Can you believe it’s been more than seven years since Super Mario 3D World was released on the Wii U? No, neither can I! Super Mario 3D World was itself released as a sequel to Super Mario 3D Land on the Nintendo 3DS. Nintendo have now rereleased the Wii U classic and packaged it with a brand new and original chapter called Bowser’s Fury. I actually never played Super Mario 3D World the first time around but I clearly remember the excitement around the release. 2D Mario meets 3D Mario… Will this concept work? Well the answer is yes, yes it does.

Gameplay

You play as this guy called Mario who is an Italian plumber in red and blue overalls, and he basically likes jumping and going down pipes… Haha I’m kidding, you guys know the score! Yes, Super Mario 3D World is as Mario as it comes – it has all the tropes of the 2D games (tricky platforming, intelligently put-together stages, an awesome soundtrack) but packed into a 3D adventure. The most incredible part of Super Mario 3D World, and all other Mario games of course, is how it’s full to the brim with really fun level concepts. Whether the concept is based upon cloning your character so there are multiple versions of you scurrying around, or whether it’s based upon your character trapezing through a level; no two stages feel the same and there is hardly any repetition. I just found it astounding how imaginative the developers are; the brainstorming sessions during development must be fun.

Speaking of characters – in a throwback to Super Mario Bros 2 on NES, you can choose to play through each stage as either Mario, Luigi, Toad or Princess Peach, each of whom have slightly different traits and pros/cons. Mario’s the all-rounder but Peach can jump further, Luigi can jump higher, etc, etc. There are all of the usual Mario power-ups including fire flower and tanooki suit, but the main focus is on the newly introduced Cat Mario. By collecting a bell item, your character squeezes into a cat costume and as a result, can clamber up pretty much any vertical surface (before running out of stamina and falling) which really comes in handy. Cat Mario is incredibly cute as well!

One significant improvement from the Wii U version is the game’s pace. The original was criticised for being too slow and sluggish at times, but that is not a problem here. The game is paced really nicely and you can speed through stages with ease if you dare. Others like me will choose to take their time (level timer permitting) and tread carefully while seeking out all the little secrets.

There are three green stars and a stamp collectible to be found in each stage; some are well-hidden and some are in plain sight. The stamps were originally used for Miiverse posts in the Wii U version, but here they act as collectibles to fill up a nice little stamp album. Also for the completionists among us, you are incentivised to find creative ways to land on top of the flagpole at the end of each stage which permanently turns the flag golden thereafter.

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So that’s the core game – so what about Bowser’s Fury? This was the element that I was most excited about because it was brand new and I approached it with no prior knowledge or preconceptions. It certainly does not disappoint. I really like the way the developers included some original game content in a rerelease (the Zelda team - take note!). Bowser’s Fury is a blast – it’s more akin to Super Mario Odyssey in gameplay i.e. more open-world. Cats feature heavily here as well so if you enjoyed Cat Mario, you’ll enjoy this. Just like its counterpart Super Mario 3D World, Bowser’s Fury is packed full of secrets and things to discover. It’s effectively ‘just’ an add-on but it could actually be a standalone game in itself as there’s a good few hours of gameplay to be spent if you want to properly finish it.

World / Level Design

As with most of the 2D Mario games since Super Mario Bros 3, there is a world map that you can use to move between stages. But unlike previous games, you can deviate away from the set-path and the world map is a little stage in itself, kind of like Princess Peach’s Castle in Super Mario 64 (albeit a lot more basic). There are also some standalone Captain Toad stages which you can complete to get additional stars. I found these a treat - they’re basically a small isometric box puzzle in which you must work out how to get Captain Toad from A to B while collecting stars on the way. If you’ve played the standalone Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, you’d know what to expect.

In each world, there’s the standard castle boss stage at the end as well as mini-bosses halfway through. One thing I have always found disappointing with Mario games is how easy boss fights are (apart from maybe the much later bosses) and it’s the same with Super Mario 3D World sadly. I would also have liked to see the return of the secret exits and alternative world map paths from Super Mario World, but alas they do not feature.

Bowser's Fury on the other hand is one massive interconnected world (with no individual sub-stages) which is a new concept to the Mario series. It works nicely as there are a number of islands and on each one, you can collect Cat Shines which you must then collect enough of to access the last boss stage. The world fits together really well and is easy to navigate but still has that ‘Which way do I go?’ feel of any good open-world game; you almost don’t know where to start, which I love.

Story / Personality

It’s fairly standard Mario fare; you know, pesky old Bowser up to his old tricks again! Super Mario 3D World is not set in the usual Mushroom Kingdom, but the Sprixie Kingdom which is inhabited by these little creatures called Sprixies (obviously). Bowser has kidnapped a load of the Sprixie Princesses and the team of Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess Peach are drafted in to help save them all. The story is cute and the writing is as humorous as you’d expect with any Nintendo game. It just drips with that trademark Nintendo charm which strikes the perfect balance between being cutesy and engaging.

Bowser’s Fury is set in a place called Lake Lapcat (see previous reference to cats featuring heavily). Bowser is in ‘Fury’ mode (hence the title) which is basically a huge and even-more-angrier than usual version of Bowser. It makes for an exciting and large-scale set piece for the final showdown that I really enjoyed. You also team up with Bowser Jr to fight back against his old man, just as you did recently in Paper Mario The Origami King. Bowser Jr is one of the most underrated characters for me in the Mario universe so I was really pleased to see him featuring prominently again here.

Graphics / Sound Design

Super Mario 3D World is as colourful and as pleasing on the eye as any other Mario game, as is Bowser’s Fury. The game runs smoothly and the aforementioned extra bit of pace in the gameplay thankfully doesn’t lead to any performance issues. In a world of ultra-realistic graphics in all of the big releases these days, Mario still stands up against them despite featuring comparatively simplistic graphics. For me, it’s all in the execution and how you utilise the art style, and Nintendo have nailed it again.

The soundtrack is a highlight – it features all the Mario classics plus some additional ones thrown in for good measure, all as catchy as the last. In both Super Mario 3D World and Bowser’s Fury, there’s an upbeat, jazzy theme that makes the gameplay pop, but it’s nicely adaptable between some of the more cheery stages and also some of the darker ones like Boo Mansion. It was nice to hear some of the sound effects from Odyssey featuring prominently here too. So, for those of you like me who didn’t play the original Super Mario 3D World, it will not feel that the sound quality has taken a step backward.

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Final Score: 90%

Oh Mario, how I love thee. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is a wholesome and pitch perfect video game which provides great value for money given the amount of content that is crammed inside of it. Great for seasoned Mario players, newcomers, kids, adults, whatever. Whomever you are and whatever you enjoy doing in your spare time, you must play this game. Everywhere you look, there’s tight gameplay, Nintendo charm and the addition of Bowser’s Fury transforms this from just another Mario game into a must-play experience. Here’s to another 35 years of Super Mario games.

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