A feline frenzy.
The colossal Super Mario series has always been a pristine vessel of impeccable refinement, brilliant innovation, and unapologetic nostalgia. Both its 2D and 3D affairs are ground-breaking masterpieces that undisputedly defined a medium of unparalleled engagement and escapism. Its branching sub-series and experimental genres are equally as refined and exceptionally masterful, providing an unadulterated sensation of euphoria that successfully defined multiple generations. Super Mario 3D World lands in the realm of refinement as opposed to innovation and also acts an intriguing hybrid of the established design and systemic elements of its 2D and 3D offerings. While it never manages to exceed or outshine either dimension – the layered intricacy of its design and the responsive ingenuity of its realm of control are far stronger in the dedicated 2D and 3D titles – Super Mario 3D World is still a refined, near masterpiece that boasts exceptional level design, incorporating a wonderous display of gameplay variety and intricate environment implementation. Super Mario 3D World is undoubtedly the most polished and brilliantly executed cooperative experience in the renowned series, striking a resounding balance between delightful cooperation and engaging competition. With a wonderful hodgepodge of whimsically varied power-ups, of the familiar and foreign variety, Super Mario 3D World’s environment and gameplay elements consistently evolve and implore new ideas to create a fresh and refined experience that simply never stagnates. While it undeniably lacks the imaginative innovation established with the masterpieces that came before it (from Super Mario World to Super Mario Galaxy) and after it (Super Mario Odyssey), Super Mario 3D World is a pristine example of impeccable refinement on a layered formula that simply works. It is a minor, half-step enhancement of the established formula, with minute implementations that separates itself from the renowned catalog. Super Mario 3D World unfortunately suffers from notable performance issues, a detriment to the technical quality I have come to expect from the Super Mario series. Despite its technical shortcomings and lack of creative ingenuity, Super Mario 3D World exemplifies resounding gameplay variety and exquisite environment design, all of which is enwrapped in a remarkably engaging and endearing cooperative experience. Super Mario 3D World is delightfully fantastic and an excellent addition to the legendary series.
A departure from the established banality of the Super Mario narrative – not that anyone is truly invested in the series’ derivative plot– Bowser instead kidnaps and captures a slew of fairy-like Sprixie princesses instead of his usual squeeze, Princess Peach. Regardless of this minute shift in exposition, the ultimate goal remains the same – you ultimately need to rescue a friend in need by the end of each designated world. Luckily, Super Mario 3D World’s aesthetic variety and whimsical environment design follows the element of familiarity and refinement, boasting a robustly lavish and diverse colour palette that undeniably pops. While each established level in each corresponding world doesn’t provide the same level of innovative stature and wonderous awe displayed in Super Mario Odyssey’s masterfully constructed Kingdoms or the vast intricacies of Super Mario Galaxy’s interstellar level design, Super Mario 3D World offers a welcome amount of aesthetic variance that consistently refreshes your pallet and alleviates any sense of repetition. Ultimately, given the large variety and lack of cohesion between each level, they all kind of flow over top one another making it difficult to identify or differentiate after the fact. Despite a minute level of forgettability, levels in Super Mario 3D World are still undeniably enjoyable given their intuitive design, intricately placed collectibles, refined elements of gameplay variety, and an encouraging dose of friendly competition. From the scorching rays and granular sands of World 2 to the blissful whimsicality of snowfall in World 6, Super Mario 3D World’s aesthetic and thematic variety is notably predictable but undeniably wonderous and paced efficiently. On top of the thematic variety for each designated world, there are isolated levels that act independent from the defined aesthetic themes of the established world. From the dark caverns of the iconic underground levels, the enthralling freefall of river-sliding Plessie segments, the imaginative orientation and puzzle-solving infused in Captain Toad’s minute adventures, and the tenacious intricacy of Mystery Houses, the departure from the traditional aesthetic categorization and an introduction of gameplay diversity further accentuates Super Mario 3D World’s exceptional pacing and variety. As one of the initial forays into High Definition for the series, Super Mario 3D World is still gorgeous, radiating with vivacious colours and stellar art design. Its weather effects are exceptionally detailed – from the lavish sheen and impeccable lighting reflected off of droplets of rain – and further compliment its established foundation in aesthetic variance. Despite its visual flair and gorgeous detail, the 2020 Switch port of Super Mario 3D World suffers from performance issues that were not present in the original Wii U version back in 2013. Notably, Super Mario 3D World on the Nintendo Switch inexplicably suffers from significant frame drops, greatly detracting from what is otherwise an extremely polished experience. Complimenting its pristine visual fidelity and articulate design, Super Mario 3D World’s auditory element is resoundingly strong. As to be expected, the music is electrifying and unbelievably infectious, boasting a diverse selection of catchy melodies that appropriately match the cadence of each respective level.
