Review | Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
We’re finally getting down to the to tail end of Wii U ports for the Nintendo Switch. While gamers everywhere are starting to experience many of these games for the first time, the Wii U owners are getting a nostalgic trip down memory lane with a few additional enhancements. The latest title to make that jump is Super Mario 3D World, the multiplayer successor to Super Mario 3D Land. Now that the game is on Switch, it comes with a handful of additions, but most notably, it also comes with a brand new game mode: Bowser’s Fury. Even if you’ve made it to Champion’s Road once before, there’s enough reasons to pick up the game again. Now with two different Mario experiences, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury offers a ton of platforming goodness.
Starting things off, we’ll first look at Super Mario 3D World. Bowser has captured the princesses of the Sprixie Kingdom, likely to use their magic for some nefarious purpose. It’s up to Mario and Luigi, as well as Princess Peach and Toad, to help save the Sprixies from Bowser’s tyranny. It’s a rather simple story, and it doesn’t exactly go as far as Super Mario Odyssey, but it gets the job done to put players on a platforming adventure. The biggest change here is that players don’t have to control Mario throughout the entire adventure. Any one of the characters can be the hero, or all four thanks to the multiplayer options.
Players will travel across multiple different regions of the Sprixie Kingdom while taking on nearly 120 levels. The magic of the game is that many of the levels have their own mechanics or gimmicks, mixing things up just enough. Levels like Shadow-Play Alley make for inventive visual gimmicks while Mount Must Dash utilizes dash panels for a Super Mario Kart themed ride. Other stages like Double Cherry Pass or Super Bell Hill put a focus on specific power-ups. On top of this, you’ll have various boss stages and encounters, train rides, and the occasional Plessie stage. Captain Toad even makes his first playable appearance in this title with his puzzling stages. It’s perhaps the most diverse Super Mario 3D adventure, and the game excels in creative level designs.
While the game offers a lot of diverse levels, it does differ quite a bit in the controls department. Unlike traditional 3D Mario titles, Super Mario 3D World makes things more like 2D Mario games. This includes adding a dash button that speeds characters up (and even moves faster in the Switch version), and giving some characters special traits like Peach’s ability to float. Interestingly enough, it also means removing staple mechanics like Mario’s triple jump. They even implement touch screen controls, though players can use pointer controls to replicate them as well when playing in TV mode. It’s great to see that even those options made the full transition to the Switch version. Super Mario 3D World really is different Mario title, and adding four players makes it even more interesting. However, being more interesting doesn’t make it amazing.
Super Mario 3D World is a fun multiplayer game, but it comes off a bit clumsy. Some stages just aren’t designed to fully cater to a four player platformer. It also has the limitation of having to keep all players on the same screen, leading to players using bubbles to catch up. This choice also makes the Bowser car boss battles a bit awkward with their pacing. Players are even encouraged to compete against each other for the high score to earn the right to wear the crown. A multiplayer platformer is already tricky to manage, so the game doesn’t really need extra help to increase the insanity. It honestly just makes one want to play alone so they can focus on completing the stage with all the collectibles.
Of course, the big draw to the game here is the new online multiplayer. Where the original Wii U release was local multiplayer only, the Switch version allows players to join online sessions for the first time. The good news: the online is pretty consistent and has very little lag with good connections. Unfortunately, that means there is bad news. Like Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition, the host player is the only one that gets progress. This means that even if you start right at the beginning in your friend’s online game, you won’t take any of the results back with you after the session ends. While I can see the reasons why it doesn’t maintain progress, if Sackboy can keep progress for all players, Nintendo should’ve put in a little extra effort to do the same for this heavily marketed feature.
Despite not being able to maintain progression in online matches, the game still offers some of the best Mario platforming out there. Players will collect green stars and a stamp in every level, adding to the challenge. It’s the green stars that make progress possible, as various levels require a certain amount to unlock. Power-ups are unique and offer a lot of fun options, including Cat Mario, which adds wall climbing and dive attacks. Multiplying with the Double Cherry is still one of the coolest mechanics in a Mario game too. Players can now take pictures during their adventure with the new Snapshot mode, using collected stamps to add to your image and personalize things.
Super Mario 3D World is a game that’s definitely worth the price of admission for newcomers, but there’s not much there for those playing a second time. That’s why Nintendo sweetened the pot for those that are double dipping. Bowser’s Fury gives players an all new adventure, using elements from the main game while also creating a unique experience. Instead of being a level based structure, this mode is a fully open area that expands as you progress. It also has a slight two player element as one player controls Mario and another can control Bowser Jr. You can also have the AI control Bowser Jr., and set his level of usefulness in the settings.
