I thought I knew what I was getting into with Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury. Nintendo has now released remasters of basically all of the Wii U’s most acclaimed games, polishing them up with only a few additions sprinkled here and there. For people who haven’t played these games before, it’s nice to get to experience some overlooked classics. But for those of us who owned the Wii U, there’s usually not a great deal of value outside of the better visuals and performance. This new Switch remaster is a pleasant surprise, then, as its new Bowser’s Fury add-on is almost a brand new mainline Mario game in its own right.
Super Mario 3D World is the underdog of the Mario series, with it representing Nintendo’s shifting priorities at the time of its original 2013 release. While the Wii’s Super Mario Galaxy masterfully played with its environment and took 3D platforming to the next level, Mario 3D World felt unimaginative by comparison. Nintendo returned to shorter courses and fixed camera angles, which were reintroduced to facilitate 4-player co-op as part of a broader effort to establish the Wii U as a local multiplayer machine.
Watch us play Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
While it isn’t Mario Galaxy’s bold leap forward, Mario 3D World is a tremendously fun sidestep. Letting players control Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Toad, or the unlockable Rosalina with up to three friends, Nintendo encourages chaos rather than cohesion. There’s a reason why each level concludes with a leaderboard — this co-op game has a devilishly competitive edge to it.
How to lose friends and alienate people
There are several ways to annoy your teammates in Mario 3D World, turning a pleasant co-op adventure into a frenetic free-for-all. You can pick up your friends and throw them, progressing too far ahead of the pack will cause everyone else to be trapped in a bubble, and scoring more points than everyone else will award you with a cute little crown. Its tightly packed levels push players together, with regularly distributed power-ups further adding to the anarchy.
Power-ups come thick and fast, with old favorites such as the Fire Flower and Super Leaf being joined by the Super Bell, which transforms players into cats, and the Double Cherry, which clones them. Nintendo went all-in on Cat Mario for Super Mario 3D World, and it’s easy to see why. On top of the inherent cuteness of seeing Mario, Luigi & co. as feline versions of themselves, its wall-climbing ability offers great verticality, even if many levels lack the spaciousness to make proper use of it. The Super Bell’s usefulness is diluted by 3D World’s linearity, a symptom of its multiplayer focus that also harms the game for solo players.
Continuing the Odyssey
As a single-player experience, Super Mario 3D World is fun if limited. Courses that are exciting with friends, such as riding on the back of Plessie the dinosaur or zooming through a Mario Kart-themed track, are more straightforward when you’re on your own. This is where Bowser’s Fury comes in and balances the package.
I assumed that Bowser’s Fury would be a large-scale boss fight glued to the back of Mario 3D World, though it’s much more robust an offering than anticipated. While it does revolve around Fury Bowser — an oversized, nigh-on demonic version of gaming’s most enduring antagonist — it’s also a completely separate experience, focusing heavily on exploration and collectibles.
As a result of this, Bowser’s Fury is more reminiscent of Super Mario Odyssey than Mario 3D World, doing away with the fixed camera angles and linear courses in favor of an open world and replayable challenge areas. It still has its own multiplayer, though limits it to two players, with a second player able to control Bowser Jr. who can help take down enemies and uncover secrets with a swish of his paintbrush. He’s not so much a full-fledged second protagonist as he is a backseat passenger, and solo players can opt to have him be AI-controlled instead.
Hell hath no fury like a Bowser scorned
Each challenge area is located around a locked lighthouse, with you being required to collect Cat Shines in order to unlock new stages in each area. These Cat Shines also unlock Giga Bells dotted around the map, with these oversized bells allowing you to transform into Giga Cat Mario to take on Fury Bowser. Who needs Godzilla vs. King Kong? 2021’s real monster mash is Giant Bowser vs. Cat Mario.
Fury Bowser appears at random intervals, transforming the idyllic Lake Lapcat into a stormy, treacherous landscape. Taken over by the magic paint seen in Super Mario Sunshine, Fury Bowser is an altogether more terrifying take on Mario’s arch-nemesis. It’s an uncharacteristically dark approach for Nintendo, as Mario darts around trying to avoid Bowser’s gargantuan frame and the fire raining down from the sky. It creates some apocalyptic scenes, and it’s no wonder that Bowser’s makeover has been compared to Dark Souls’ hellish bosses.
The Dark Souls of Mario games
Outside of Fury Bowser’s appearances, Bowser’s Fury makes better use of many of 3D World’s additions than the main game. Cat Mario can now scale towering buildings, the Ice Skate (an evolution of Super Mario Bros. 3’s Goomba’s Shoe) is now necessary for some fast-paced time trials, and Plessie is constantly used to traverse Lake Lapcat at speed rather than being confined to his own short courses. It’s essentially Mario 3D World’s abilities combined with Mario Odyssey’s spirit, and as such doesn’t feel like a mere expansion.
However, combining Mario 3D World’s engine with Odyssey’s free-roaming does cause some issues, particularly with Bowser. While the constant threat of Fury Bowser is initially an intriguing gimmick, it becomes frustrating as time goes on, particularly when his visits last longer. Given his monstrous size, his abilities such as his fire breath take up the entire screen, and the camera simply isn’t built for helping you avoid him. Battles between Giga Cat Mario and Fury Bowser suffer from a similar issue, with the sluggish camera struggling to keep him in sight — an unusual issue for a character so massive.
Still, even if Fury Bowser may be more visually impressive than he is fun to fight, Lake Lapcat still feels like a wonderful world ripped straight from the single-player 3D Mario games. With an additional 4–5 hours of platforming tucked away inside of it, it’s a succinct but well-rounded adventure that offers more value for solo players, something that would have been missing from a straight-up port of Super Mario 3D World.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury Review | The final verdict
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is an excellent combination of games, offering both co-op Mario mayhem and a 3D Mario collect-a-thon in a single package. While Mario 3D World might not be Nintendo at its most creative, it’s still a must-play multiplayer game for Nintendo Switch owners, and Bowser’s Fury is much more than just the cherry on the cake.
Review code provided by publisher.