In the realm of the Super Mario series, gameplay is and always will be king. Super Mario 3D World is a continuation of the unadulterated euphoria that the series represents, constructing a remarkably engaging platforming experience that slightly borrows from both dimensions. On top of its amalgamation of 2D and 3D orientation, its intricate yet approachable level design is tailored towards multiplayer, catering to the level of interaction and engagement that comes with cooperative play. Roaming through the each brilliantly designed level was a delightfully surprising blast, particularly when that experience was shared with another. With plenty of elements to fester up friendly competition – from a score board displaying individual player scores at the end of each level and crowning the victor to a multitude of different sabotaging gameplay mechanics – Super Mario 3D World’s multiplayer component separates itself from the established catalog but also constructs a notably endearing platforming experience that is exclusive to this entry. Super Mario 3D World’s sense of movement and control is a little floatier than the other dedicated 3D titles. Its level of verticality and platform placement also resemble the architecture and structural design of Super Mario’s 2D affairs. While it’s never able to fully achieve the level of precision and impeccable control or the masterful framework and layered design of either dedicated dimension, Super Mario 3D World still offers a wide array of different gameplay mechanics and intricate environmental challenges to make up for its diminutive stature in innovation. With a robust selection of different power-ups that provide ample gameplay variety and a remarkable semblance of control and a collection of diverse levels that act as a delightful pallet cleanser to the traditional platforming structure, Super Mario 3D World consistently throws new ideas at the player, further enhancing the notion of play. From the Super Bell that transforms Mario into Cat Mario, providing the player with the ability to climb walls, to the Double Cherry which allows Mario to multiply into a mini army of clones, each power-up adds a layer of depth to the established formula, encouraging a welcome level of problem solving and discovery, all of which is incorporated into its brilliant level design. Each level contains optional collectibles cleverly hidden within the structural framework, adding a delightful realm of challenge and problem solving to the mix. In multiple instances, certain collectibles are unattainable without the use of a specific power-up or character, encouraging a dynamic sense of experimentation and flexibility. You might require the Super Bell to ascend an elongated wall to reach a collectible Green Star, equip a Cannon Box to destroy a wall which reveals a hidden Stamp, collect a Boomerang Flower to snatch items that are out of normal reach, or multiply into a certain number of clones to cause a specific platform to ascend, providing access to a hidden Green Star, the mere act of obtaining the required power-up and retaining it for the required duration adds a pleasant dash of optional challenge while further catering to the tantalizing notion of discovery and exploration. The snapshot mode from Super Mario Odyssey makes a return in this port, allowing players to hone in their photographic artistry while also finding creative uses for collectible Stamps. In an attempt to cater to a ubiquitous form of player accessibility, Super Mario 3D World provides an invincibility power-up that assists players with courses they continuously struggle with. This empowerment of invulnerability is only accessible for that specific course and is purely optional, accentuating a welcome display of player freedom and flexibility.
