I was one of the seemingly few people who actually had a Wii U back in the day and also owned Super Mario 3D World. It was pre-downloaded on my system, but I didn’t play it until my girlfriend at the time and I got bored one night. I didn’t know much about the game, but I remember thinking that it looked like a half-baked 3D Mario game. After playing it all night, my doubts were blown away as myself and said old girlfriend were always throwing each other off cliffs, trying to beat each other’s high score in each level, and racing to get green stars because they were worth a lot of points. It was exciting, competitive, and felt fresh.
Over six years later, when I got to play this game a second time with improved graphics and nuances to gameplay, my time with it wasn’t as enjoyable.
It’s still a fantastic game at its core, but its issues are more apparent than ever. I played the game by myself and with a friend and can tell you that playing this game with other people makes it much better. My friend and I didn’t get competitive like my girlfriend and I back in the day, but we still had fun cooperating to get all the green stars in each level.
The gameplay gets more chaotic with each new player on the screen and leads to being more thoughtful about your platforming. Thankfully, you have some new power-ups that help with this, including the catsuit.
The catsuit is a massive part of Super Mario 3D World, being heavily featured in promotional material and probably the most common power-up in the game. It allows you to swipe at enemies, glide downwards in midair, and climb up walls. It’s a fun and unique power-up, but the game relies on it a bit too much.
Collecting green power stars is how you progress in the game, as you need to have a certain amount to enter each world’s last level. Some of the green stars are hidden quite well and made me feel smart for deducing where they were, but a lot of them are just offscreen and need you to use the catsuit to climb up to.
The chase was repetitive and lacked creativity. I understand that these games are supposed to be for a younger audience, but just because someone is young doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent enough to look around a small Mario level.
Although it’s a 3D Mario game, it takes many ideas and gameplay elements from the 2D Mario games. After playing the 2D Mario series for the past twenty years, I’m just getting tired of it. While there are new power-ups and the graphics are superior, we’re getting the same worn-out ideas that have always been used. How many times are we going to go from the grass world to the desert world, so on and so forth? Give some variety to the worlds and levels you create. I don’t want to feel like I’m getting the same layout and ideas that came into fruition in Super Mario Bros 3.
The levels themselves, however, are excellent. 3D World uses a lot of new ideas but never over-uses them. Things like panels that move depending on where you stand, blocks that disappear and reappear on a timer, and the overall great use of perspective never outstay their welcome. New ideas are always thrown at the player, and it’s a massive boon to Super Mario 3D World. While the worlds’ themes are stale, the ideas within each level make them fun to play.
The bosses aren’t very creative or fun, though. New bosses like King Ka-Thunk and Hisstocrat don’t use any new ideas presented in 3D World besides the catsuit—the concept is just “how do I jump on this guy?” And, for the last time, I’m so sick of fighting Boom-Boom. His fights are never enjoyable and it feels lazy to include him—he’s not a fun boss or character. The same goes for his female counterpart, Pom-Pom.
Thankfully, no matter what you’re doing in the game, there is an excellent soundtrack to accompany you along the way. 3D World‘s soundtrack relies heavily on jazz, perfect for Mario, who is used to upbeat and rhythmic tunes. It didn’t matter if I was swiping at enemies as cat-Luigi, fighting bosses, or anywhere in between; there were multiple instances where I stopped and just listened to the music. That World Bowser theme is downright groovy.
What came as a huge surprise is that the online co-op for 3D World is honestly good from what I’ve played. Whereas games like Splatoon or Super Smash Bros Ultimate are iffy, 3D World manages to have a stable, good connection. It’s astonishing that it even needs to be mentioned, but this is a Nintendo game.
3D World is a fun game bogged down by ideas that have been redone to death over the past twenty years. The game suffers from being a 3D Mario game while taking most of its ideas and design philosophies from 2D Mario. Hiding green stars throughout the levels is fun, but many are in apparent places, and the same method is often reused to obtain them. Thankfully, each level has new ideas and pulls them off flawlessly. They never overstay and are fun to play, especially with friends. You might not have as much fun playing 3D World by yourself, but if you have good Wi-Fi and NSO, then you can play with people online without much hassle. Yes, I would recommend 3D World, but not over Super Mario Odyssey or Mario 3D All-Stars, mostly since you can play Mario Galaxy. It’s a flawed game, but don’t pass on it if you’re a Mario fan.
Bowser’s Fury is a new mode for Super Mario 3D World on the Switch that plays a lot more like a traditional 3D Mario game. It features one extra-large world that requires you to collect items called “Cat Shines.” This game’s gimmick is that Fury Bowser (a gigantic version of Bowser) awakes from his slumber every so often to antagonize Mario by raining fire down on him.