The idea of Bowser’s Fury is that at some point, Bowser gets possessed by strange black paint, making him a massive monster. Mario makes his way to Lake Lapcat and finds Bowser Jr., setting up a temporary alliance to help free Bowser. The story is surprisingly fun, as the interactions between Mario and Bowser Jr. have a certain charm we rarely see in this series. Of course, that doesn’t mean there’s a lot of exposition for it. You never truly find out the source of the black paint or how things got to this point. It’s also interesting that the denizens of Lake Lapcat are simply underwater until their islands emerge with progress. This is a Mario game, so it’s definitely over-analyzing things, so I’ll simply leave it at that.
Playing as Mario, you’ll traverse the various islands to collect power-ups and Cat Shines. These shines will help remove black paint from the world, including the various lighthouses scattered everywhere. They also have one big purpose in this mode: quelling Fury Bowser back into slumber. You see, during your entire time in Bowser’s Fury, the kaiju-sized Bowser will rest in the middle of the stage. After a few minutes pass by, a storm will rage and Bowser will awaken to rampage in his massive form. Heavy metal music plays, magma rains down from above, pieces of debris make new platforms, and Bowser will target you with his fiery breath. Just by obtaining one Cat Shine, you’ll send the beast to rest once again, even damaging him a little. Of course, this is just a temporary measure.
After obtaining a certain number of Cat Shines, Mario will have access to the Giga Bell. With this special power-up, Mario can transform into Giga Cat Mario, granting the power (and size) to go toe to toe with Fury Bowser. These battles are fun, and Bowser himself changes his patterns up occasionally to keep things interesting. It changes up quite a bit during the “final” battle with him where you’ll use Plessie to finish him off. Speaking of Plessie, Nintendo found a way to make the large dino very useful in this mode. Plessie essentially acts as your taxi to get you from island to island, and occasionally helps wreak havoc on foes. It works really well here and gives Plessie a bit more significance after a few stages in 3D World.
Mission variety in Bowser’s Fury is interesting, though it repeats quite often. While Super Mario Odyssey got creative with collecting moons in large areas, Bowser’s Fury uses only a few different missions to collect the 100 Cat Shines. This includes climbing up to the top of large structures, collecting blue coins, fighting in various arenas, and even finding lost cats for a calico mother. You’ll also have several Cat Shines behind fury blocks, stone blocks that only a fire blast from Bowser can destroy. Despite only a few different mission types, the pacing is really well done and keeps things fun. Bowser’s Fury will only take about five hours to complete to 100%, so it’s short, but sweet too. After collecting 50 Cat Shines, you can end the story, but continuing will unlock more Cat Shines to find.
I do find it interesting that Nintendo gave players Bowser Jr. as an ally here. While his assistance is useful, he’s never really necessary to a fight, nor does he offer any additional traversal options. You’ll mostly just point to question mark paintings for him to uncover and collect the power-ups within. It would’ve been cool to give players more creative gameplay, like perhaps a combined attack. Instead, Bowser Jr.’s inclusion feels like a bit of a waste, never reaching his full potential. I suppose the goal was to keep things simple for this additional adventure while still allowing co-op. It’s unfortunate that there’s no online co-op for this mode, though playing as Bowser Jr. isn’t quite as fun.
Another thing to mention is the performance. While Super Mario 3D World looks and plays great, Bowser’s Fury has some hiccups. Every so often, the frame rate would drop and hurt the experience. There’s also moments where collecting a Cat Shine or other collectible would activate a cutscene. These cutscenes wouldn’t be bad normally, but it can happen to Mario even when he’s in immediate danger. This includes being above molten lava while wall jumping, carrying cats (that turn evil when Bowser appears), and more. It’s nothing game breaking, but it’s still something to take note of.
Overall, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is still a great game. While it does have some flaws, this two-for-one package is still very worthwhile. It’s unfortunate that the online multiplayer limits progress to the host player, but it’s still fun for quick sessions. Even if the length of Bowser’s Fury is somewhat underwhelming, it’s a fun experience that makes for a cool experiment. While Super Mario 3D World doesn’t add anything too notable, it’s still the excellent game it was on the Wii U. It’s great to see the Switch as the home to so many 3D Mario platformers. Even better now that we have this Wii U gem in the mix.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10