Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury Review (Switch)

Something Old, Something New

Super Mario 3D World

This review is a bit late. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury released on the Switch nearly a year ago, and like a lot of people, I initially wrote it off. Don’t get me wrong, I love Super Mario 3D World. It’s on the shortlist for my favorite 3D Mario game. I was thrilled that it would no longer be stuck on a system, so few owned. I played it back in 2013 though, I didn’t feel an overwhelming need to do so again in 2021.

That was a mistake. I undervalued the new side game Nintendo included here, Bowser’s Fury. What seemed like it might be a small throwaway addition is anything but. While not the longest title in the Mario series, Bowser’s Fury would have been a worthy standalone release. Charting new paths for the series, it’s a fascinating title and one well worth your time.

 

Something Old

 

Super Mario 3D World

Before we get into what’s new, I don’t want to lose sight of Super Mario 3D World in all of this. While a lot of players played it back on the Wii U, there are a lot who didn’t simply because so few people ever owned the system. Those playing it for the first time will find an enormously creative game. Mario and friends are informed that Bowser has kidnapped a group of pixies known as the Sprixies, and they’re begging for his help in saving their friends. You and up to three friends can join together to save the day.

Like Super Mario 3D Land back on the 3DS, Mario 3D World does the best job of any Mario game of mixing the feel of 2D and 3D Mario titles. Instead of big explorable open worlds, you’ll find linear levels with a set goal, the old Mario flag pole waiting at the end of each level. Your goal is to get from point A to point B, perhaps completing some extra objectives and gathering some collectibles along the way.

 

Keeping Things Fresh

 

Super Mario 3D World

You won’t only be playing as Mario, though. His friends Luigi, Peach, and Toad are all along, and each has a unique feel. Luigi is a bit more slippery but jumps higher. Toad has a harder time jumping, but he’s the fastest character. Peach has her floating ability that’s been underused since Mario Bros 2 back on the NES. Inspiration from that title is definitely present here.

There’s variety here too. For anyone who has played Captain Toad, he started here, with his puzzle-based levels being a welcome breath of fresh air. Level design is excellent and keeps things moving at a great pace. The new Cat Mario powerup is one of my favorites in the entire series, allowing you to climb walls and swipe with your paws. Not to mention how adorable all the characters look in cat form.

Some players may be a bit bothered by the lack of challenge in the early parts of the game. There are tough levels, but the majority of them take place after completing the main quest. Still, even when Mario 3D World is easy, it’s still a ton of fun with excellent music, memorable boss battles, and super tight gameplay.

 

Something New

 

Super Mario 3D World

Bowser’s Fury feels like the strange love child of Super Mario Sunshine and Mario 3D World. After ending up in a strange land, Mario finds his old foe Bowser transformed into an enormous out-of-control beast. Bowser Jr shows up and explains that his dad seems to be out of control, convincing Mario that he needs to help change him back to normal. The two team up to take down their foe.

The biggest difference between Bowser’s Fury and traditional Mario games is that it’s an open-world game. While parts of it are initially blocked off, every level and every challenge is in the same giant overworld. There are levels, but they’re dedicated areas within that world, and they’re not blocked off. Mid mission, you can simply jump off the side and leave it behind, content to check something else out. Many objectives and tasks you complete in these levels are saved if you do, so you won’t have to start from scratch should you return.

 

A Weird Mash-Up

 

Super Mario 3D World

In each level or challenge, you’ll be tasked with collecting a cat shine, basically the shines from Mario Sunshine but now with a little more cat flavor. The challenges you face are varied, with some just offering a traditional level where you have to get to the end, or others where you are tasked with gathering five collectibles. There’s quite a bit of variety here for a rather short game, though. You’ll also have arenas where you need to face off against a set of foes before you can leave, races on the back of your dinosaur friend Plessie who also helps you move between the islands in the game’s world. You’ll play tag, find shines hidden in the world between areas, and take on time trial-style challenges.

Level design is a major plus here. While there aren’t a ton of them, each level in Bowser’s Fury is expertly designed to provide a wide variety of different challenges. You can often start on later challenges like gathering collectibles while pursuing earlier ones. All the while, you’ll be listening to one of the best Nintendo soundtracks in years, which gives the game a slightly different vibe from other games in the series. Levels are filled with hidden secrets and multiple paths to discover as well.

Doing so is made all the easier by Mario having a set inventory of items he can quickly switch between now. At any time, you can just press a button and have Bowser Jr, who follows you around attacking foes, gathering items, or being controlled by a friend in co-op, toss you that item. Need a raccoon tail? Or would being a cat work better in your current situation? It’s only a couple button presses away. The item you were using even goes back in your inventory, so you aren’t losing anything by doing this. While it may require less planning than in prior titles, it allows levels to offer different challenges and secrets while having confidence that players will have the right tools to tackle them.

 

This Again?

 

Super Mario 3D World

One thing that annoyed me a bit at times was Bowser himself. Curled up into his shell, he periodically pops out and turns the entire world to night. From there, he’ll start viciously attacking you with blasts of flame. It can be a bit overwhelming at times, and as the game goes on, it becomes more frequent, at times seeming like a bit much. He’ll attack no matter what you’re in the middle of, and being near the shine to be thrown off by his assault was more frustrating than fun. For most of the game, though, grabbing a shine will send him back into hiding, and after hitting him enough times, he’ll go back into hiding, at least for a time. Gather enough shines, and you’ll unlock a Giga Bell, a giant bell power-up that turns you into Giga Cat Mario. At that point, you engage in a giant kaiju battle with your foe, using the cat powers to take him down. These battles are fun, but do get a bit repetitive over time.

Bowser’s Fury won’t last terribly long. The 100 cat shines are fairly easy to collect, and you can beat the game after getting only 50. After that, completionists will receive a bit of help in finding the rest as Bowser Jr decides to thank you for saving his dad by marking the rest of the shines on your map. Beyond that, though, and a few performance issues in handheld mode that don’t stop the game from being enormously fun, there’s not much to complain about. Bowser’s Fury is an enormously exciting game.

 

Conclusion

 

I’d highly recommend either of Super Mario 3D World or Bowser’s Fury, but when you put them together in the same package, you have a fantastic value. Players who missed Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U should run out and pick this one up. It’s one of the best games available on the Switch. Even those who played it many years ago will find a lot to like in Bowser’s Fury’s different take on the Mario formula. If you still haven’t checked this one out, there’s no time like the present.

 


Final Verdict: 4.5/5

Available on:  Nintendo Switch (Reviewed); Publisher:  Nintendo; Developer: Nintendo EPD; Players: 4; Released: February 12th, 2021; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $59.99

Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury.

Andrew Thornton
Andrew has been writing about video games for nearly twenty years, contributing to publications such as DarkStation, Games Are Fun, and the E-mpire Ltd. network. He enjoys most genres but is always pulled back to classic RPG's, with his favorite games ever including Suikoden II, Panzer Dragoon Saga, and Phantasy Star IV. Don't worry though, he thinks new games are cool too, with more recent favorites like Hades, Rocket League, and Splatoon 2 stealing hundreds of hours of his life. When he isn't playing games he's often watching classic movies, catching a basketball game, or reading the first twenty pages of a book before getting busy and forgetting about it.

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