Few, if any names are as synonymous with video games as Mario. The series basically re-launched the medium into the mainstream on the NES and hasn’t stopped being a massive force within the industry ever since. Each new main entry in the Super Mario series is a seminal release for its generation, so when Nintendo decides to bundle some of them together it’s a huge deal. This was the case for Super Mario All-Stars on SNES, and once again with the release of Super Mario 3D All-Stars for Switch. But this new set doesn’t offer as much improvement over the original releases, making it a tougher sell, though still an easy one thanks to just how amazing the original games still are.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars combines Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy into one clean package for the Switch. All three games are presented here in mostly their original form, being modified to work on the Switch in just a few key ways. Of course their resolution was enhanced with the N64’s woeful 320×240 being bumped to 960×720. The other two entries were jumped up to 1080p while docked (720p in handheld mode), with Sunshine having its aspect ratio expanded to full 16×9 widescreen. Framerate hasn’t gotten as much attention though with 64 and Sunshine running at a now-solid 30fps with Galaxy hitting the pinnacle of 1080p and 60fps.
Beyond the visuals the games haven’t been touched too much. Controls were modified to fit the Joy-Cons and/or Pro Controller, both of which work well almost all of the time. However, some changes, especially with Sunshine’s FLUDD device and Galaxy’s pointer were more a necessity than a desire. The games control fine throughout but the lack of the Gamecube’s analog shoulder buttons and the Wii’s sensor bar has been somewhat detrimental.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars isn’t a perfect collection.
Everything still works, but having two buttons to control water-flow in Sunshine and being forced to constantly re-center your pointer in Galaxy can be annoying. There’s not much that can be done to get around the former, but the latter could be fixed somewhat. Super Mario Galaxy used the pointer way more than it needed to, and this re-release would have played much better had it been modified for more traditional button inputs in menus and other areas. And for those who enjoy Mario music (so…everyone), there’s a huge selection from each game to play at your leisure. The music player isn’t very robust, so there’s little to do other than pop them on and enjoy, but the addition is appreciated.
So that’s how these games are different, but how do they feel when played today? Pretty damn good actually. Super Mario 64 could certainly be improved by having widescreen and 60fps support, but is otherwise still the all-time classic it has been for years. Sure, games have improved since then and it’s showing its age in a few ways, such as the camera, but when you get immersed in this world it has a feeling like no other. Exploring Peach’s Castle to find new platforming levels, all of which are designed to near-perfection, is endlessly enjoyable. When Super Mario 64 is in its stride it is gaming bliss the likes of which we don’t often see these days.
Super Mario Sunshine comes to 3D All-Stars with a similar feeling to how it hit Gamecube all those years ago. It’s a good game, but it has always struggled to live up to other Mario titles. Poorly voiced and written cutscenes are the first thing you’ll notice, but the platforming controls are also pretty cumbersome overall. Mario doesn’t have all his usual tricks, such as the long jump, and has to rely on the FLUDD’s overpowered hover nozzle quite a lot. The platforming is actually more enjoyable without it, but the missing abilities and occasionally shaky camera hold it back. The game was also clearly rushed originally and the scars of that decision linger with a lack of level variety and abysmal textures. But the water physics and design are still top notch and the visual enhancements help make the game feel quite modern in many aspects. Those who don’t go in with nostalgia goggles on might come away disappointed though.
Super Mario Galaxy however is the unmitigated pinnacle of the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection. The game already looked amazing on the Wii and the HD and framerate upgrades have done wonders. At a glance many might think it’s a totally modern release thanks to its timeless and gorgeous design aesthetic. And the gameplay is 3D platforming perfection, minus the odd control glitch here and there when the gravity mechanics get a little wonky. Its gameplay design would only be topped by its sequel, whose absence in the 3D All-Stars collection is tough to ignore, but with so much Mario goodness to enjoy in this set asking for more might seem greedy.
So what you have with Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a collection of three of the best 3D platformers of all time, with some caveats. Super Mario 64 is showing its age in some areas and isn’t enhanced to any great degree. Many elements that we’ve seen improved in fan-crafted mods are left out here to its detriment, but the game is still a blast to play and this is clearly the best way to experience it on the Switch. Sunshine has always been divisive and remains so here, but it’s also the game most improved in the transition. Sure, controls could be better but widescreen support and improved resolution smooths some of the rougher edges. And Galaxy is simply superb in all the ways that matter, presenting players with one of the best games ever made in a truly enhanced package. The pointer controls might be frustrating at times but only for a moment and then you’re back to flying, leaping, and jumping through the stars.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars isn’t a perfect collection. It doesn’t go far enough in enhancing the three games it brings to the Switch and excludes one that many feel is the best in the series. Two of those games also might not impress new, modern players due to various issues with their age, controls, and visuals. But still, these are undoubtedly three all-time greats that are worthy of experiencing again, or for the first time. The collection as a whole might not bring much to the table beyond the games it transfers to a newer console in better shape than before, but when the games are this good that is enough.