Review: Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

It’s no secret that a bulk of the Nintendo Switch line-up comes from ported Wii U titles. For dedicated fans who supported Nintendo in the Wii U period this is a bummer, because it means less fresh content on the new platform, or the necessity to double-dip on full-priced ports. For new fans (or old fans that missed the Wii U), this means that they can experience these lost gems.

With Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, the duality is even greater. For new players this title offers a great experience, with an amazing core game and a fun (but experimental) extra adventure. For those who played the Wii U version though, the changes in the Super Mario 3D World part are negligible, and the Bowser’s Fury part may not justify a full-price rebuy.

Because let’s talk about what we are playing here. In 2013, Nintendo released Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U. It’s a title that falls a bit in between the 2D gameplay that Nintendo revived with the New Super Mario Bros. series, and the full-blown 3D style we know from Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy, and the newest Super Mario Odyssey.

SuperMario3DWorldBowsersFuryImage1Unhelpful screenshot, making the game look more 2D than it is.

The charming aesthetic of Super Mario 3D World, along with the up to 4 players local multiplayer, and the mix of 2D and 3D gameplay, amassed plenty of fans. The game sold a little under 6 million copies on the Wii U, and with the vast numbers the Nintendo Switch is doing, it’s easy to see why Nintendo wanted to bring this game to an even bigger audience.

But in contrast to previous Wii U ports, this game has a substantial bit of new content added. Where titles like New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Pikmin 3 Deluxe mostly bundled all available Wii U content and added quality of life changes, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury has a standalone mini-adventure bundled in. The bulk of the playtime will go into Super Mario 3D World though, an adventure that will take you about 10-20 hours to finish, while Bowser’s Fury can be completed in 3-6 hours.

Despite that, I will be mostly talking about Bowser’s Fury. Not because Super Mario 3D World is not worth talking about, but because we already reviewed the Wii U title back in the day and awarded it with an 8/10 score. But before we dive into the new content that is Bowser’s Fury, it is worth mentioning the changes in the Super Mario 3D World part.

SuperMario3DWorldBowsersFuryImage2No need for that language, we'll get to you soon.

No new content in the form of levels is added to Super Mario 3D World. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as the game itself already has a vast amount of levels (with even more, increasingly harder ones to unlock). Each level has a variety of collectibles such as green stars and stamps, and climbing to the top of the goal pole at the end of a level also gets a mark on your progression chart.

Next to the normal levels there are of course the castles, the Hammer Bros. that are blocking your way, and a number of very charming Captain Toad levels. Plenty to do and discover on the world map! Every level can be played with any of the four characters (Mario, Luigi, Toad and Peach). In similar fashion to the NES classic Super Mario Bros. 2, each character plays a bit different. Peach can hover for a short distance, while Luigi has increased jumping height.

If you have played the Wii U version of the game, the first thing you will notice is the increase in movement speed. Mario (or one of his friends) moves around the levels at a blistering pace, making certain jumps easier because of the bigger momentum, but also often removing the need to run, as a normal walk already feels fast enough, and you don’t want to feel like you’re losing control. It’s unclear why Nintendo chose to make this change. Speed-runners have been making proper use of it though!

SuperMario3DWorldBowsersFuryImage3When Toad runs this fast, platforms are merely a sugesstion!

One of the key selling points of Super Mario 3D World is multiplayer. Because up to 4 players can join in on the fun, creating a delightful mayhem on screen. It takes a lot of teamwork to finish the game with a full house, but it’s a great bit of game design that the game is as enjoyable alone as with four.

On the Wii U, this multiplayer was limited to local play only. On the Nintendo Switch however (and if you have a Nintendo Switch Online subscription), you can call on friends from around the world to join you. Setting up a game is easy, and my experiences with playing online are positive. The game runs surprisingly smooth when playing online, with only a couple of stutters and framedrops in busy environments like the underground. Especially in the later, trickier levels this is a blessing. Progress is counted towards the host, so if you want to progress in your game with friends, make sure you are the one setting up the lobby.

Finally, a number of quality of life improvements have been made as well. Super Mario 3D World runs on a smooth 1080p at 60 frames when docked, and 720p at 60 frames in handheld. Amiibos are supported, and some of the menus and texts have been resized for better readability.

SuperMario3DWorldBowsersFuryImage4Course Clear? More like "The Course is Clearer!"

So what we have here is a faster, more streamlined version of Super Mario 3D World with added online multiplayer. If you have never played Super Mario 3D World, I can highly recommend, it as the game is charming, plays buttery smooth, and offers a great variety of levels and extras. It looks gorgeous as well, and has a funky soundtrack to go with it. The boss battles may not be the greatest in a Mario game, but that is a small nitpick as there is plenty to enjoy.

If you have played the game before though, there may not be enough in the Super Mario 3D World to justify buying it again. But of course there is also Bowser’s Fury, the stand-alone second game in this package. Does it have enough flesh on the bone? And how will newcomers to the series view this in relation to 3D World? Let’s find out!

On the start screen of Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, you can select Bowser’s Fury from the start, so there is no need to play through Super Mario 3D World first. It is truly a stand-alone part that shares as many similarities with Super Mario 3D World as with Super Mario Odyssey, and even references back to Super Mario Sunshine, but more on that later.

SuperMario3DWorldBowsersFuryImage5Pretty sure Isle Delphino had less water though.

The game starts when Mario gets sucked into a goopy hole while taking a casual stroll, and he winds up on Lapcat Island. There he teams up with an unlikely ally, namely Bowser Jr., who needs your help to get his dad back to normal. Bowser is on a rampage, and is even more furious than he usually is. Evil possesses him, transforming him into a giant dark version of himself with a Godzilla-like size. In this form, he is barraging the normally peaceful Lapcat Island with fire, rain, and thunderstorms. Only the light from the 100 cat shines scattered on the island can get him back to normal.

