When I originally reviewed Super Mario 3D World for Wii U just over seven years ago, I admitted I enjoyed it but seemed a bit down on the whole affair. For reasons I can’t fathom today, I believed that Super Mario 3D World was a lesser Mario game for some reason. Perhaps it was the post-Super Mario Galaxy high or the notion Nintendo was planning something equally stunning as a follow-up that soured me on 3D World.
Whatever the case, with hindsight being 20/20, I can fully own up to having had a bad take. Simply put, Super Mario 3D World is the absolute pinnacle of platforming game design. Bowser’s Fury, the bonus, open-world 3D Mario is equally well-crafted whilst filling a different niche.
Together, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is a showcase of the game design mastery which has made Nintendo the best in the business.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury Review
Super Mario 3D World was released as a sequel to Super Mario 3D Land on 3DS and features the same 3D/isometric design. Levels in 3D World are short and focused and like spin-off, Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, look and feel like a playable diorama. The restriction of camera angles coupled with pared-down, simpler gameplay has allowed Nintendo to hone in on what makes Mario games so good. The simplicity of each level can’t be overstated, though later levels do become more complex, and it’s this simplicity that makes the game so damn good.
By focusing on one or two mechanics per level, Nintendo is able to really hone in on them, which makes them work best and how to utilise each to deliver the best possible experience. Take the very first level in the game for example. Acting as a quasi-tutorial, Super Bell Hill introduces players to the Bell and Mega Mushroom power-ups and creates short, satisfying sequences to take both for a spin. This level also, very early, introduces the clear warp pipes which are a staple of many levels.
As players progress, more mechanics are gradually added, combined and refined and while the complexity ramps up, the core simplicity of Super Mario 3D World remains intact.
As a re-release on Switch, not much has changed besides the addition of an online multiplayer mode. Though, multiplayer is still a bit of a dog’s breakfast and controlling the camera with four-players is still a nightmare. Thankfully, if you team up with players of a similar skill level and you all genuinely attempt to get through the level, there’s a good time to be had. Personally, I like my Mario to be a solo experience but if you want multiplayer you’ve got it.
Visually, Super Mario 3D World has benefitted from being re-released on Switch but it’s showing its age. It’s very pretty, suitably cartoony and brightly coloured but being seven years old, blurry textures, blocky geometry and some nasty aliasing can’t be avoided. Unsurprisingly, Super Mario 3D World looks great in handheld mode where some of these issues are less obvious.
Handheld mode isn’t just a boon for the visuals either. Super Mario 3D World’s foundations lie with a handheld game so it’s always felt smaller in scale. While certainly great to play on the TV, levels have the brevity and speed of something designed to be played on the move. Like how mobile games excel at filling in gaps in your day, Super Mario 3D World does the same. You can easily knock out a couple of levels on your commute and not worry about forgetting where you were when you return.
Despite being released in 2013, Super Mario 3D World feels more contemporary in 2021 than ever. And if Nintendo had released it on its own, it would have been worth picking up. The fact it comes bundled with a brand-new Mario adventure is unbelievably good value. Especially as Bowser’s Fury is spectacular.
Bowser’s Fury differs from 3D World in that it’s fully 3D, with full camera control, and features a persistent open world rather than a series of self-contained levels. However, it’s been designed with the same philosophy that served 3D World so well. It’s simple and tightly focused.
Set on Lapcat Lake, Mario and Bowser Jr. have joined forces to return Bowser to normal after he’s become afflicted with Fury. What this means is Bowser is now enormous (think Giga Bowser from Smash Bros) and very angry. His presence has spilt black sludge all over the lake which cuts off access to certain areas and damages anyone who touches it. Lighthouses spread across the lake offer some respite from the sludge and can be powered up by collecting Cat Shines. Each lighthouse has five Cat Shines to collect and each of them, like 3D World’s levels, are short affairs that focus on one or two mechanics.
While the open world of Bowser’s Fury allows players to explore at will, the meat of the gameplay is short, sharp and focused. Players will be catching rabbits, collecting five Cat Coins, racing against the clock, defeating enemies and more. There’s not any overly difficult objectives in Bowser’s Fury because the point is for players to succeed quickly and repeatedly.
Again, by anchoring Bowser’s Fury in this way, Nintendo has been able to create a huge number of varied and enjoyable objectives in the same way it built 3D World. It also helps that Bowser’s Fury borrows Mario’s moveset, movement and power-ups from 3D World and makes switching between the two titles hassle-free.
Where 3D World’s visuals have dated, Bowser’s Fury looks fresh and every bit as good (if not better) than Mario Odyssey. Nintendo has always been best at squeezing every drop of power out of its consoles and this release is no exception. Lapcat Lake is a sight to behold, especially as it’s mostly water. The world is bright, colourful and very cheery for having been attacked by a cranky Koopa King.
Lapcat Lake is also heavily cat-themed. Like I wrote in my preview, everything that can be a cat is a cat. Seagulls, trees, flowers, Plessie, Goombas and anything else you come across. It’s so weird but also incredibly cute and adorable. It’s like Nintendo added the Bell and Cat Mario and just decided to go ham on the felines.
Bowser’s Fury isn’t quite a full-length game on its own but it’s close. Nintendo probably could have gotten away with releasing it as a standalone title for a discount price. The fact it’s bundled with 3D World is just insanely good value. Both games are brilliantly designed and endlessly enjoyable and having them together in one package is too good to pass up.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is incredibly good value and a must-have for any Switch owner.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury was reviewed on Switch using a digital code provided by Nintendo.