Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury showcases the weird and experimental side of Nintendo that doesn’t get seen enough in their first-party games. Instead of mailing in another “Deluxe” edition of an underplayed title from the WiiU catalog, the developer went the extra mile by attaching an innovative offshoot to the core 2013 game that subverts the Mario formula. If you, like me, never played 3D World, you’re in for a Toad-ally awesome gaming experience that combines the best of the two-dimensional and three-dimensional games, with the added bonus of Bowser’s Fury as an appetizing add-on.
Super Mario 3D World
This game feels like the Mario catalog in potpourri form, taking the best pieces from past games. Using a unique diorama-esque depth of field, 3D World takes elements from the NES trilogy, the mid 2000s 3D titles, Mario Party mini-games, and even the inner workings of its eventual successor Super Mario Odyssey. These characteristics mesh surprisingly well, even if it takes some getting used to the camera’s positioning.
Firing projectiles takes practice. It’s not quite a direct line like the classic left-to-right games to hit an enemy, it’s instead more of a diagonal path. Many of my deaths early on were the cause of just barely missing a goomba due to poor aim, but I eventually got the hang of it. Jumping scenarios are also tricky with the same diagonal tendencies which require a bit more caution rather than trying to “speedrun” on the first attempt. I found that this new angle allowed me to reset my Mario muscle memory, which was a refreshing brain activity to endure.
Traditionalists can rejoice, because Bowser is up to his crazy kidnapping antics again in 3D World. This time, he has captured seven adorable fairy-like creatures that seem to have some sort of importance. At the end of each world, and with the completion of a Bowser castle, you rescue a fairy, bringing you one step closer to stomping out the King of Koopas for good (again). It’s something I stopped caring about minutes after being introduced to the plot, but that’s a typical response I suspect most people have to most of these games.
The world map and diversity in level themes is perhaps the most disappointing and where the game shows it’s age in this port. There’s the standard fire, ice, grassy, and water levels, but nothing that sticks as a standout. The zaniest it gets is with some circus-themed worlds, but even those feel half-baked. More recent platformers like Crash 4 and Ori and the Will of the Wisps have simply raised the bar since 2013.
This adventure plays like a 3D Mario prototype. Bowser’s Fury is a semi-open-world sandbox that provides a new sense of freedom for the series. Rather than being limited to one specific world, Bowser’s Fury is a set of multiple points of interest that can be explored in virtually any order. Instead of stars, you collect Cat Shines, but it’s the same concept. While I’m no stranger to games leaving the decision in my hands, it still felt weird seeing Nintendo let me just go wherever I want in a Mario game, but I loved experiencing it.
The main hook of Bowser’s Fury is that it has you on a constant countdown clock. Every six minutes Bowser appears in one of his most bruting forms to date, shooting fire and throwing objects at Mario. Little by little, you chip away at his health bar, and when you collect enough shines, you unlock Giga-Cat Mario: a giant version of the Italian plumber that lets you go toe-to-toe in an action-packed battle of the giants set to a heavy metal score. It’s wild, it’s weird, it’s short and I hope we see more of this in the next full-fledged 3D Mario title.
There are three must-own Mario titles on the Nintendo Switch: Mario Odyssey, Super Mario Maker 2, and now Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury. This game is a super-powered platformer that’s consistently challenging, surprising, and satisfying, and the added bonus of Bowser’s Fury just enhances the package even more. It’s a strong “wa-hoo” from me.
Review code provided by publisher