And so starts your adventure on Lapcat Island, alone or with a local second player. Player one controls Mario, while player two takes control of Bowser Jr. His moves are limited to attacking enemies, picking up coins, and uncovering paint spots. Coming from Super Mario 3D World, this may feel limited, but there is more to do as a second player than, for example, taking control of Cappy in Super Mario Odyssey. What’s neat is that if you are playing solo, you can set how much of a help Bowser Jr. is. You can let him attack enemies full on, or tell him to just do nothing unless told so (using the Switch’s gyro controls).

Speaking of Odyssey, Bowser’s Fury has more similarities to this than to Super Mario 3D World. Where 3D World is a bit more limited to how the 3D environment is constructed (call that 2.5D if you will), Bowser’s Fury has the full-blown open level structure we know from games such as Super Mario Odyssey. It even goes a step further. Lapcat Island is one seamless island, not interrupted by loading times. And while some areas of the island are shielded off at first by Fury Bowser (and are unlocked after grabbing more cat shines), you can tackle the various missions in any order you wish.

SuperMario3DWorldBowsersFuryImage6Mario isn't the best when it comes to pointing out his direction.

These missions are scattered around on the different islands (Lapcat is more of an archipelago than one big island), and on platforms that hover above the island. This creates something resembling different worlds, so even though Lapcat is one big area, there is an ice island, fire island, a battle arena, and so on. Most of these islands have a lighthouse on top that needs the light of a cat shine to shine.

Because if there is no light, Fury Bowser will unleash his fury upon the island. Fire rains from the sky, and often he targets poor Mario with a devastating breath of fire. This happens every so often and is pretty impressive in the beginning, but can also be quite a hindrance if you are in the process of hunting down a specific cat shine.

So cat shines, Lapcat, what’s up with the cats? That is a fair question. Everything on Lapcat is cat-infused (I hope you are not allergic). Enemies don a pair of cat ears, stray cats wander the islands, and even the trees are trimmed in a cat-like fashion. And then there is the Giga Bell, the true weapon to beat Fury Bowser. Because after Mario has collected several cat shines, Mario can touch the Giga Bell and transform into a giant cat, big enough to take on Fury Bowser directly. What follows is a battle on an epic scale, think Godzilla versus Kong but with cats and Koopas.

SuperMario3DWorldBowsersFuryImage7It beats going to the cinema, at least.

As said, there are 100 cat shines to collect. Fifty are enough to roll the credits, but it is worth it to go back for the remaining fifty. Because despite some of them feeling like fillers and fetch quests, it is fun to blitz through the island of Lapcat. Despite looking and feeling a lot like Super Mario Odyssey, most of the gameplay elements are the ones borrowed from Super Mario 3D World. We encounter the familiar enemies from 3D World, Plessie is there for traversing the water, and Mario’s power-ups like the cat suit and boomerang are present as well. This makes Bowser’s Fury an interesting mix of Super Mario 3D World, Super Mario Odyssey, and Super Mario Sunshine, but also throws in new elements such as Fury Bowser.

There are some negatives to be mentioned though. First, the game only runs on 30 frames per second in handheld (60fps docked). This may not be the biggest gripe, but it is very noticeable if you switch from docked to handheld, or play 3D World first and Bowser’s Fury after, on a Nintendo Switch Lite.

Bowser’s Fury is also pretty easy, and Mario veterans can beat it without much of a hassle. A number of the cat shines are pretty filler material, so it feels they are just there to reach the number 100. But my biggest let-down is the lack of truly outstanding moments you usually find in a 3D Mario game. Sure, Fury Bowser and the battle with giant cat Mario are great, but for the rest it is all pretty tried-and-tested. And despite creating a big archipelago, Nintendo played it safe with the familiar levels based on, for example, ice and lava.

SuperMario3DWorldBowsersFuryImage8Maybe if you ignore him, he'll go away.

Which brings us to tallying the scores. How is Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury for new players, and does it justify a double purchase for those who have already played Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U? If both games are new to you, then it is a package you don’t want to miss out on. Super Mario 3D World is a really fun adventure, with lots of levels, looks and sounds great, and the 2.5D style approach feels pretty fresh. Full up to 4 player multiplayer, both online and offline, is a great addition as well. Bowser’s Fury is a very nice bonus that shows a different approach, with full 3D more similar to games such as Odyssey, and feels more like a playground where Nintendo is testing a true open world.

But as the only bit of new content, it may not justify the full price for those who have played Super Mario 3D World before. Bowser’s Fury is pretty short and lacks truly original concepts. Meanwhile, the only real new addition to Super Mario 3D World is its online capabilities. It is a shame that renting video games is not a thing anymore, otherwise I would advise renting it for a day and play through Bowser’s Fury that way. Maybe you can borrow it from a friend?

N-Europe Final Verdict

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury gives you the excellent Wii U platformer Super Mario 3D World, in all its colourful glory and with added online multiplayer options. Bowser’s Fury is a fun, though short and easy, experimental extra which may give us a glimpse of what the next full 3D Mario will be. For new players this is a great package chock-full of content, but if you have played the main game before, than Bowser’s Fury alone may not justify the full asking price for this.

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability4
  • Visuals4
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan4
Final Score

8

Pros

Super Mario 3D World is still a great platformer
Online multiplayer works like a charm
Bowser's Fury is a fun extra, both in single player and local co-op

Cons

Bowser's Fury lacks truly great new ideas...
...and it is a shame it runs on 30 frames in handheld mode.
The new content in this package does not justify the full price for Wii U owners


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