Game Reviews

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury Review

One of the best Wii U titles gets new life.

by Dean James

The Wii U as a system may have been a colossal flop for Nintendo, but the game library itself was full of gems that it would be tragic to see stranded on that system alone. As a result, there have been numerous ports to the Nintendo Switch for many of these games over the last few years, including Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. There has been at least one major standout that fans have been waiting on for years now and it has finally arrived with a brand new expansion as Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury.

Super Mario 3D World built on the foundation started with Super Mario 3D Land on the Nintendo 3DS, which sort of combined the classic 2D Mario style within a 3D plane. Rather than having a larger level to explore multiple times over to collect Stars and such, the game is split up more like you’d see in New Super Mario Bros. While that is the case with the structure itself, the game itself does not just feel like an extension of that series, but rather its own style of game that is much more enjoyable.

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One of the big features that set Super Mario 3D World apart from its predecessor was the inclusion of multiplayer for up to four players. Taking a page from Super Mario Bros. 2, players get to choose from Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad, as well as a fifth unlockable character, with each controlling differently from the others. All of the characters have their pros and cons for using them, which makes it fun to try out each one.

The stages themselves are a nice hybrid between 2D and 3D Mario, with the goal of almost every stage being to make it to the flagpole at the end. The game features an angled top-down perspective similar to other 3D Mario games, but you are fairly limited in where you can go in any given direction by the bounds of the individual stages. This means you can’t do a lot of exploration, though each stage has three hidden Green Stars and a Stamp for you to collect, which will make you have to keep your eyes open. This hybrid of almost 2D gameplay in a 3D plane is near perfection for the Mario series, with it still holding up very well more than seven years after initially coming out.

Not only is the level design superb, but the controls are incredibly tight as you play. Each character plays differently as mentioned above, though all of them still handle very well. A unique element that isn’t really seen elsewhere in the Mario series really is ability to speed up your character the longer you run. Mario almost always had the ability to run around, but here you have tiers of running speeds that increase as you do so. This adds a lot to some of the stages, with the dash panels found in places making it even faster. The Super Mario Kart themed stage still stands out a lot here, with the final stage Champion’s Road also taking advantage of it in places.

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The level select in Super Mario 3D World is also a big upgrade from 3D Land, as now you actually have an interactive world map to navigate. While the stages themselves are pretty standardly placed like you would see in Super Mario Bros. 3, you can go beyond the basic paths and explore to find new areas. This makes the whole overworld screen feel much more alive than in any other non-3D Mario game, with there being even more to explore in the post-game.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury takes the idea that we’ve seen with many recent Mario re-releases by pairing an older game with some sort of new side content that is more than just a few extra levels. This might be the most extreme case of this so far, as the Bowser’s Fury part of the game is a full expansion that is completely separate from the other and can be accessed directly from the main menu.

Bowser’s Fury is really unlike anything the Mario series has ever done before, as it’s an open world experience located in what is known as Lapcat Island, where the monstrous kaiju-like Fury Bowser is constantly chasing you. While open world, the game still controls just like the rest of Super Mario 3D World when it comes to Mario, who is your only choice to use as a single player. If you have two players, the second player can actually control Bowser Jr. as well, who is there to help Mario return his father to normal. If you are playing alone though, Bowser Jr. will still be along your side to help as well.

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To start, you will see an ominous Bowser shell up in the sky in the distance that is covered in some sort of black goo. Everything will be all happy and sunny all around Lake Lapcat, as you explore the first few islands you come across. Similar to the regular 3D style Mario games like Super Mario Odyssey, there are 100 collectible Cat Shines for you to find all around the island, with each being rewarded for different tasks. All of the main islands have five Cat Shines total, with a few of them being standard across each of the islands. There are also a number of Cat Shines found out in other areas that you can collect as well.

The world of Lake Lapcat can be navigated with Mario himself, but the dinosaur Plessie from the Super Mario 3D World base game is here as your travel companion to jet across the lake whenever you need it. There are some fun challenges involving Plessie and just riding around the lake is a lot of fun even if you aren’t working towards a specific Cat Shine.

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Where Bowser’s Fury is completely turned on its head though is when it starts to rain and eventually starts pouring. Before long, Fury Bowser will pop out and be after you for a period of time. Everything goes dark during these moments, which really adds to the overall intensity of what is happening. At the start, he will only be around for a bit, but there are points where he won’t just go away after awhile, instead forcing you to find a way to make him leave. There are a few ways to get Fury Bowser to go away temporarily, with the most common being the collecting of a Cat Shine. Outside of a point in the story where getting one isn’t enough to send him away, getting a Cat Shine should return him to his slumber for awhile.

After you collect a certain number of Cat Shines though, you can activate what is known as a Giga Bell, which not only transforms Mario into Cat Mario, but what is essentially a kaiju sized Super Saiyan version of Cat Mario. This leads to an actual boss battle with Fury Bowser, which requires you to deal damage to him and eventually force him to retreat. By doing this, you will be able to open up more of the lake to explore and be able to earn more Cat Shines. There are additional Giga Bells that require more Cat Shines as you advance through Bowser’s Fury, with you facing off with him every time you get enough to activate another. Each boss fight is a bit different too, with him switching up his moves each time and eventually being able to be defeated once you collect 50 Cat Shines and have activated the Giga Bells enough times.

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The looming threat of Fury Bowser all throughout playing Bowser’s Fury adds a level of intensity to Mario that has never really been seen before. While the idea of having a massively sized Bowser stalk Mario throughout an entire open world game in the future seems unlikely, the idea of Bowser’s Fury in general seems to set the stage for where the future of the 3D part of the franchise could potentially go regardless. Overall, Bowser’s Fury will only take you about four hours or so to complete at the minimum, but it will extend to closer to six hours or more if you try to collect all 100 Cat Shines.

Super Mario 3D World has long been one of the most requested games to be brought to Wii U and the wait has proven to be well worth it. Not only do players get all the content that was already in Super Mario 3D World, but the Bowser’s Fury expansion takes the franchise to new heights with what could be a sign of things to come in the future when it comes to 3D Mario. Even for those that played the original release on Wii U, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is the definitive way to experience this underrated Mario adventure.

The Verdict

By combining the completely new Bowser’s Fury expansion with what was an already stellar Super Mario 3D World, there is no question that Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury will provide you with hours of pure joy in what is one of the best entries in the overall Mario series and yet another must own title in the Nintendo Switch library.

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Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

  • Available On: Nintendo Switch
  • Published By: Nintendo
  • Developed By: Nintendo
  • Genre: Platformer
  • US Release Date: February 12, 2021
  • Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
  • Quote: "By combining the completely new Bowser's Fury expansion with what was an already stellar Super Mario 3D World, there is no question that Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury will provide you with hours of pure joy in what is one of the best entries in the overall Mario series and yet another must own title in the Nintendo Switch library."
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