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I remember when Super Mario 3D World was first announced for Wii U. At the time, I was a little disappointed because I was expecting something more grand for the next 3D Mario game and 3D World just seemed like a successor to Super Mario 3D Land. Then I thought about it some more and remembered Galaxy 2 was an amazing sequel and I loved the first one. I also really enjoyed 3D Land so then I figured 3D World will probably end up surprising me. Developed and published by Nintendo, Super Mario 3D World was released for Wii U in November, 2013. It was re-released with some changes and additional content for Switch in February, 2021 and was titled Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury. For this review, I played the Switch version.
3D World and Bowser’s Fury are technically two separate games which means two separate plots. In 3D World, Bowser kidnaps the Sprixie princesses and Mario and his friends head to The Sprixie Kingdom to rescue them. Bowser’s Fury is set in the archipelago of Lake Lapcat. Bowser is corrupted by black sludge and Bowser Jr. enlists Mario’s help in changing Bowser back to normal.
3D World supports up to four players and Bowser’s fury supports up to two. The Sprixie Kingdom has numerous worlds with multiple levels per world and Lake Lapcat is just a big open world. In both games, you’ll get to run, jump, and utilize power ups to overcome obstacles, defeat enemies and bosses, and collect items.
3D World can be seen as an enhanced port of the Wii U version with new content and changes. Bowser’s Fury is the obvious highlight but some significant changes have been made to 3D World including increased character movement speed and climbing height. If you played the Wii U version religiously, you’ll surely notice the faster movement speed and it may affect how approach certain challenges. There are more multiplayer options which I’ll get to in a minute and Stamps can now be used in the game’s Snapshot mode.
This version supports local wireless and online play but based on our experience, the only way we could play multiplayer without issue was on the same system. For us, local wireless was very choppy, making the game basically unplayable. Online wireless was a little better but one player would usually experience significant button lag. I can’t say we were surprised considering some of Nintendo’s other multiplayer offerings on Switch but it was still disappointing.
Before starting a level in 3D World, each player must choose a character. You can play as Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, and/or Rosalina once she’s unlocked. Each character can perform the same basic functions but do possess unique abilities. For example, Luigi can jump the highest and Toad can run the fastest. I did play with some friends and based on our experience, playing with others is fun if you’re just playing casually. If your goal is to actually collect items, not die, and progress; multiplayer can be frustrating. If you don’t coordinate and work together, you can easily jump on each other’s heads and inadvertently grab each other when trying to run which becomes annoying. My friends and I lost more lives playing together than I lost playing by myself.
In Bowser’s Fury, one player is Mario and the other will control Bowser Jr. which is not quite as enjoyable because he’s more like an assistant. He can fly around, attack enemies, and paint pictures to summon things like power-ups and pipes. When playing solo, you can determine how helpful he is. He’ll attack enemies and collect certain items, all on his own, and you can command him to perform certain actions. And unlike 3D World, Bowser’s Fury feels more like a typical third-person game, although the camera can suck at times. I found it most problematic when riding Plessie because it doesn’t always position itself so I could see ahead of me, forcing me to manipulate it manually while trying to avoid hazards, dive, and jump around.
Each world in The Sprixie Kingdom can be explored freely but you will need to complete levels and collect Stars to progress and unlock more levels. You can discover shortcuts, enemy battles, different houses and tents that offer different bonuses, Mystery Houses which consist of consecutive challenges, there’s slot machines that appear from time to time and grant you the chance to earn extra lives, and 3D World introduces Captain Toad levels where you play as Captain Toad and must hunt down Stars in hazardous environments. Captain Toad has a limited move set and all his levels are basically puzzles that you have to figure how to get through which isn’t all that difficult. You can fast travel to any unlocked world from the map screen and to complete levels to one hundred percent, you’ll need to collect all the Stars and Stamps, reach the top of the flag poles, and beat them with each character.
Bowser’s Fury is entirely cat themed. From the enemies to the world itself, Nintendo went crazy with the whole cat thing. The primary objective is to collect all the Cat Shines. Each island has its own set of Shines and finding them will eliminate the sludge covering different parts of the world. You can explore the world at your own leisure and after collecting an island Shine, something about the island will change after you leave and come back to it which I thought that was pretty cool. As you play, Bowser will rise from the center of the world and right before he’s about to attack, it begins to rain. Basically, Bowser will attack you at random intervals. If you collect a Shine, he’ll leave you alone or you can just wait it out. But you have to watch out for the fire raining down from the sky and his fire blasts. The only thing I don’t like about this is that some Shines are only accessible while he’s attacking which means you have to wait for him before you can get them and that can be a little tedious. It’s only a minor nuisance, though, and if you have a Bowser amiibo, you can use it to summon him at any time.
