Reviews

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury – Shaking Up The Norm

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury – Shaking Up The Norm

When Super Mario 3D Land launched on the 3DS in 2011, it launched a third pillar of Mario platforming experiences. Super Mario 3D World, when it followed on the Wii U in 2013, took the core tenants of that 2D/3D hybrid platforming model and refined them to a fine sheen. Since 2013 though, this newly established platforming pillar for the Super Mario franchise vanished, and no new entries have been sighted since. In 2021 however, things have changed a touch. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury salvages the Wii U classic from being perpetually trapped on the unloved Nintendo console and simultaneously adds a new pillar of Mario platforming, one that while not perfectly implemented here, will be intriguing to see develop in the years to come.

Upon booting up the title, players will be instantly confronted by two choices, the remastered Super Mario 3D World, or the spin-off entry, Bowser’s Fury. Nintendo has wisely opted to make Bowser’s Fury available from the outset as opposed to after you’ve completed the core game, that all said, given the minuscule number of people who actually owned a Wii U (and even if you did), re/playing the original title is a mighty enticing prospect.

Blending the 2D “reach the flagpole” loop with 3D, more exploratory platforming systems from the likes of Mario 64, Sunshine and Galaxy was a masterstroke when 3D Land hit the 3DS a decade ago and worked even better on the big screen when 3D World arrived a couple of years later. A further eight years on from 3D World’s original release, and the game looks, feels, and plays, exactly as it did all those years ago. It can be jarring at first (especially if you played 2020’s Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection) being unable to double jump and perform many of the other skills that are typically available to you in a 3D Mario title, however, the sprint function, along with the inclusion of the cat costume, double cherry, and wonderfully designed levels, will leave any player feeling quickly at home. Bowser and his goons’ attempts to capture and harness the powers of the Sprixie princesses, something of course that the denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom won’t stand for, and so Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad head out to put things right.

Though an excellent, albeit at times far-too-easy romp to play the traditional, solo way, 3D World becomes far more difficult, and many times more hilarious once you have friends involved. The original release allowed for couch co-op, the remaster does that and more by adding online co-op into the mix as well. Early days you won’t find too much to challenge you, even in co-op, but as the level design becomes more elaborate, and careful timing becomes imperative, you’ll find yourself howling with laughter as a result of communication lapses, trolling, and other errors that stem from multiple people playing a game that, at its core, really was designed for just one. There are some nice little extras for players to engage with if they have the requisite character. Certain buttons can only be pressed by certain characters, so playing in co-op (or replaying as a different character) pays off. The end-game is still comprehensive too, giving players a whole new region to explore that pays homage to Mario’s previous adventures, packed with challenging new hazards and opportunities for an untimely end. 

Bowser’s Fury, as previously outlined, provides players a whole new way to engage with Mario platforming. On a gameplay front, Mario controls predominantly as he does in 3D World, however, players will have an open playground in front of them, similar to what some levels in 2017’s Super Mario Odyssey were like. Bowser has been consumed by a black, ink-like substance (very Super Mario Sunshine), and Bowser Jr, distressed by the fate that has befallen his father, has no other option but to ask Mario for help. With Bowser Jr by your side, you’ll head out into a very watery environment to collect Cat Shines, enough that you can finally break through the corruption that has a grip on Bowser. Fortunately, Plessie, who only makes a few brief cameos in 3D World is here to help you travel from island to island in order to accumulate the Cat Shines required to save the day. 

As well as being a fully open-world Mario game, what also makes Bowser’s Fury different from any previous title is the timed appearances from the corrupted Bowser to take Mario down. Looming in the distance is a gigantic inky mass that Bowser is enveloped in. In intervals of about 5-10 minutes, Bowser will slowly rise from the ink, only to eventually explode from the mass, and let his fury run riot. The first few times he appears can be genuinely panic-inducing as you try to keep yourself alive, dodge the hazards that Bowser is throwing at you (as well as those that were already in the environment prior to his attack), and find some way of countering him. Bowser is enormous, and the only ways to end the chaos involve waiting him out (which doesn’t always work), and discovering a Cat Shine which will activate a nearby lighthouse, stunning Bowser and forcing him to retreat. As you hit certain Cat Shine totals, you’ll have the opportunity to go head to head with Bowser in a heated encounter where Cat Mario grows to a roughly equal size and now finally has some fire-power to stomp the threat down. 

Many islands have (on average) 5 Cat Shines to collect, with a few of those 5 having requirements unique to that island while others involve collecting 5 Cat Coins, chasing down X number of blue coins, or getting Bowser to accidentally blow up some Fury Blocks which conceal a Shine. The unique Shines are fantastic, the collection-based Shines don’t outstay their welcome, but the Fury Block related Shines can frustrate. The premise is simple enough, and the blocks not unreasonably hard to find, the catch is that they can only be destroyed by a fire-breathing Bowser. Sometimes you’ll get to these shortly after his last attack, and with nothing else to do on the island, you’ll find yourself treading water while you wait for him to reappear and then attack you from just the right position so that you can evade, and have him blast the blocks that are likely behind you. A way to fast-track this, perhaps by antagonising the King of the Koopas somehow would have been a great way to put an end to this tedium, instead, you’ll lose at least an hour to just standing about waiting for the fury to begin.

Aside from this one drawback, Bowser’s Fury shines. It’s a more bite-sized title, taking roughly 5-7 hours to complete (depending on how lucky you are with the timing of Bowser’s assaults), but it establishes a wonderful new formula that has the potential to become a signature of the franchise in the future. Super Mario 3D World on the other hand is yet another excellent Wii U update that merges the best of its native platforms features and blends those with the power and potential of the Switch. 

Both games are visually striking as well. The 3D World glow-up isn’t immense given the original release was itself an HD title, but the transition to the Switch, especially when played in portable mode is quite impressive nonetheless. Bowser’s Fury, powered by the same engine that fuelled 3D World consequently isn’t as stunning as the most recent 3D Mario adventure in Odyssey, but the Sunshine inspired locale helps ensure that the landscape constantly engages. The soundscapes of the two titles couldn’t be further apart, with 3D World’s traditional Mario energy exuding through every pore, while Bowser’s Fury has a harder edge, with a more rock/metal inspired influence particularly evident when Bowser attacks.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is a sensational package. It reintroduces the world to an often forgotten (or straight-up missed) classic Mario platformer, while lays the groundwork for a new type of Mario experience, one that, with some further refinement, could be one day looked back upon as yet another defining moment in perhaps the most decorated franchise in the industry. Nintendo has done it again.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch with kindly supplied by Nintendo Australia