzilla-esque showdowns. Tasked with cleansing the island of the mysterious goo that has somehow turned Bowser into an even bigger bully, as Mario goes about his adventure, the sun-filled paradise will sporadically turn to darkness, with towering tar-soaked Giga Bowser emerging from the ocean to terrorise a pint-sized Mario.
It’s a cool and unpredictable mechanic that is used to great effect throughout, with certain sections of each island only accessible after Giga Bowser has laid waste to them – forcing players to take a mental note of these and lure chonky Bowser towards them. If having the pocket-size plumber face off against a kaiju Bowser sounds a tad unfair, don’t worry – because Mario soon gets his chance to fight back.
Once you’ve collected the required number of shines (stars, in normal money) players gain access to a Giga cat bell, transforming Mario into what can only really be described as a feline version of Dragonball’s Super Saiyan great apes. Suddenly the cleverly designed mazes of walls and towers you were just jumping across become tiny little shields for the now-massive cat Mario, allowing players to avoid taking the brunt of Bowser’s many projectiles.
It’s all utterly ridiculous, but a ton of fun. While purists might grumble that this is far from your typical Mario experience, Bowser’s Fury is undoubtedly all the better for the madness. It’s a DLC that remains compelling and refreshingly inventive throughout its six-hour duration- with the only real downside being the lack of true co-op.
While a second player can float around dealing damage to enemies as Bowser JR, they merely shadow Mario, unable to properly participate in any of the platforming. It’s an odd omission given 3D World’s multiplayer mission statement, but when you’re essentially getting a fun expansion for free with a lengthy multiplayer masterpiece - it’s hard to complain.
Mario’s greatest multiplayer outing is back – and the timing couldn’t be better. Eight years on, 3D World is still an utter joy, combining the kind of inventive level design that Mario 64 and Galaxy fans love with the cutesy, accessible charm of the NMSBU games.
Combine that with a bonus six-hour expansion that takes the crown of being the weirdest Mario outing to date and there’s undoubtedly enough here to put a smile on your face.
Review copy provided by the publisherReviewed on Nintendo Switch