A good Wii U game becomes an even better Switch game with some tweaks and an incredible new mode.
Wii U ports have happened so frequently on the Nintendo Switch that it’s easier to list out Nintendo games from Wii U aren’t on it by now. For the most part, these last-gen re-releases have been modest upgrades, with a Funky Mode here and a full DLC collection there. That’s what makes Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury stand out so much. This is a solid port of an already great game with a sizable addition that is nearly worth the price of admission by itself.
Right out of the box, you can access Bowser’s Fury, a moderately sized open-world 3D Mario with the controls and design concepts of 3D World. The whole of the game takes place in Lake Lapcat, which is made up of a series of islands that are organized into different areas that each generally contain five challenges, represented by Cat Shines. While this is not as expansive as other 3D Mario games, playing through the main story took me about 3-5 hours, while completing all of the content took me closer to 10 hours total. There’s no loading from area to area and additional shines can be found throughout the water. Those usually involve riding on the back of Plessie, the good-natured dinosaur mount that was featured in a lot of 3D World levels. Bowser’s Fury runs on a day-night cycle of sorts as well. Part of your time will be in a sunny day setting, but then Fury Bowser, who ominously sits in the center of the map during these light segments, emerges as rain pours and night falls. Bowser emerges at night, shooting off fire and generally wreaking havoc. He can be temporarily set back if you collect a shine during the night segment. If you have reached a threshold of shines, you can turn into giant Cat Mario and do battle.
Bowser’s Fury blew me away and might be one of my favorite 3D Mario experiences ever. While I do miss some of the flexibility of Mario’s movement from Odyssey, seeing the design concepts of 3D World transposed into an open world is more fun than I expected. In some ways, it feels like a remix of 3D World’s ideas, but in others, it grandly iterates and twists in delightful ways. Creativity shines throughout this adventure and I was extremely satisfied when my time was done with this new mode.
This feels informed by Odyssey, but it’s not slavishly like the 2017 Switch game. Bowser’s Fury is almost like an alternate reality glimpse into what a brand new 3D Mario could be if it drew more heavily from 3D World. It takes some of the smarter learnings from Odyssey with it. For one, lives are gone and when you die, you just lose coins. It also allows for a lot of experimentation and open play, highlighted best by the fact you can keep a reserve of power-ups, all accessed at the press of a button. The one aspect I could see some sort of disappointment in is that it’s not a multiplayer game, really. The main player controls Mario, while a second player can control Bowser Jr. The latter is essentially a more interactive version of Super Mario Galaxy’s Co-Star mode, as Bowser Jr. can unlock some secrets, collect items, and fight enemies, but does not have the same freedom of movement as Mario.
If you’re craving multiplayer, then you have to kick on over to the main event: Super Mario 3D World. It’s largely the same as the 2013 Wii U release, but the tweaks it makes are welcome and impactful. Characters move a little bit faster, which speeds up play. I know I used to play Toad a lot on the Wii U version because of his quick movement, but in this playthrough, I stuck more with other characters because no one felt slow (though Toad felt super fast). The Captain Toad levels, previously single-player only, can now be played with four players. Online multiplayer is also included, and while you have some limitations in that only the host can progress their save file, it runs extremely well. While your mileage may vary depending on your internet, I’ve had way better experiences with 3D World than I ever have with, for example, Super Mario Maker 2 using the same internet speeds. The greatest compliment I can give the online play is that I’ll actually seek out friends to play when the game is in the wild.
Some aspects don’t translate well, specifically anything using the touchscreen. It’s tolerable in handheld as you just need to tap the screen, but you have to hold a button and move a cursor around the screen in TV mode to interact with any touchable platforms or elements. It’s workable, but definitely not ideal.
My time revisiting Super Mario 3D World on Switch has been far more positive than my memory of the original game, which surprised me. I still have some issues with the way the game communicates depth and judging where you land after a jump, but aside from that issue, 3D World just overloaded me with bonkers creativity, enjoyable challenges, and what feels like an almost endless supply of levels. Ingenuity is dripping off of every level, theme, and puzzle. So many novel ideas are thrown at the wall, whether it’s the Captain Toad levels or things I can’t talk about but you probably know about because this is almost eight years old. The base game might not add much, but with how full the original game was, it’s still satisfying.
Collecting both Super Mario 3D World and the new Bowser’s Fury mode makes this package one of the best Wii U ports Nintendo has ever put out. The original game is as strong as ever with the outsized and welcome addition of online multiplayer, and Bowser’s Fury is among the strongest of Mario’s open-world 3D adventures. If you’ve never played 3D World before or haven’t touched it since the Wii U days, this is well worth the price of admission. Prospects get a little tougher if you’re not interested in going through 3D World, because while Bowser’s Fury is amazing, it’s still approximately less than 10 hours of gameplay even if you do everything. But no matter what: Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury might be one of the strongest Mario games available on Switch. The base game is fun and varied, while Bowser’s Fury offers a distinctive, inventive, and superb open-world 3D Mario experience.