Platform: Switch

If you happen to count yourself among the last holdouts still clutching on to a dusty old Wii U for the sake of the last few stand-out titles not available on the Switch, now might be the moment to put the ageing console out to pasture. Super Mario 3D World arrived as a joyously anarchic entry in the moustachioed plumber’s pantheon when it debuted back in 2013. Built upon foundations laid by the 3DS’ Super Mario 3D Land, it practically burst with hyper-caffeinated creativity and, eight years on, this buzzing little dynamo of a game has lost none of its manic energy.

Super Mario 3D World

A concoction of linear levels and (almost) fixed-camera 3D gameplay, Super Mario 3D World opted for the stage-based structure of vintage Mario (ideal for the 3DS, oddly anachronistic on the Wii U), using an Overworld map to chart your inexorable progress as you make your way to a series of castles in which Bowser has imprisoned bottled fairies. But while the lack of an open world initially feels like a constraint, it has focused the developers’ creativity to a laser point — one that the newly-minted Cat Mario scampers after with single-minded delight.

Each stage in 3D World takes the form of a perfectly-crafted mini-sandbox with its own dramatic ebb and flow. The stages are often constructed around a specific, ephemeral theme such as invisible platforms, jumps timed to music, or riding an aquatic dinosaur down a coin-strewn waterslide. None of the ideas are overused, evaporating just soon enough to leave you hankering for more, only to be replaced in your affections by another gameplay twist that surprises and delights to even greater effect.

A giddily enjoyable Mario title that has languished in Wii U purgatory for far too long.

The introduction of Mario’s feline alter-ego is another welcome wrinkle, joining Fire, Boomerang and Tanooki Mario iterations and allowing you to claw your way up trees and other obstacles like oversized environmental scratching posts. It might seem an unnecessary gimmick but the increased freedom of movement comes into its own in the game’s chaotic multiplayer mode. 3D World supports four player local co-op, with a new online mode introduced for the Switch, and the addition of extra players proves transformational. Precise, deliberate platforming devolves into anarchy as Toad, Mario, Luigi, Peach (and later Rosalina) blunder around the screen jostling for power-ups, rapidly depleting the shared life pool as they plummet from ledges each time the camera pulls the wrong way. Perfectionists will doubtless find it maddening, but barrelling through the levels with friends is enormous fun and the hectic pace fits perfectly with the game’s wildly upbeat tone and bonkers level design. It’s the perfect capstone to a giddily enjoyable Mario title that has languished in Wii U purgatory for far too long, and if this freshly-polished museum piece made-up the entirety of the 3D World Switch package, it would be entirely worthy of your cash.

Super Mario 3D World

However Nintendo has been anything but complacent with this release and elected to enhance the port with a second title. Bowser’s Fury takes many of Super Mario 3D World‘s themes and flourishes (not to mention doubling-down on its feline aesthetic to an almost worrying extent) and tries something completely different. Set in a fully 3D, open world environment, Bowser’s Fury sees Mario (accompanied by a player-controllable Bowser Jr.) jetting around an infested archipelago, banishing toxic sludge in an unusual quest to save Bowser Senior. King Koopa, it seems, has somehow grown to titanic proportions and, consumed by a supernatural rage, is terrorising Lake Lapcat like the newly crowned King Of The Monsters.

It’s this Kaiju-sized Koopa’s periodic appearances that form the game’s new core mechanic, turning the landscape into a burning hell of fire and brimstone as lava rains from the darkening sky and Bowser himself belches great funnels of flame to immolate everything in his path. That these encounters happen randomly and with little warning fundamentally shifts the way you approach the game’s other challenges. A simple puzzle with helicopter blocks or a fun scoot down an iceway in a giant skate can be transformed into a murderous nightmare by Bowser’s untimely intervention. Conversely, other points actually require the monster’s presence, with obstacles and their contingent rewards, only responding to a well-placed beam of molten fury.

Bowser's Fury

The acquisition of Cat Shines (this titles gilded collectible of choice) will activate nearby lighthouses and a beam of soothing light that scares Giga-Bowser away and provides temporary respite. Collect enough of them and you unlock a Giga Bell, which enlarges Cat Mario to similarly Dynamax proportions and tees up a battle of the titans as the two characters stomp around the landscape, engaging in mortal combat until Bowser is driven off.

It’s a curious little experiment with a central conceit that provides a fresh, innovative twist on the Mario formula and a doom-laden tonal shift that perfectly compliments the upbeat antics of 3D World. Bowser’s Fury is far too short to have served as a standalone release, but as a bonus tacked on to an already great port of 3D World, it makes this double-package incredible value for money. Neither title approaches the franchise mastery of Super Mario Odyssey, but this double-act combines the joyous return of a lost classic with something entirely new, easily earning its place as part of your Switch library.

Buy Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury Now.

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