'Do we need another Super Mario port on Switch?' That was my initial thought when Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury was announced. Trust me, this thought came from a good place. As I mentioned in my preview, Super Mario 3D World was one of my favourite Wii U games back in the day, but sometimes things are best left in the past (which is why I haven't bought Super Mario 3D All-Stars). Lucky for us, that's not the case here.
Sidestepping the nostalgia, returning to Super Mario 3D World is, frankly, great fun. There are some (me) who would argue that this is one of the finest games in Nintendo's most-famous franchise, masterfully combining the feel of the original 2D titles with modern, versatile flourishes. Whether you're exploring every nook and cranny of a level on your own, or racing alongside friends to get as many points as you can, Super Mario 3D World is a complete experience that almost anyone can enjoy.
So, how do you improve on a game like this? Well, Nintendo have added online multiplayer, for one thing, and it couldn't have come at a better time. For many of us, the world remains closed and social interactions are limited, so opening up this excellent Mario experience to online play means we're not missing out on the competitive, chaotic mayhem of trying to reach a green star before one of our friends does. It's not all perfect, with some jarring lag spikes, but, in my own experience, this happened too rarely to take any real issue with.
As you can tell from the new title, Nintendo have also added something else to Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury. The last two words refer to an extra mode, separate from the base game. Mario is joined by Bowser Jr., wanting to quell a seriously angry - and seriously huge - Daddy Bowser, as he rages around Lake Lapcat.
This beautiful archipelago is one of the best Mario environments I've ever seen. Offering some wonderful areas, each one containing missions to complete in exchange for 'cat shines' (basically power stars). The whole thing is designed to be replayed and re-explored. You can even ride Loch Ness Yoshi (*cough*) I mean, Plessie, around the islands, completing fun obstacle courses as you go. I'd happily own this game just for Plessie, to be honest.
As I mentioned, Mario has partnered up with Bowser Jr., meaning you have an AI companion when playing solo, or a human player can control him. In solo, Bowser Jr. can be a helpful ally, and you are even able to choose how helpful when starting the game. However, as a player two character, things quickly turn lacklustre. There's no split screen, so Bowser Jr. can't stray far for too long, and this robs your second player of any real agency. Instead, they simply aid you, and even then they don't do that much. Honestly, in the hands of a competent person, it feels like you're barely making a difference. In fact, when playing with my girlfriend, she left the room briefly and I was able to play on without her, not skipping a beat. Clearly, Bowser Jr. is intended to be played by young children who might not be able to progress in a game on their own, which is great for those with young kids or siblings, but that's it.
Now, I know this same issue can be thrown at the core gameplay of Super Mario 3D World, so I will. Even when four players are going through a level together, there's no split screen, meaning if you fall behind because you want to explore somewhere, you're quickly summoned to the leading player's location. Here, your character appears in a spherical capsule, waiting for you to press a button and begin playing. Now, if you choose not to push the button, you'll stay in this capsule until you reach the end. Again, this is handy for when you're joined by less competent players, but it can detract from the multiplayer experience.
Multiplayer gripes aside, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury easily earns its place on Nintendo Switch. As a port of an already exceptional game, it elevates itself to new heights with the inclusion of online multiplayer and a whole new add-on. While it may not be perfect, it's undoubtedly one of the best Super Mario games in franchise history, worth replaying time and time again.
Pros: Amazing level design, online multiplayer, excellent new mode
Cons: Lack of split screen, Playing as Bowser Jr. can feel flat
For fans of: Super Mario 3D World, Super Mario Odyssey
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is released on February 12th for Nintendo Switch. Review code was provided by Nintendo. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scoring system here.
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