Report Card: Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury (Review)

I remember the day I introduced my son to real video games.  New Super Mario Bros., on the Wii, was a logical place to start.  He was probably a bit too young, but we had a lot of fun.  I’d carry him through the levels.  I guess you can say he was more in the game than playing the game.

Eventually, I bought a WiiU, and along came the first game that my son was able to fully play alone.  That game was Super Mario 3D world, or, as my son called it, Cat Mario.  He was able to beat the entire game alone, and then go back and play the levels with me.  I have amazing memories of the game.

My history with the game makes reviewing Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury a little tricky.  Do treat this like just a remake, letting people know if they need to pay money for it again?  This would make sense, but the WiiU only sold 13.5 million units and the Switch has sold almost 80 million.  This means that, even without Bowser’s Fury, this game is brand new to most people.  I guess we should get into it.

One thing I have always said is that Super Mario 3D World never felt like a true 3D Mario game.  Yes, you are able to move around in a 3-dimensional space, so technically it’s a 3D Mario game.  My issue is that the levels are incredibly linear.  You go into a level.  You have one way you can go.  Just like every 2D Mario game.  I am not saying this is a knock on the game, just that it never felt like it should be looped in with other true 3D Mario games.

The storyline of the game is about as unnecessary as any of its predecessors.  Bowser has captured seven Sprixies, which are these fairy-like characters.  Mario, with the help of Luigi, Peach, and Toad, must go and rescue them.  I know… it all makes a lot of sense.  I honestly don’t understand why they can’t just leave the story out of these games.

The overworld layout is very reminiscent of Super Mario Bros. 3.  You start in World 1-1 and must complete it before moving on to 1-2.  You continue to follow this path until you rise victorious over Bowser.  Along the way, there are question blocks with coins, slot machines for lives, and other hidden goodies.  The overworld isn’t exactly exciting, but they fill it in some.

Once in the level, you get exactly what you expect from a Mario game.  Nintendo knows how to make a great platformer and they continue this while adding the depth.  The Koopa Troopas and Goombas (the cutest bad guys in any video game) look amazing.  I loved being able to kick the Koopa Troopas out of their shells and watching them trying to run back to them. 

The diversity in the levels has always impressed me.  Some feel like basic platforming, while others require extra skills to get to the flag.  You’ll come across seesaw platforms, trapeze, disappearing blocks, and platforms that move every time you jump.  The variety keeps the game fresh and allows for hours of continuous play without getting bored.

To help you through your Super Mario 3D World journey, Nintendo has provided you with many of the power-ups you’ve grown to love.  Fire power, Star power, Mega Mario, Boomerang Mario, and Tanooki Mario all make their triumphant returns.  To add to this classic list, Cat Mario power makes its debut.  As Cat Mario, you are able to swipe at enemies and climb walls.  This is the most dominant power you’ll use, and it is by far my favorite one. 

Besides just trying to reach the flag in each level, there are three green stars and a stamp to find.  These will be hidden, sometimes very well, and often require keeping an eye out for little things that look different.  Getting all three stars is not required but you will need to get enough to be able to unlock the gate to the boss levels.  The stamps are even less important, but they can be used when taking a photo.  For me, I need to get them all.

You get more than just great 3D platforming when you play through Super Mario 3D World.  Along the way, you will be presented levels where you race the clock to get 10 stars in small areas.  You also are given the pleasure of playing as Captain Toad.  That’s right, the Captain Toad games were spawned from the side levels.  They give you a change of pace and are a lot of fun.

The boss fights were very hit and miss with me.  Some were fun twists with new boss mechanics.  Others were just strange.  It’s not that they were bad, but just a little too far from how a Mario boss fight should be.  I don’t want to give away too much, but I didn’t really enjoy a couple of the fights against Bowser.

As I mentioned earlier, I played the original game with my son.  I felt Nintendo Failed with the multiplayer in New Super Mario Bros.  They took that style of multiplayer and made it work better in 3D world.  It never felt necessary to win, but it also never felt like it made the game more difficult.  The only downside is that it is way easier to burn through lives with everyone using them.