One great thing about 3D World is that there’s a lot to do. There’s a ton of levels to complete and Stars and Stamps to collect. And after you beat the game, you’ll unlock Luigi Bros. which is like a remake of the classic Mario Bros. game except you play as Luigi. 3D World features twelve worlds and I’m calling the last four bonus worlds and these are where the real challenges are. The difficulty ramps up as you progress but I can’t say any of the standard levels gave us too much trouble although collecting some of the Stars and Stamps in the later worlds were a bitch. When playing solo, I was able to rack up a ton of additional lives which is good because I needed them for the bonus worlds. The levels in these worlds will really put your skills to the test. They come with some serious platforming challenges that require precision. For us, it was a lot of trial-and-error and getting timing down. We lost over a hundred lives before completing Champion’s Road which is the final level.
Bowser’s Fury doesn’t get anywhere near as challenging as the bonus worlds in 3D World and it shouldn’t take you anywhere near as long to complete. Both games feature several returning power-ups and in 3D World you can store a spare and additional spares if playing with others. In Bowser’s Fury, you can store five of each. 3D World introduces some new power-ups like the Super and Lucky Bells which turns the playable characters into cats and the Double Cherry which summons a clone of the characters. As a cat, you can climb up walls, swipe, and pounce. The Lucky Bell does the same thing but you’ll turn into an invincible statue when ground pounding. These bells are by far the most useful power-ups.
You’ll take down many classic and some new foes on your journeys through both games. You can utilize support items like Cannon Boxes, Propeller Boxes, and Ice Skates to get around and defeat enemies and even trick enemies like Goombas with the Goomba Mask. In my opinion, the bosses in 3D World are way too easy which has been a problem in Mario games for a while now and you’re going to have fight most of them multiple times. Bowser acts as the only real boss in Bowser’s Fury and after collecting enough Cat Shines, Mario has to go Super Saiyan before he can fight him. You have to find a Giga Bell which transforms Mario into a giant cat. Most of the fights aren’t very challenging but it’s cool seeing these giant characters stomp around the world and fight each other like they’re giant kaijus or something.
Visually, both 3D World and Bowser’s Fury are bright, colorful, and vibrant and, with the Switch docked, 3D World is presented at a higher resolution than the Wii U version. We did notice pop-in in some areas which is the only major eyesore. Overall, the game is pleasing on the eyes and comes with nice visual effects and details. The levels are environmentally diverse from tropical areas to snowy areas to ghost houses, there’s a lot of variety to keep things visually interesting. The soundtrack consists of familiar and new tunes all of which are catchy and Bowser’s Fury features this awesome rock tune that plays whenever Bowser shows up. The sound effects are what you would expect from a Mario game and match the bright and colorful presentation. On the technical side, the frame rate did dip several times and more often in multiplayer and we did not encounter any major bugs.
I really enjoyed 3D World and appreciated the changes in this version. I have played this before on Wii U and enjoyed it so I was looking forward to jumping back in and was still impressed with just how much content is in the game. Bowser’s Fury is an excellent new addition and despite its short length compared to 3D World, it’s a great little open world Mario title. It feels more like a taste of something bigger than a full-blown Mario game and if that’s true, I’m very excited. I like the idea of a 3D Mario game set in a massive open world. One of the best things about 3d World is how it’s got something for everyone. When talking about the standard eight worlds, the difficulty ramps up nicely and it never crosses over into frustration. There’s a nice mix of accessibility and challenge so it should appeal to players of all skill levels. But the bonus worlds will kick your ass if your skills aren’t honed.
I would absolutely recommend Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury to fans of the series and platformers. It’s an excellent game and of typical Nintendo quality and Mario veterans should know exactly what to expect going into this. I really hope Bowser’s Fury is a taste of what’s to come in the future because it’s a great little title that had me craving more. Ultimately, 3D World + Bowser’s Fury are two must-plays if you’re a fan of the series and, in my opinion, this Switch version is the definitive way to experience 3D World. Definitely check it out.