Nintendo loves getting experimental with their flagship franchises, and Mario has by far benefitted most from this penchant. From make-your-own Mario games packed full of features to redefine creation-based gaming, to legendary kart-racing and unique RPGs, there is honestly very few words as exciting as “Mario” for Nintendo players.
But overkill is easy. Exhaustion can set in, and banging on about Mario ad nauseum has hurt Nintendo in the past. That is why it seems new Mario games are fewer and further in between, and I’d say this pacing is working extraordinarily well. It gives the developers a chance to really craft together thoughtful expressions of the canon Nintendo fans all known and love. The latest is Bowser’s Fury, a significant standalone expansion tacked onto the Switch re-release of Wii U’s Super Mario 3D World to create this: Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury.
If you’re a Nintendo fan, you’ve played Super Mario 3D World before. There is just no way you could have gotten off the hook with that one. It is emphatically one of the best mainline Mario games to date, with a pastiche of nostalgic throwbacks, a desire to “go big or go home”, and the introduction of a fun, wall-climbing power up that turns Mario into a cat. Plus, there’s the ability for four-player co-up, which you can now play online.
Super Mario 3D World is a colourful, kinetic, supersized Mario adventure that only lags when it comes to difficulty. In addition to being more of the most playful and vibrant Mario games ever made, it just happens to be one of the most painfully simple. The levels are short, the enemies are basic, and there’s a notable lack of fresh ideas the further the game deepens. The only exceptions to this are the wonderful and layered boss battles with Bowser.
And Bowser really is the star of this whole package, seeing as the Bowser’s Fury component of the game is the real reason to dip back into this title. It’s short, but it’s wildly inventive and perhaps serves as a possible new direction for the franchise. There’s some Mario Sunshine here, throwing the player back into the more open world approach that Switch took with the native Odyssey.
As Mario, you have 100 cat shines to collect across an entire archipelago of differently themed islands. It’s a short, wild adventure sometimes interrupted by a Godzilla-style Bowser who is as terrifying as ever as he rains huge fireballs down on you. There’s a sense of challenge here that’s just missing in 3D World, from the mini-bosses to chasing down a dark version of Luigi – a la, shadow Mario from Sunshine. There’s a lot of darkness here, and a desire to do things a little bit differently without flipping the entire platform approach on its head. That’s a middle ground that Mario has been missing for quite some time, which makes it frustrating that Bowser’s Fury is just short.
Although perhaps Nintendo are testing the waters with this one. They want to see what kind of appetite there is for a Mario game that brings in a bit of darkness and maturity, plays on the sandbox approach, and isn’t as much a dramatic departure from platforming as other Mario spin-offs. Consider me ravenous. I want this to be a full game, and I want it now.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Bowser’s Fury is inventive, fun and fresh; chance to revisit one of the best Mario platformers to date; perfect title for remote gaming; can now do four-player co-up online.
Lowlights: Bowser’s Fury is much too short and feels like a tease; 3D World can be painfully easy, making it a bit dull if you’ve played it before.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Review based on retail code supplied by Nintendo.