Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is probably now my favourite Mario game of all-time. The package as a whole brings a variety of different Mario experiences, and the ability to do it all in co-op is a gift. Granted, the lack of online co-op in Bowser’s Fury is a little annoying, but it’s still an immense excellent experience anyway.
This is, of course, a Nintendo Switch re-release of Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U, and there’s probably not all that much here to attract those who played on the quirky console, but that doesn’t stop it being an excellent game in its own right.
Designed from the ground up to cater to co-op play, the camera is much further away from the action that a typical 3D Mario game, shifting around so that the game feels like a blend between the 2D adventures of old (well, the New Super Mario Bros. games at least) and Mario’s ventures into 3D. While some may disagree with my love of it, I don’t think anyone can argue with the fact that it’s a riot in multiplayer thanks to the strange mix of co-op and competitive play that you end up with. Sure, you can literally carry your friends through difficult sections, but also you can chuck them into lava as well.
This is all made far better for the Switch release by the addition of online co-op throughout – something that’s nice and stable in my limited experience prior to launch. It was a glaring omission on the Wii U, but given how essential online multiplayer is in 2021, it’s great to see Nintendo adapting the game to fit. Even the Captain Toad mini-games now feature four player multiplayer!
One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is that the later stages in this game are incredibly hard. I’m talking “don’t play this with your significant other or near children” hard. If you like a challenge, you’ll be in heaven, but these levels will be a slap in the face to anybody you’ve been carrying, literally or otherwise, through the game up until that point.
Of course, the real draw of the game for Wii U owners is the new Bowser’s Fury mode, and I’ve got news for you: Bowser’s Fury is sublime. If you took everything that makes 3D Mario games great and distilled it into one game, it would be this.
The story goes that Bowser has gone and gotten himself cursed, or he’s eaten something bad, or he didn’t sleep well. Whatever the case, he’s really grumpy and has also been transformed into a giant metal AF version of himself that can shoot out spines, shoot out beams of fire, and just generally trash everything around him. His son, who is possibly the cause of all of this, has asked Mario to help sort things out.
You do this by going around the open world and collecting Cat Shines from various courses, all of which only take less than five minutes to complete. It’s like speedrunning what makes up a Mario game, but there’s still a healthy helping of game to play here. Each course has a few Cat Shines to find across various different objectives, a lot like the Mario 64 levels. They’re all pretty damn wonderful, and the difficulty increases at a very satisfying rate.
What happens as you’re going about your business, is that it’ll start to rain, and the music will change. This signals Fury Bowser’s approach, and usually means you have to drop what you’re doing or try and do it a lot faster under a lot more pressure. When he arrives, he’ll start raining down fireballs, explosives spikes, and using his aforementioned laser fire breath. You’ll have to scare him away by getting a Cat Shine or waiting it out.
The aim of the game though, is to beat him up. You can do by activating the Giga Cat Bell turning Mario into a Super Saiyan giant version of Cat Mario, and you then get a little boss battle to get through. Activating the Giga Cat Bell requires you to have found a certain number of Cat Shines, and you’ll need to find half of the available ones to finish the game.
Every visual effect is a delight, and the music is stellar as well. I’ve also now got a few photos of my daughter trying to play it and drive Plessie around the beautiful looking water. This is the first game she’s taken an interest in, and while her hands aren’t really big enough to use a controller yet, it was still one of the best feelings in the world to watch her elation at being able to make Cat Mario jump.
Bowser’s Fury is now forever intertwined with my feelings towards video games and my little one, and I’m hoping that in a few months I’ll be able to get her to listen for long enough that we can actually play some together. Speaking of which, you can play Bowser’s Fury in local co-op, with the second player controlling Bowser Jr and helping out. He’s a little like a whirlwind of death that can fly out at will, as opposed to taking a really active role as they would in 3D World. He’s a more destructive version of Cappy from Super Mario Odyssey. I’m just upset that there’s no online co-op for Bowser’s Fury, when it was integrated so well in 3D World.
Bowser’s Fury could remain a curious side-experiment, but this could also be a sign of where the Mario series is heading in future. Big open worlds can be tiring to explore, but if you give me a bunch of smaller ones to dive into like this, I’ll be happy as a cat scratching up an expensive sofa. I really hope we see more of this style of adventure for our moustachioed hero going forwards.