While its emphasis on explorative collection and its euphoric sense of discovery is undeniably palpable and commendable, Super Mario 3D World still follows a relatively linear structure as opposed to the explorative non-linearity of the series’ sandbox offerings such as the masterful Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Odyssey. Its linear foundation mirrors the design of Mario’s 2D adventures and the structure of the Super Mario Galaxy titles, however it lacks the required state of innovation that the aforementioned titles embody so profusely. Super Mario 3D World makes up for its lack in innovation with its hodgepodge of exceptional gameplay variety. From the engaging display of platform variety from returning elements such as Red-Blue panels and Beat Blocks to the tonal gameplay shifts of Captain Toad’s adventures, the rapid thrill ride of Plessie segments, and the sporadic madness of Mystery House timed challenges, Super Mario 3D World consistently rotates gameplay elements in an effort to eliminate any trace of banality, which results in one of the most efficiently paced gameplay experiences in the renowned series. Super Mario 3D World also offers a tantalizing array of various environmental hazards and diverse enemy types, all of which adds to its established foundation in gameplay variety. The robust combination of various hazards, different enemy types, and the discoverable power-ups creates a dynamic platforming experience that consistently adapts and keeps the player joyously engaged. Super Mario 3D World’s bosses are disappointingly underwhelming, lacking a notion in creative ingenuity and bombastic spectacle. Aside from Motley Bossblub and his obscure gelatinous orbs and Bowser’s final enthralling encounter and transformation, boss fights are notably unimaginative, repetitive, and derivatively designed. Given its lack of an explorative sandbox, Super Mario 3D World incorporates a traditional hub world that allows for standard progression and level selection. There is room for lite exploration throughout the hub space and hidden items and other goodies can be uncovered, but the sense of discovery here is marginal and superficial. Given its multiplayer centricity, players can select either Mario, Luigi, Peach, or Toad as their character, each with minute gameplay differences. Mario is a standard jack of all trades, Luigi has increased height while jumping, Peach has the ability to hover for a brief amount of time, and Toad has increased speed over the competition. The Nintendo Switch port also removes the Wii U’s gimmicky features, replacing minute touch screen elements with a motion control function and completely removing the ability to blow into a mic as a means to interact with the environment. On top of its exceptional level design, impeccable pacing, and ample gameplay variety, Super Mario 3D World is ripe with a copious amount of engaging content. While mainlining the core levels can be completed within five hours or so, collecting each cleverly hidden Green Star and Stamp and finishing every optional stage and hidden challenge will prove to be a rewarding endeavour. I haven’t even mentioned the three formidably challenging worlds that are unlocked after completing all main courses. Champion’s Road is no joke.
Differentiating from the structured formula of Super Mario 3D World, its additional standalone adventure – Bowser’s Fury – aligns with the explorative nature of Mario’s sandbox adventures. Following the sandbox structure and seamless explorative design of Super Mario 64, Sunshine, and Odyssey, Bowser’s Fury reinforces an enthralling sense of non-linear discovery that vanilla Super Mario 3D World notably lacked. Bowser’s Fury incorporates Super Mario 3D World’s brilliant level design while seamlessly melding it with the non-linear structure and explorative progression of Super Mario’s sandbox offerings. As Mario, and with the help of Bowser Jr., you embark on an epic quest to collect Cat Shine, in an effort to defeat Fury Bowser, a colossal entity that corrupted the iconic antagonist. Through the collection of Cat Shine – a collectible resource used to power Lighthouses scattered throughout Lake Lapcat – Mario is able to obtain the offensive edge against Fury Bowser during his sporadic rampages. Bowser’s Fury’s centric foundation is based of a game-long boss fight that continuously adapts and evolves throughout the course of its duration, consistently warping platform infrastructure, gameplay elements, and environmental design, crafting an innovative and dynamic world that is conspicuously novel from the established franchise. By collecting a required number of Cat Shine, Mario can transform himself into the Kaiju-sized, Giga Cat Mario. From here, you will engage in a colossal sized battle against Fury Bowser. These boss encounters are extraordinarily bombastic and sublimely intense, making up for Super Mario 3D World’s lack of enthralling spectacle. Each gigantic boss encounter introduces new gameplay elements and challenges, allowing each captivating engagement to feel slightly fresh and invigorative. Bowser’s Fury provides the same level of aesthetic variety, gameplay diversity, and intricate design as Super Mario 3D World, while incorporating seamless level progression and