Maybe you don’t have someone to play couch co-op with.  Don’t worry, Nintendo has you covered.  You have the option to play co-op online.  I tested this out and had very low expectations.  The reality is that it works but not the best.  There was enough of a delay at times that it made it painful.  Other times, the delay seemed minimal.  The bottom line is that it is playable online but can be painful at times.

It’s important that games like this allow you to keep playing them after rolling credits.  I personally have continued to play the game to go back and try to get all the stars.  Also, as mentioned before, this is not my first time playing through the game.  It is as much fun the second, or even third, time as the first.  There is plenty more you are able to do after credits have rolled, but I want to leave those for you to see.  Just know that it’s more content and its great.

Super Mario 3D World might not be a brand-new game, but Nintendo was nice enough to throw in Bowser’s Fury.  You have the ability to jump right into this part of the game from the beginning if you want to.  When you do, you will find Mario in a beautiful area filled with water and small islands.  Cute kittens are walking around, but something isn’t quite right.

Immediately after arriving, you meet your new helper.  Bowser Jr. is there to help you along, but it’s only because he needs your help to turn Bowser back to normal.  One thing I really appreciated was that it gives you the option of how much Bowser Jr. helps you.  I chose for him not to help me at all.  If your child is playing, you can make Bowser Jr. help a lot.  This helps make the game accessible for people of all different skill levels.

Bowser Jr. also allows for the game to be multiplayer.  One person plays as Mario and the other as Bowser Jr.  The poor sap that is playing as Bowser Jr. gets the raw deal.  You play the helper and can’t do all that much.  If you have a young child, this could be a fun option for them.  If not, it’s not worth it to try.

The controls truly impressed me.  Nintendo has always had issues with controls in 3D Mario games.  The biggest issue usually falls with the camera control.  In Bowser’s Fury, the camera control is smooth and allows for rotation to any angle.  This makes the gameplay nice and allows you to look at every angle of the islands.

The power-ups in Super Mario 3D World directly carry over to Bowser’s Fury.  What is really nice is that you can store up to five of each power and call on them as needed.  Depending on what island you’re on, or where a Cat Shine is hanging out, being able to pick and choose your power-up is essential.  It feels a little cheap, but it allows the game to be fun and not overly difficult.

While in the land of Bowser’s Fury, you have the ability to approach arches at the entrance to the small islands.  As you walk through them, it lets you know what Cat Shine you are going after.  This is similar to how Mario 64 tells you what you are doing every time you enter a level.  If you are someone who prefers to figure out what you are supposed to do, on your own, this might bother you.  For me, I liked that it was straightforward. 

There are five Cat Shines to earn on each level and some others randomly around the map.  As you earn the Cat Shines, the Giga Bell becomes unlocked so you can fight Mega Bowser, but I’ll get more into that in a minute.  When you have earned 50, of the 100, Cat Shines, you are almost forced into the final fight and rolling credits.  Luckily, you can go back into the game and keep earning those Shines. 

Ok, let’s talk about the big man.  Something bad has happened to Bowser and he’s bigger and badder than ever.  As Mario makes his way through these islands, Mega Bowser randomly pops up to make things difficult.  He throws things in your way and shoots a beam of fire.  These attacks can be helpful for getting to objects or Cat Shines.  As soon as you get the next Cat Shine, Mega Bowser goes away.

As I mentioned, the Giga Bell unlocks with different amounts of Shines earned.  This means that you get to fight back against Mega Bowser when he reappears.  These fights weren’t exactly difficult, but they were enjoyable.  It was also just fun to be a giant Cat Mario.

I don’t want to give away anything about the final fight.  It was different than I expected and a little strange.  Even though I enjoyed it, I would have preferred it to be a bit different.  It just didn’t feel like a final battle in a Mario game.  After that fight, you can go back and finish earning the rest of the Cat Shines.  Bowser still pops up from time to time, but you don’t have to fight him.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury does have its low points.  It’s not a perfect game, but it does get close.  It is one of my favorite Mario games in the last 10 years.  Everyone should play this.  Every parent should experience this game with their children.  I give the game 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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