The feline fun returns in Super Mario 3D World on the Nintendo Switch, but this time it comes with a twist. To quote from a literary visionary, where from the ashes a fire shall be woken and a light from the shadows shall spring, there is but one Bowser’s Fury, to calm takes a Giga Cat fling. So, with enhanced visuals, refreshed gameplay and online multiplayer fun for all ages, there’s no reason a Nintendo fan should miss this double dash platformer.   

We can all agree that everybody wants to be a cat. This was a unanimous decision in our household when playing Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U back in 2013. Now, in 2021, I imagine my nieces, nephews, and godchildren (many of whom were not yet born on the game’s release), alongside my retired parents, still want to grab the Super Bell to crawl, climb and swipe at enemies on all fours. I expect tantrums, tears, and frustration when there are limited super bells available in a level – and for those players to sit inside their bubbles, yowling in their anger, refusing to join back in the fun. All the above – combined with its classic platforming finesse – is why Super Mario 3D World was one of the best-selling games on the Wii U, selling 5.86 million units in total. In fact, we loved the title so much, it scored top marks in our review. Back then, Super Mario 3D World was a powerhouse in platforming game design. Now, it’s a beautifully polished port with an intense, albeit repetitive, spin-off campaign.  

As covered in our preview, Super Mario 3D World brings several enhancements to the core gameplay, including online multiplayer. For those who owned the Wii U version, online multiplayer is perhaps the biggest draw to warrant repurchasing for the Switch, with portability a close second. For those who will be experiencing Cat Mario’s antics for the first time, you’ll be able to experience the delights of double cherry chaos either in local or online multiplayer, discover the grace and beauty in Rosalina’s spin attack to aid you in some of the hardest levels in the game, and showcase your platforming dexterity in mad Mystery House dashes.

Unlike Super Mario Odyssey, Super Mario 3D World is designed in a classic Mario setting, where players enter levels from an overworld map and can gain power-ups from Toad Houses and additional 1-ups from slot machines scattered across each world. Of course, Bowser’s up to his old tricks again; this time he’s captured the Sprixie Princesses in a bid to overthrow the Sprixie Kingdom. When Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad catch wind of the situation, they follow the clear pipe and land in Sprixie Kingdom, ready to battle Bowser once again. With three green stars (or more) and a collectable stamp to be obtained in each of the themed world’s levels, players must race against the clock to reach the goal post and progress through the game.

Playing the enhanced port solo is great for those who want to experience the game first-hand, but for franchise veterans you’ll want to tackle it in local co-op, local wireless or online multiplayer. While local co-op is drop-in and drop-out, online multiplayer requires players to join or create a room (by using your own save file) to play with any friends registered. You can even restrict the room by setting a password, enabling access to only those friends you’ve shared it with. A nifty feature, for sure.

Experiencing online multiplayer for the first time in Super Mario 3D World is a real joy. Between hunting down the green stars and working together as a team to classic speed running, there’s a play style to please everyone. As mentioned in our preview, some of our favourite levels included Double Cherry Pass and Beep Block Skyway – there’s just no telling where chaos will reign next! Without a doubt, online multiplayer is the key to the castle in Super Mario 3D World, we’re just gutted it wasn’t included sooner.

Once you’ve experienced the thrills and spills of Super Mario 3D World, there’s a short, sharp and intense showdown taking place in Bowser’s Fury. Accessed from the game’s main start screen, Bowser’s Fury is a 3D open world adventure whereby the aim is to collect numerous Cat Shines to unlock the Giga Bell’s power and tame the hot-headed beast back into his inky lair under the sea.  Between teaming up with Bowser Jr., discovering each Cat Shine across Lake Lapcat and tricking Bowser into destroying his own ‘Bowser blocks’ during his fury state, the spin-off campaign delivers hours of fun in this tropical – albeit stormy – paradise. But that’s not to say it’s without fault.

Playing as Mario, with Bowser Jr. as a helpful assistant (or a vacant bystander, if you so choose), the spin-off campaign will place you in a state of limbo. While you figure out your next move, Bowser remains in a pool of black gloop, steadily rising over the next six minutes until he can unleash his fury on Lake Lapcat.  After a minute or so of experiencing this hellish landscape, complete with fire-breathing antics and lava bombs, his fury will subside and return to the lake. But this rinse and repeat cycle isn’t our biggest gripe with Bowser’s Fury, it’s the increasing frequency of how often it happens throughout gameplay, combined with the Giga Cat battle monotony after a set number of cat shines are collected. It’s this repetition that begins to dilute the explosive and chaotic sequences, along with the rare framerate hiccup during the most intensive scenes. Before long, Bowser’s ‘fury’ reduces itself to a bothersome ‘cat and mouse’ affair, where you are more likely to ride out the storm in a tunnel than push forward with platforming.

Fortunately, outside of the fury sequences, the campaign offers up some superb 3D platforming, exploration puzzles and timed coin collection sequences. What’s particularly impressive is the attention to detail. From the perfectly themed islands down to the cat-like features on enemies, Lake Lapcat is simply bursting with charm. Players can race down Slipskate Slope in an ice boot, locate the hidden mischievous calico kittens for a grieving ‘cat mom’, and explore each island in full to find the five cat shine shards. And, if you’re feeling more adventurous, you can hop on Plessie and race against the clock to capture your next cat shine. Plus, there’s also small ‘Easter Egg’ visual and musical references to Super Mario Sunshine, Galaxy, and 3D World too. And while you’ll easily complete the main mission within five hours, there are still plenty of Cat Shines to collect afterwards for an 8- to 10-hour experience overall. Nothing to be sniffed at.

As we mentioned in our preview, the co-op mode with Bowser Jr. is more of an assist mode, akin to Luma in Super Mario Galaxy or Cappy in Odyssey. Although he can attack, Bowser Jr. is tied to Mario’s point of view and cannot venture off on his own. If you’re playing with a younger sibling or child, it’s a neat addition but for couch co-op you’re best sticking with 3D World. It’s also worth noting that handheld mode plays wonderfully in single-player mode, though is much more challenging in co-op due to the lack of a split screen for exploration.

To this day, Super Mario 3D World remains one of the best 3D Mario games that utilises the classic 2D platform style. Sure, it’s not on the grandiose scale of Super Mario Odyssey, but it never intended to be. Designed for couch co-op and online multiplayer, it certainly deserves its time in the Switch port limelight. And while Bowser’s Fury isn’t quite up to scratch, it offers those who owned the original pause for thought. After all, the euphoria from catnip only lasts so long.

9/10

A review copy of Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.