the sense of explorative discovery from Super Mario Odyssey. Players will organically discover and explore expansive levels in Bowser’s Fury, in such a seamless and novel manner, an invigorative departure from the series’ sandbox foundation. From traversing the illustrious waves atop of Plessie to discovering new islands ripe with diverse challenges and collectibles to attain, Bowser’s Fury is filled to the brim with a rewarding sense of exploration and remarkable gameplay variety. Each designated island in Lake Lapcat acts as an intricate level, incorporating the diverse set of hazards, platforms, and enemies from Super Mario 3D World. Different challenges and optional objectives are harmoniously weaved in its expansive game design; from defeating optional Fury Shadows, re-exploring previous levels with different gameplay challenges, and the adaptive level transformation during Bowser’s ferocious rampages, Bowser’s Fury still offers a remarkable display of gameplay variety and continuously adapts and throws new ideas into the mix. Each island is also reconstructed with different hazards, platforms, and enemies after completion, encouraging players to retread familiar grounds for a gameplay experience that continuously shifts and adapts. Lake Lapcat is also filled with an assortment of diverse and isolated gameplay challenges that reward you with additional Cat Shines, further cementing Bowser’s Fury’s stature as a robust collect-a-thon of preferential freedom and intricate sandbox design. Bowser’s sporadic rampages evoke a menacing sense of pathetic fallacy, drastically transforming the aesthetic and reconstructing the level architecture, providing access to new platforms and collectibles that were previously inaccessible. Complimenting its impeccable sense of pathetic fallacy and visual fidelity, Bowser’s Fury musical score strikes resonating chords of creative ingenuity, boasting a melodic harmony that provides an unparalleled flow of tranquil whimsicality and invigorative intensity. The player can also have Bowser Jr. to paint on certain walls, revealing hidden items and secrets rooms. In an optional multiplayer addition, a second player can also control Bowser Jr., giving them the freedom to attack enemies and paint the specific walls of interest. Player two’s overall role and level of importance is notably restrictive and undermined, and given Super Mario 3D World’s exceptional multiplayer component, Bowser’s Fury lazy multiplayer implementation is undeniably disappointing, mirroring the non-existent engagement of playing as Cappy in Super Mario Odyssey. Bower’s Fury is a remarkable addition to an already excellent package, further complimenting the impeccable gameplay while incorporating an engaging sense of exploration and discovery that the vanilla game lacked.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is a remarkable platforming experience that further compliments and accentuates the Super Mario pedigree. While Super Mario 3D World hovers between the 2D and 3D realm, its impeccable level and gameplay variety is continuously engaging and makes up for its marginal lack of innovation and novelty. From the residual introduction of illustrious power-ups, the impeccable implementation of multiplayer mayhem, and the slew of diversified collectibles and voluntary exploration, Super Mario 3D World is a brilliantly paced platforming experience with little to no filler. Its sense of control and implementation of creative ingenuity is weaker than Super Mario’s existing catalog and it’s also one of the only Super Mario titles to suffer from technical and performance issues, but its polished structure, impeccable pacing, and multiplayer-centric design elevates Super Mario 3D World into an echelon of its own. Its aesthetic variety and diverse gameplay mechanics further accentuates it established foundation of unadulterated joy and its notable absence of banality. Thankfully, its lack of innovation and explorative structure is redeemed with Bowser’s Fury. As a standalone adventure that further compliments the established quality and brilliant design of Super Mario 3D World, Bowser’s Fury adds a welcome element of rewarding exploration and organic discovery to the defined formula. Boasting the most bombastic and palpably intense boss encounters of the series and an impeccable return to sandbox level design, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury truly offers a harmonious balance of traditional structure and explorative design. Super Mario 3D World’s multiplayer implementation is inarguably the best in the series, while Bowser’s Fury’s multiplayer is a shallow addition that rivals the unimpressive affair in Super Mario Odyssey. The online infrastructure can be relatively inconsistent but good old fashion local coop is always reliable and further highlights Nintendo’s prolific status as the local multiplayer king. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury offers a harmonious balance of traditional structure and explorative design, incorporating remarkable gameplay variety and diverse architecture with Super Mario 3D World while sprinkling proficient titbits of seamless discovery throughout Bowser’s Fury. This illustrious package is truly the best of both worlds for 3D platforming.