Nintendo's Wii U console was practically a flop from the get-go after launching in 2012.
It didn’t differentiate itself enough from the Wii, and many saw it as an awkward-in-hands peripheral rather than a brand new video game system. It was a limited seller in a mainstream world. Nintendo moved only 13.56 million units in its first five years.
Nintendo solved such problems with the Switch, a hybrid of a home console and handheld system. Since 2017, it has sold nearly 80 million units of the Switch. The Wii U wasn’t a total bust though, as it had one truly fantastic thing going for it: some incredible games.
While many Wii U titles like November 2013's Super Mario 3D World never got the appreciation they deserved, the newly released Nintendo Switch port Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury makes the best case yet that Wii U games were ahead of their time.
Super Mario 3D World feels familiar but thoughtfully enhanced to make it welcoming to newcomers. The Bowser’s Fury add-on, exclusive to the Switch version, is a refreshing and surprisingly robust 3D Mario game that innovates by incorporating power-ups and level gimmicks from Super Mario 3D World. Together, they just may redeem Nintendo's biggest failures almost a decade later.
Super Mario 3D World is the black sheep of the 3D Mario games, with rather linear levels that call back to the franchise's more simplistic 2D origins. While you have the movement options of a 3D Mario game, levels play out like the New Super Mario Bros. games where your main goal is reaching the literal goal post flag at the end.
The game also features four-player co-op. Players can choose between Mario, Peach, Toad, and Luigi. Like Super Mario Bros. 2, each character has slightly different abilities: Toad runs faster, Luigi jumps higher, and Peach can float in midair. Even the slow-paced, puzzle-focused Captain Toad levels support four players on Nintendo Switch.
Super Mario 3D World’s most distinctive new power-up is the Super Bell, which lets Mario turn into a cat that can swipe at enemies, dive through the air, and climb on walls. It opens up some wild movement options and gives new players a bit of leeway as well.
Overall, Super Mario 3D World is simple and welcoming. Every level feels distinct and expertly crafted. It boasts some of the best level design in any 3D platformer ever. Each level is fully independent, allowing Nintendo to introduce, develop, and test the player with new gimmicks. And you always move on before anything grows tiresome.
Seven years on, I was still delighted by every new stage I entered. A particular favorite of mine is Fuzzy Time Mine, where you must outrun a giant wave of Fuzzies, spikey little black balls with a wild look in their eyes and no remorse if you get caught in their swarm.
Despite the strong game design on display, Super Mario 3D World has one major problem: Its lack of a memorable visual style. Between 2009 and 2013, we got three games in the New Super Mario Bros. series, Super Mario 3D Land for 3DS, and Super Mario 3D World, all of which feel incredibly similar to each other.
Even though Super Mario 3D World’s levels are filled to the brim with intriguing stratagems, it all looks a little too familiar. But this is one instance where you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Every level is just as engaging as it was seven years ago.
The enhancements to Super Mario 3D World on Nintendo Switch are small, but they make the experience more fluid and enjoyable. Your character jumps and runs at a snappier pace, and they can also now roll through the air. You also won’t lose your progress collecting Green Stars in each level if you die, making it more likely you’ll return to the game often.
The most significant new addition is online multiplayer with friends. It’s noticeably laggy at times, and Nintendo’s online capabilities remain far behind PlayStation and Xbox. With Super Mario Maker 2’s multiplayer experience still laggy and disappointing over a year and a half after its launch, it’s unlikely that 3D World’s online play will improve significantly. Still, it’s still a welcome addition to a simple Mario game that’s even more fun with friends.
The Purrfect Add-On
Bowser’s Fury is the second part of this Nintendo Switch package and is wholly distinct from the Wii U game alongside it. This isn’t a linear, level-based Mario game, it’s a new 3D experience that’s more like Super Mario 64 or Odyssey.
In Bowser’s Fury, we find the King of the Koopas corrupted by a mysterious black goo. Bowser Jr. enlists the help of Mario to save his dad from this mysterious force, and after a short opening cutscene, Mario and Bowser Jr. are set loose to explore.
While Bowser’s Fury is set up like Odyssey, it includes all the power-ups from 3D World. You can access an inventory of power-ups at any time, so you’ll always have the right tool at your disposal. Bowser Jr. will also help by collecting coins, attacking enemies, and even painting certain spots to spawn power-ups. He’ll still help you out if you’re playing alone, but a second player can also take control of him.
While every area in Bowser’s Fury has a unified style and is connected to the wider open world, each feels unique. They use different 3D World mechanics, like the Red-Blue Panels that flip when you jump. Players can also ride a plesiosaur aptly named Plessie around the entire map and complete special challenges with her.
Every level has five Cat Shines for players to find, though once you find one, you’ll have to exit the area for the next one to load in, which is annoying. As you are collecting all of these Cat Shines, you’ll also have to occasionally deal with Fury Bowser when it awakens. Like Calamity Ganon in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Fury Bowser’s presence looms as you play.
He will occasionally awaken to attack the player. You’ll have to dodge him, but he’ll spawn new platforms that let you access new areas, and his destructive rampages can break open special blocks. Once Mario collects enough Cat Shrines, he can collect the Giga Bells around the map to grow to Fury Bowser’s size and fight it head-on.
This happens over multiple phases over the four- to six-hour adventure and constantly keeps the experience fresh. Bowser’s Fury is never particularly hard — you’ll always have power-ups at your disposal and only lose 50 coins when you die — but it’s one of the most exciting 3D Mario games yet. It’s the near-purrfect marriage of 2D and 3D Mario we’ve been waiting for.
While its name is clunky, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is better than ever on Switch, and this re-release gives fans another chance to try one of the most refined and overlooked Mario games Nintendo has ever made.
The cat’s out of the bag: Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is a must-play for Nintendo Switch owners — and it might just be the redeemer of the downtrodden Wii U. 9/10.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is available now for Nintendo Switch.
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