One of the most common complaints in the Nintendo Switch era is that Wii U games like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Mario Kart 8 have been re-released at full price without any significant additions from their original versions. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is very much the exception to that rule by offering one of the finest games available on Wii U alongside an impressive new adventure. Mario fans will find that the combination is well worth the $60 asking price regardless of whether or not they played Super Mario 3D World when it released back in 2013.
For those unfamiliar with Super Mario 3D World, the game is an isometric platformer featuring Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad (as well as Rosalina as an unlockable character). As in Super Mario Bros. 2, each character has their own specific strengths and weaknesses that set them apart from the rest: Luigi can jump the highest, Toad is the Fastest, Peach can use a floating mechanic, Rosalina can use the spin attack from Super Mario Galaxy, and Mario is the most balanced. The game's levels can be played in single-player, or with up to four players working together.
That is, in theory. Super Mario 3D World might ask players to complete stages together, but it also ranks them after clearing each stage. As a result, the game can quickly turn from a co-op game into a competitive one, as players strive to get the top rank. The game can become cut-throat as players edge one another off stages or scramble to reach the finish line first. With a roomful of people, the game truly excels, but the Nintendo Switch version also adds the option of playing online since gatherings aren't convenient at the moment.
One of the things that stands out the most about Super Mario 3D World is the game's incredible level design. Each level is packed to the brim with original ideas and concepts. The game's stages are never overly challenging, but finding every hidden Green Star or stamp can add a welcome bit of difficulty. The whole thing is tied together by an incredible soundtrack, which will have players humming long after the game has been turned off.
For some Nintendo fans, Bowser's Fury will be the real highlight of this package. Unlike Super Mario 3D World, Bowser's Fury is a 3D platformer, similar to games like Super Mario 64. That design choice could have made Bowser's Fury feel out of place in this package, but the game actually features a number of elements from Super Mario 3D World: Players will find a lot of the same power-ups, the same enemies, and even some of the same mechanics that appear in 3D World's stages. As a result, it feels like there's a strong link between the two games, making it easier to jump between them.
In Bowser's Fury, Mario finds himself in an unlikely partnership with Bowser Jr. The elder Bowser has been corrupted, becoming a giant-sized threat named "Fury Bowser." To turn him back, Mario and Bowser Jr. must find and use the power of the Cat Shines.
Throughout the game, Fury Bowser remains a regular threat. The game's new area, Lake Lapcat, is normally bright and sunny. As time goes on, however, the air will turn dark, and Fury Bowser will emerge to torment Mario and Bowser Jr. There isn't much players can do other than run from the beast, but once enough Shines have been collected, Mario can access the Giga Bell. This massive power-up turns Mario into Giga Cat Mario allowing players to take part in massive, kaiju-inspired battles between the two characters. These moments are punctuated by metal-inspired music that is unlike anything that's ever been heard in a Mario game. It's strange to hear it here, but it sets the tone perfectly!
One of the things that sticks out the most about Bowser's Fury is how wildly different it is from other Mario games, and that isn't just a result of the music. The title features one cohesive map that has all of its levels integrated into it instead of acting as a giant hub like previous 3D Mario games. The world feels more cohesive as a result, and it's a welcome change. It will be interesting to see if the next full-length 3D Mario features a similar approach!
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is an excellent package. Between the two games, players will find a lot to enjoy. Super Mario 3D World remains one of the best Mario games ever made, and Bowser's Fury is a tantalizing glimpse at a possible future for the franchise. The latter mode only lasts a few short hours, but it's an excellent addition, nonetheless. Whether you want to play alone or with friends, this is one Wii U port that's more than worth the cost of admission.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5