When the original Super Mario 3D World launched for the Wii U in 2013, critics loved it. The problem is that hardly anyone played it since the Wii U sold so poorly. Thankfully, Nintendo has given it another chance on the Nintendo Switch, re-introducing the game for a new audience as Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury. This collection features the base game, along with Bowser's Fury, a fresh new take on the Mario formula, and unsurprisingly, it's an absolute joy to play.
Review: Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is a Healthy Blend of 2D and 3D Platforming Goodness
We'll cover both games in this review, but the main meat and potatoes is the re-release of Super Mario 3D World. This is an interesting take on the Mario formula because it's presented with almost an isometric camera view — effectively giving you the best of both 2D and 3D perspectives. This camera angle was introduced in the 3DS game, Super Mario 3D Land, but 3D World doubles down on the idea and is much larger in scope. It works better than you might think, too.
The game will automatically shift the camera to what you're supposed to be focusing on, allowing you to experience the game in many different ways. Sometimes the camera can get a little wonky since you don't have full 360 degree control over it, but for the most part, it works well.
The game is broken up into worlds, with several levels found across each — all of which are varied and offer many visual and gameplay styles. This, when combined with the unique camera perspective makes for one of the most diverse Mario games out there, with lots of new things to see and do every couple minutes.
Each of the game's levels are bite sized and can be finished in just a couple minutes — a bit longer if you're wanting to discover all its secrets like the stamps and green stars. Because of that, the game feels tremendously fast paced, especially since Nintendo increased the speed at which characters move from the original release. At times, things can feel a little hectic, but in nearly every instance, the chaos is welcome. Some levels require a bit more concentration, while others can be blasted through in one fell swoop, which is satisfying and never gets old.
The main hook of Super Mario 3D World (aside from the unique perspective) are the cats. Seriously, it's almost as if this game wants to be an internet cat meme, with tons of feline imagery throughout. As you've probably seen throughout the game's marketing, each of the main characters have access to a cat suit, giving them the ability to scale walls and slash at enemies. The inclusion of the cat suits is once again a welcome feature that turns the game on its head — both from a style point of view and with its gameplay.
What's satisfying about 3D World is that it's a great entry for all skill levels. If you want to blast through the game without being too thorough, you can do that and it'll be relatively easy. But getting 100% is another story and requires a higher degree of skill. Sometimes platformers struggle with balancing difficulty, but 3D World does not have this problem.
Super Mario 3D World is designed to be played solo or with up to three additional friends, which adds to the fun and chaos. You can play cooperatively on the same Switch in a local setting, or — a new feature added with the Switch version — allows you to play with friends online. The online aspect is hit or miss depending on your internet connection.
This might not necessarily be surprising, given Nintendo isn't known for having the most robust online infrastructure, but it would have been nice for it to at least be on par with the other consoles. From our experience, the online performance is the least ideal way to play, as it was often laggy, making the platforming much more difficult. Though, this is a small gripe that overall doesn't impact the quality of the package too much.
One of the cool things about Super Mario 3D World are the Captain Toad levels — which were so well received in 2013, they actually spawned a dedicated game known as Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker. If you liked that game, you have to try out the levels in 3D World, which send you to a diorama-like level featuring Toad. Since the character can't jump, Nintendo had to get creative with the level design and it's such a delight to experience — once again, giving you tons of variety in the way you play.
While never reaching the highs of Super Mario Odyssey, this game is still one of the very best 3D Mario games out there — borrowing many ideas from previous iterations for a cohesive and robust package. The Mario games are usually known for being joyous experiences, and 3D World is no different. It throws a ton of different level types at you, with varied designs and locations. One level might send you to a riveting circus, the next might be covered in snow, and the following could be a dessert locale — followed by a Captain Toad level.
All of this is wonderfully tied together with some of the best music the series has ever had — full of orchestral moments that make it easy to get hyped as you blast through. In fact, we're willing to bet you'll probably be humming some of the game's tunes after around 15 minutes of playing. They're so catchy and will likely get stuck in your head.
Super Mario 3D World feels like a compilation of what makes the Mario games so great. It throws so much at you in such quick succession that it's hard not to smile while playing. Thanks to clever level design, balanced difficulty, and an overall happy vibe, 3D World is easily one of the best in the series — which says a lot since most Mario games are of high quality.
The fun doesn't stop there, though. Included with each copy of Super Mario 3D World for Nintendo Switch is Bowser's Fury, a brand new game built specifically for this package. This game sends Mario to a medium-sized open world to help Bowser Jr. save his father, Bowser. In this game, Bowser has been corrupted with black ink that makes him look much more menacing than before, allowing him to grow to a Godzilla-like size to cause chaos.
In this game, Mario's goal is to visit each of the islands around the map which feature platforming and puzzles to enjoy. Across all the levels are Cat Shines, which are sort of like the green stars from the main game. These collectibles are the driving force, and are addicting to gather.
While you play, the evil Bowser towers over you and can interrupt your experience by whirling fireballs at you. It works almost like Nemesis from the Resident Evil series, wherein Bowser can pop up at any time, keeping you on your toes.
The idea of a giant Bowser towering over you as you explore is frightening, but always feels like a fair challenge — and something way different than what we've seen in a Mario game in the past. In essence, this game almost feels like a giant boss fight, which is just something we never thought we'd get in a Super Mario game.
When you're ready to fight, you can grow to a gargantuan size, featuring an almost Super Saiyan version of Mario with long gold hair. These fights play out like a kaiju battle and are so over the top, it's hard not to love them. It's wild to think this is a Mario game, because it plays so differently than what you might be used to. Bowser's Fury is short, taking around 3-5 hours to complete, but is well worth checking out, especially for the massive boss fights and cats.
When you step back and take in the sheer amount of variety with Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury, it's easy to fall in love with it. This package proves why Mario is in the upper echelon of platformers and it's exciting to think about where the series will go next. Everything from the level design, music, boss battles, and cats are exceptionally well executed and should not be skipped.