Ever since its launch back in 2017, the Nintendo Switch has gradually been seeing Nintendo’s excellent Wii U library make the leap over offering games like Pikmin 3 and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze a second chance with a much larger userbase. While these enhanced ports (or whatever you might want to call them) have tried to offer returning players something worth making a second purchase for, I’ve often found the results mixed at best, these additions either catering more to less-experienced players or pretty throwaway in general. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is without question Nintendo’s most ambitious and exciting Wii U update yet, offering much-appreciated amendments to the original game but more importantly an all-new adventure that proves every bit as exciting as a full 3D Mario adventure.
First let’s take a look at the old…
Super Mario 3D World steers away from the open worlds of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Odyssey instead opting for an adventure that shares more in common with the plumber’s 2D outings. While this is still very much a 3D platformer, levels are shorter more linear affairs – lasting no more than a few minutes – with the familiar level-ending flagpole your main priority as opposed to exploring and completing an assortment of Moon-rewarding tasks.
Coming off of the exploration-heavy Super Mario Odyssey, Super Mario 3D World makes for a refreshing change of pace. Levels are compact in size but overflowing with creative ideas that surprise at every turn. You might find yourself one moment dashing along what is effectively a Mario Kart-inspired race track and the next timing your movements to the beat of the level’s music. Or take the new power-ups that include the hero multiplying Double Cherry or the super cute Cat Suit, the latter of which allow Mario and crew the ability to pounce and climb pretty much anything effectively changing the way you will approach levels. Ideas are thrown at you from one level to the next and even those that do make a return, Nintendo finds an interesting way to tweak and make them feel fresh once more.
Taking a cue from Super Mario Bros. 2, players can choose between Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad each controlling a little differently. Mario as always is your perfect all-rounder, Peach can float a little after her jump (making her arguably the best character), Luigi leaps highest of the bunch and Toad runs fastest. A small but welcome change to the game over the original has been the increased speed of the characters, everyone having a little more pep to their dash, Toad, in particular, proving a challenge to keep in control when at full speed.
When playing alone you can choose from any of the cast and Super Mario 3D World makes for an excellent time this way switching back and forth to suit the next level ahead. Get three more players into the mix and the game truly comes alive though, offering that same laugh out loud chaotic co-operative play that made the recent 2D Mario games so much fun. And while getting a group over your place might not be so easy right now, thankfully the Switch version includes online play between friends. Better still it allows two players to join from a single console (a feature more games should offer). Of course, none of this matters if the online functionality is no good but so far from the handful of times I’ve tried this out, I’ve experienced little issues or lag whatsoever.
This is my second time playing through Super Mario 3D World (having loved the original back in 2013), and none of that magic appears to have faded, the game still an absolute delight. It’s still very much the same game – that much is obvious – but the increased speed and added online play improve on what was already a fantastic Mario adventure.
So, onto the new…
Bowser’s Fury is an interesting side-adventure that almost feels like a hybrid of Super Mario 3D World and Super Mario Odyssey, taking the movement and mechanics of the former and putting you in the sort of open free-roaming world you’d expect of the latter. This particular world is called Lake Lapcat, a once serene and beautiful kingdom unfortunately tarnished by a nasty black ooze. Worse still, Bowser has also fallen victim to said goop transforming him into the huge and rather intimidating Fury Bowser (more on him in a moment). It’s now up to the unlikely pairing of Mario and Bowser Jr. to save the day.
Lake Lapcat consists of numerous islands, each of these essentially their own miniature platforming-playground and with five Cat Shines to collect. Similar to the moons of Super Mario Odyssey, Cat Shines are your reward for completing various tasks such as taking out an arena of enemies or collecting five cat shards scattered about. While this may sound pretty standard for a Mario game so far, the big twist comes in the shape of Fury Bowser who you’ll find making an appearance throughout your playtime.
Looming over Lake Lapcat, Mario’s now giant arch-nemesis will shoot fire from his mouth, summon new platforms and generally be a nuisance as you try to go about your business. It’s an interesting mechanic and one that brings with it a great mix of tension and excitement as rain starts to pour, heavy metal blares and streams of fire fill the screen. Fury Bowser will eventually give up if you dodge him long enough though or can be driven away should you collect a Cat Shine. Collect enough though and you’ll summon the Giga Bell, a new power-up granting Mario the ability to turn into Giga Cat Mario where you’ll then be able to take the fight directly to him.
These battles are another highlight of Bowser’s Fury and see you duking it out across the entirety of Lake Lapcat – everything of course now much smaller. With every defeat of Fury Bowser, you’ll unlock more of Lake Lapcat – accessible by a ridable Plessie – with new islands to explore, further Cat Shines to collect and a higher target to summon the Giga Bell again and take on Fury Bowser once more.
Exploring Lake Lapcat was an absolute joy with every new island reached bringing with it that reliable sense of excitement and adventure we’ve come to expect from a Mario platformer. Cat Shines are generously littered about the world, resulting in little downtime between each one while tasks – despite repeating – are engaging and make great use of the design of each island and their obstacles. The only real let down of Bowser’s Fury for me was Bowser Jr. relegated to an auto-assist in single player as he takes out nearby enemies and can reveal power-ups in graffiti on walls. A second player can take control however the experience is far from engaging.
What impressed me most of all about Bowser’s Fury was that it doesn’t feel like an afterthought nor like the regurgitation of assets and ideas we’ve already seen. As enjoyable as Pikmin 3’s new content was, it was really just more of the same. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe meanwhile really only introduced a new character aimed more toward less experienced players. And sure, Bowser’s Fury uses a lot of the same enemy types and power-ups from Super Mario 3D World, but they’re presented in a way that feels fresh and exciting whilst its entire structure further gives Bowser’s Fury its own unique identity.
Despite being over seven years old, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is still rather eye-catching, particularly when it comes to the much larger kingdom of Lake Lapcat. For the most part everything is buttery smooth but I did notice during rather chaotic moments such as the appearances of Fury Bowser, the game would very briefly slow a little. It never became a problem but is rather surprising to see from a Mario platformer. The soundtrack meanwhile is truly fantastic, with the new tracks added to Bowser’s Fury arguably the best in the whole package.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is easily the best Wii U to Nintendo Switch update we’ve seen yet. The excellent original adventure has seen a number of minor but impactful changes – such as the addition of online play and increased movement speed – but it’s Bowser’s Fury that proves the true highlight combining familiar elements from the likes of Super Mario 3D World and Super Mario Odyssey with some exciting fresh ideas. Whatever your familiarity with the Wii U original is, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is an incredible package and a fantastic way to kick off 2021 for the Switch.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo