It’s been over 35 years since Mario (and Luigi) first graced television sets for Nintendo’s first home console in Super Mario Bros., and everyone’s favorite plumber is still going strong. With the Switch being the wild success it is, celebrating the icon’s anniversary was very much a forgone conclusion, and Super Mario 3D All-Stars is definitely the biggest part of the celebration.
What Is It?
Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a compilation that includes Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy on one little Switch cartridge all for the sake of celebrating Mario’s 35th anniversary.
Each game in that this trio is filled with numerous nostalgic memories from Super Mario fans of all ages, and the fact that each game comes from three separate generations spanning 11 years adds to its charm.
That said, the package isn’t without its controversy.
The existence of this compilation has been long rumored and speculated and it was widely assumed that each game in the package would be a full remaster of the games using the Super Mario Odyssey engine, but that was not the case. Instead, the visuals received a bit of an upscale while the control scheme of each game had been adjusted to better fit the Switch’s experience.
In the interest of fairness, this review will primarily address how each game holds up in 2020 or whether it’s just a nostalgia trip for the money. I won’t hold the game hostage for what it could’ve been–and considering how huge a fan I am of Mario, I really wanted to do that, especially when looking back at the release of the original Super Mario All-Stars in 1999. That game actually remastered the original NES Super Mario Bros. games from the ground up to show what the Super Nintendo was truly capable of. This isn’t the case with the 3D entries, so you have to wonder what kind of effort was really put into this.
Why Should I Care?
While everyone is familiar with Super Mario, what people may not realize or appreciate is the fact that every single one of these releases were in a class of their own during the times they came out.
Super Mario 64 simply blew people away when it came out on the Nintendo 64 in 1997, because 3D worlds had not yet been fully realized on a home console prior to its release. It truly was revolutionary. Super Mario Sunshine‘s release on the GameCube didn’t wow too many critics (myself included), but it was a good game nonetheless, and part of the reason it underwhelmed was because we’re used to Mario blowing everyone away, and that’s exactly what Super Mario Galaxy did–it’s one of the greatest 3D platformers of all-time, arguably surpassing Super Mario 64, and it led to an even better sequel with Super Mario Galaxy 2… which unfortunately isn’t a part of the package, but I digress. Let’s talk about how each game plays now.
Super Mario 64 received a remake during the DS launch and it was also made available on the Wii Shop Channel, so if you’ve been a Nintendo fan since before the Switch, you definitely had a shot at playing Super Mario 64.
Mario 64 on this compilation is really more of an enhanced port. You see that from the get-go when you first boot the game up. All of the game’s visual textures are more crisp, and it really makes the game look decent in HD even though it’s displayed in 4:3.
As far as how it plays, it’s about as “slippery” as it’s always been. Mario runs fast and his arsenal of jumps is awesome, but he’ll often be out of control if you go into jumps with too much momentum, as it’s easy to overshoot your jump or fall off platforms as soon as you land. Make no mistake about it, as the first fully realized 3D video game, it was also one of the first games where the camera was an issue. Back then, it was adjusted using the C-Buttons, and today you use the right stick. So if you’re used to holding on the right stick to put the camera at its most optimal angle for your platforming, you’ll actually have to flick it a few times, and oftentimes you won’t have best angle. To put it plainly, the camera is awful, and it will lead you to certain death. This makes flying in the game harder than ever, but luckily there aren’t too many sequences in the game that require flight.
Whether or not you’ve played Mario 64, all this stuff is bearable and easily relearned, and part of the charm with this package is seeing how things improved over the years.
Super Mario Sunshine may not be the most critically acclaimed game of this compilation, but it wasn’t bad either. It was just different and 18 years ago, people were hoping they’d get another Super Mario 64, and Sunshine just wasn’t it. Sunshine‘s entry into 3D All-Stars also marks the first time the game has ever been available on a platform other than the GameCube, so there are definitely a lot of eager fans ready to play it.
Unlike Mario 64 in this compilation, Sunshine is playable in widescreen, and the game more than holds up in HD. The water and the lighting in the game were among Sunshine‘s best things going for it, and the game still looks good.
On the other hand, the controls are a lot worse than I remember. It stems from the fact that the Switch doesn’t have analog shoulder buttons like the GameCube did. In the original version, the amount of pressure you put on the R button determined how much water you’d squirt out of FLUDD, which also determined whether you could run and squirt at the same time. Now, the ZR button allows you to run and gun, while the R button allows you to stand in place and shoot your water while using the left stick to aim. Switching between gun and hover modes with FLUDD is also done with the X button, which is the same on GameCube but if you remember the GameCube’s button layout, the X button is located where the A button is on both the Pro Controller and Joy-Cons. This was hard to re-learn, and to make matters worse, if you decide you don’t want to deal with it and plug in a GameCube controller, you’re still stuck with these new controls and you can’t change anything about them, which was definitely a bizarre choice by Nintendo, and I hope that’s patched in somehow.