Bowser’s Fury is interesting experimentation, but its execution isn’t as flawless as full 3D Mario games. The world you get to explore is full of variety, fun set pieces, and lots of exciting platforming, but the whole experience is bogged down by one aspect: repetition.
Bowser is meant to be this constant threat that looms over you as you go about collecting Cat Shines, and it took all of two times for it to annoy me. You can wait it out and hope for him to go away, or you can go and collect the “Giga Bell” and initiate a boss fight where you turn in the Dragon Ball Z equivalent of Cat Mario. It’s the same boss fight as every other Mario game in existence; jump on Bowser when he flips over, or you can throw something at him.
I didn’t want to waste time running over to grab the Giga Bell and fight him, so I just kind of stayed put, and eventually, he left. There is absolutely no incentive to fight him at all, and he isn’t intimidating because you can bank multiple powers up and use them whenever some of his fire manages to hit you.
The game also gives you no clue on why any of this is happening. Mario games are usually light on story, but the story here is non-existent. Mario falls through a portal and lands in a world where Bowser is enormous and super pissed, and Bowser Jr. asks you to help turn him back to normal. There’s black gunk everywhere, which Bowser also sleeps in when he’s not blowing fireballs at you, and there’s no explanation for that either. You don’t need super basic stories to be family-friendly, but this game has no story at all and wants you to not even think about that.
Another repetitive thing is the Cat Shines, which all have the same 5 or 6 objectives per section of the island. As you complete each section, more of the map opens up, and you’ll have to go collect more Cat Shines, a very classic Mario formula. But the formula is much more akin to Super Mario Sunshine than something creative as Super Mario Odyssey.
These objectives are things like fighting a couple of enemies at once, finding pieces of Cat Shards to make a Cat Shine, using Bowser’s flames to break certain blocks. Some require you to find a key somewhere in the level and bring it back to the start to unlock a cage or just getting to the end of each level and getting the Cat Shine just sitting there. With almost no variation in Cat Shines, I found myself getting bored of what I was supposed to be accomplishing.
The game has two saving graces, though: the level design and the fact that you can bank power-ups. Each section of the map takes elements from Super Mario 3D World, like the spinning gates that you can climb, giant shoes that you can use to skate, and platforms that move depending on where you stand on them. It’s 3D World in an actual 3D Mario game, and it’s fantastic. There wasn’t a single part of the big world that I didn’t like platforming and just generally messing around in.
Plessie, Mario’s version of the Loch Ness Monster, heightens the level design by making it easy to get from one end of the world to another since there is a ton of water in this game. You never have to do any swimming because Plessie always pops up in the water no matter where you are. It’s such a simple thing that made traversal much less of a hassle.
Being able to store power-ups and choose when to use them at a specific time is something I hope they continue to do in all future Mario games. Yes, it led to me never really dying, but Mario games aren’t supposed to be super difficult. If I was walking up to a section with lots of enemies, I could use the boomerang or fire flower and quickly get rid of them.
If I needed to climb something, I’d pull out the cat suit. And if there was a tight platforming section, the Tanooki suit was a blessing. It doesn’t take a genius to know what power-up to use in a particular situation, but I got that little boost of serotonin when I used a power-up at the right time and found a Cat Shine because of it. Plus, traditional Mario power-ups in a 3D Mario game are just pure fun since many 3D Mario games don’t use power-ups in general.
I was much more disappointed in Bowser’s Fury than I expected to be. I thought I would get the polished 3D Mario game that every previous title is known for, but instead, I played an experimental, repetitive, and sometimes dull game that relies too heavily on one gimmick, that being Bowser. There isn’t even an attempt at a story, and it’s pretty glaring.
The platforming is easily the best part of the game, and having a big world to explore means the pace never really breaks. The ideas brought over from 3D World work even better in Bowser’s Fury, and being able to choose from multiple power-ups at the press of a button led to me thinking more about the situation at hand and how to tackle it. If there were a purpose to fighting Bowser, then the game would be a lot more fun, but I hope they don’t bring back this concept in the future.
The overall package is saved by the base 3D World game still being fun to play, especially with friends. I don’t recommend buying this game just to play Bowser’s Fury since you can 100% the game in under five hours, and it isn’t as solid of an experience as I expected from a Mario game. If you’ve never played Super Mario 3D World, then this is a great game to fill a weekend or even play online with strangers— but there are plenty of better Mario experiences on the Switch, though.