The “Wii U Evacuation Plan,” what we call Nintendo’s mass exodus of the Wii U by porting titles to the Switch, seems to finally be coming to a close with the recent release of Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, and all I can say is I wish Switch owners who never played the game got it sooner because it’s still the amazing experience it was years ago.
What Is It?
Originally released on the Wii U in 2013, Super Mario 3D World was hands down one of the best games on the platform. We liked it so much when it came out that it received our Game of the Year award, edging out the original release of The Last of Us. The game now being on the Switch gives it a new lease on life, and it’s well deserving of the praise it’ll receive as it’s just a fantastic title with all sorts of value.
Also packed in is Bowser’s Fury, a more open world take on Super Mario 3D World using the game’s defining qualities to make it an interesting standalone experience and could give us a taste of what we can probably expect with a future Mario title.
Why Should I Care?
If you’re unfamiliar with Super Mario 3D World, it’s more or less a take on what New Super Mario Bros. would be with some of Super Mario 64‘s conventions. It doesn’t have the vast open world environments that Super Mario Odyssey has, but it features masterful level design within contained 3D worlds that each have their own gimmicks and challenges.
Similar to New Super Mario Bros. U, what really sets Super Mario 3D World apart is how fun it is to play with other people cooperatively, and the Switch version of the game allows you to do that online pretty seamlessly. This was literally my only complaint with the original release–it didn’t have online, and nearly a decade later, it’s more or less been perfected except for one significant detail.
As stated, there’s all sorts of enjoyment to be had when playing the game with friends. Exploring every nook and cranny that each level has to offer is essential, because you’ll often be rewarded with hard-to-find items, such as the three green stars and a stamp (used for photo mode) in virtually every level. In the Wii U version of the game, when players explored separate parts of the level, the camera would pan out pretty far to make sure everybody was visible on the screen. In this version, the camera will only pan out a little bit. If you venture too far off from your friends, you’ll be put in a bubble and will be forced to float where the other player is. You’re essentially dead in this state until you press the B button to get back to the field of play, so if you’re floating around and your friends die, you’ll have to start over and that just sucks in situations where you didn’t actually die. To make matters worse, the game doesn’t actually define who the head player is. It’s not always Player 1, and it’s not always the crowned player, so when venturing away from your partner is necessary, it’s best to actually communicate that and if you’re playing online, we all know how difficult Nintendo made voice chat for the Switch.
That annoyance aside, Super Mario 3D World is still fun, and if you’ve never played it and want to get a little more nitty gritty with the details, I’d like to once again point you towards my review of the original Wii U release.
Adding value to this package is the addition of Bowser’s Fury–it’s another game entirely, and you can play it from the get-go. You don’t have to unlock it or anything. In fact, it’s pretty weird that Nintendo didn’t give players the option of buying it separately, but Nintendo’s gonna Nintendo.
Among the different things Bowser’s Fury does is it takes away 3D World‘s forced perspective and replaces it with a more open world environment, it takes out the outdated concept of “lives,” and it provides you with the ability to stockpile your power-ups for the journey. So if you find two cat bells, you can stock those two cat bells. If you find a fire flower, you can equip that and put the cat bells in your bag. Again, there are no lives, so it’s just nice quality of life.
The game follows Mario in a strange world as he helps Bowser Jr. figure out what’s wrong with his dad. Every few minutes, he comes out out of goop-covered water 10 times his normal size and terrorizes the world with his terrifying, fire-breathing nature. This causes the world to go completely dark and more dangerous, and for some reason or another causes new platforms to appear which makes the actual platforming segments more straightforward and certain areas more easily accessible.
Unlike in 3D World, progression isn’t about finding flagpoles to end a level. It’s all about finding Cat Shines, not unlike the stars or shines found in other flagship 3D Mario games. Gathering enough Cat Shines allows you to use a giant bell to transform Mario into a giant cat that can take Bowser on. Every time you defeat Bowser, you clear the water of some of its goop and open up more areas and repeat the process, albeit with more difficult challenges along the way. It’s interesting stuff, but it’s also easy to feel fatigued by the game’s core loop.
To go along with the multiplayer hijinks of 3D World, Bowser’s Fury can be played cooperatively with Player 2 taking control of Bowser Jr., but as limiting as the camera was in 3D World, it’s even more troubling in Bowser’s Fury because Bowser Jr. won’t be put in a bubble if he gets off screen. He just gets lost and the rubber banding takes forever. If you play 3D World in couch co-op mode, the sensation will be even weirder when playing Bowser’s Fury. The lack of the forced perspective even started to personally make me feel sick when playing Bowser’s Fury after playing 3D World for a long period of time.
You’re likely to even have a harder time with Bowser’s Fury if you didn’t come directly from 3D World because it adapts those same controls. You can’t come into Bowser’s Fury thinking the game will play like Super Mario Odyssey–the mechanics are just different, and that’s really what Bowser’s Fury banks on. It’s just different.
On its own, Bowser’s Fury can definitely be considered an isolated experience as well as a full game, but I couldn’t help but feel like they were just a bunch of weird ideas put together. Unlike virtually every Mario game before it, while Bowser’s Fury has its fun moments, it doesn’t quite have the same feel. It’s probably because the game takes place on one huge world where there isn’t much differentiation, and the game tries to throw so much cat at you that it’s easy to get tired of it. Still, the urgency you have when playing the game because of how constantly Bowser throws his fury at you is a unique experience, and the ability to switch to the different power-ups you have on the fly is really an interesting concept for whatever the next release ends up being.
That’s probably where it feels the most weird. Bowser’s Fury just feels like a bunch of ideas to build a game that had no clear sense of direction, and it makes the entire experience feel secondary to Super Mario 3D World when it probably shouldn’t be.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Super Mario 3D World is about as close to perfect as you can get with a Mario game, and the fact that it features online multiplayer makes it even better, but what really makes the package worth the $60 is the fact that you have one of the best Mario titles with a new game thrown in. We’ve seen a bunch of solid 3D Mario platformers in the past, but the chances Nintendo took with Bowser’s Fury shouldn’t go understated, as weird as the game feels. While it isn’t the same endlessly fun romp that 3D World is, it’s an interesting step for Mario that I’d be interested to see more of in a fleshed out form in the future. All that said, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is a more than worthy entry to your Switch library whether you’ve played it or not.