If you’ve never played Sunshine before and you’re coming into it after playing the 3D All-Stars version of Mario 64, it could be difficult to unlearn and relearn based on habits you picked up from the previous game. Aside from the difference in control scheme, Mario Sunshine doesn’t have a long jump either–instead, he covers more ground hovering around with the help of FLUDD, which was one of my main gripes when I reviewed the original game 18 years ago. It’s not really a platformer. It’s more of a “floater,” and I hated that. The fact that Sunshine doesn’t support inverted controls when Mario 64 did further makes things confusing.
Luckily, Mario Sunshine‘s camera was a huge improvement over the one in Mario 64, and a lot of the gripes people had about Mario 64 were addressed quite well in Sunshine. The addition of FLUDD, and in some cases Yoshi, just made it so different that it just seemed gimmicky.
Super Mario Galaxy came out in 2007 for a console that literally defined different, but outstanding level design and intuitive controls (for the most part) made the game an instant classic and an epic return to form for Nintendo’s mascot.
It’s hard to believe that Galaxy was released 13 years ago because almost everything about the game holds up. The Wii U’s backward compatibility with Wii games still makes it fairly accessible, and the simple control scheme utilizing the Wii Remote and Nunchuck were easy to pick up and master, and the fact that using Mario felt so crisp was one of many reasons it’s still highly regarded today.
This was the first time I’ve played Galaxy since its original release, and it definitely feels like a fresh experience on the Switch whether you’re playing in handheld mode or while docked using a Pro Controller. The game feels close to as crisp as Super Mario 3D World (which will be ported to the Switch early next year) and Super Mario Odyssey were, and that’s very high praise. If you’re wondering about how the Switch handles picking up star bits using motion controls, on handheld mode, you can just touch the star bits on the touch screen, or in docked mode, you can still aim your Pro Controller at the bits to pick them up. Mario’s spin move is still done by shaking your controller, but it’s also been remapped to the Y button and it feels absolutely fine.
Speaking of feeling absolutely fine, that’s what all these games still are in 2020. Mario 64 is a good game bogged down by its bad camera. There will be times that you’ll die because of it. FLUDD in Sunshine makes it feel vastly different, and there’ll be awesome platforming segments where you won’t have the machine, and those are awesome. Galaxy aged the best out of them all, and it’s arguably better than it ever was. If there was one common complaint with every game, it’s the existence of lives. Dying is one thing, but having a Game Over that forces you back to the game’s title screen these days is just a waste of time. I recognize that this is a systemic issue in pretty much every Super Mario game, but maybe it’s time Nintendo looks at that.
While people that get the game are free to start with whichever adventure they please, it’s a really cool experience playing the game in order so you can see how Nintendo constantly reiterated and reinvented on the foundation Super Mario 64 presented. Experiencing the evolution first hand as you play each title is quite the experience. That said, don’t feel like you have to 100% anything. Obviously, the Switch has no Achievements or Trophy system, but the game doesn’t give you anything for finishing everything. So if you’re hearing rumors that beating them all will unlock you Super Mario Galaxy 2, stop them.
In addition to the three games, you also have access to the game’s original soundtracks and like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate before it, if you just want to listen to tunes, there’s a function that’ll allow you to listen to them with headphones even with your Switch on Sleep Mode. It’s a nifty feature, but I don’t imagine a whole lot of people will do this considering you can just go on YouTube to listen to all these songs if you really wanted to.
Be that as it may, a bonus is a bonus, but I wish it had more. Super Mario 3D All-Stars is really just a compilation of these three titles made to be playable on Switch. It’s straightforward, and while I appreciate that, I’d also appreciate the package even more if it came with bonuses like original concept art, developer interviews, and other Easter eggs. The Mega Man Legacy Collection and Street Fighter Anniversary Collection that Capcom put together are fantastic examples of really celebrating the history without touching the actual games, and I’m sure Nintendo fans would’ve appreciated the package more if the developers put some more value into it.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Compilation pieces like these really bank on nostalgia, and Nintendo fans that don’t care about nostalgia are rare. It’s no secret that Super Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy are three of the very best in the genre, but $60 is a steep price to pay for games that are 24, 18, and 13 years old respectively–granted, this is also the first time Sunshine was made available for a platform outside of the GameCube, but it’s also the least impressive of the lineup.
The problem is the fact that while $60 is a lot, I can’t tell you to wait either–or at least not for too long. As stated earlier, the game will only be available until the end of March 2021. Nobody knows if Nintendo has any further plans to release these again, even separately, and we also have to consider the fact that next year is the 35th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda, and I don’t see a situation where Nintendo purposely puts Mario in the way.
That said, is it a cash grab? Of course it is. You can tell with the (lack of) effort put in, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if any of these titles weren’t available after March–it would make the 35th anniversary even more special. Nintendo isn’t above leaving money on the table.
If you’ve never played any of these Mario games, go ahead and take the plunge, but if you’re somebody looking for more, consider voting with your wallet and make Nintendo realize devoted fans deserve more than this. There are other compilation packs of great games with more effort put in, and they’re not $60 either.