Nintendo has a checkered history with re-releases. Some, like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, have deservedly breathed new life into already great games while adding value in the form of upgrades or content. Others, like the more recent Super Mario 3D All-Stars, are just shameful cash-ins on nostalgia.
Thankfully, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is, so far, setting a new standard for what Nintendo needs to do if it wants to make players buy games a second time.
For the most part, the Super Mario 3D World piece of the pie is unchanged, so every stage, every star, and every stamp are exactly how you remember them if you played the original release on the Wii U. And that’s a good thing, as 3D World was already a great hybrid of the 2D New Super Mario Bros. games with its four-player multiplayer, and the more linear 3D games like the Super Mario Galaxy series. It’s quintessential Mario—fluid platforming through inventive obstacle courses hiding plenty of secrets.
The biggest addition to 3D World is its online multiplayer, and that’s the first area where Nintendo has injected some real value into this particular re-release.
I was lucky enough to get invited to a short preview event to test out the online multiplayer, and considering how spotty Switch Online has been for other games (looking at you, Super Mario Maker 2 multiplayer), my expectations were low. Fortunately, even with a wireless connection—despite Nintendo asking me to use a wired one—Super Mario 3D World’s online felt almost perfect. There was one network hiccup that resulted in a brief moment of slowdown, but otherwise it felt as smooth as if we were playing on the same console.
But Bowser’s Fury steals the spotlight from 3D World. It’s basically a brand-new 3D Mario game in a smaller package. It’s almost like they made a giant 3D Mario level out of a bunch of miniature levels that all have multiple Cat Shines (Bowser’s Fury’s version of stars) to collect, and it feels much more substantial than I was expecting.
One of the most interesting aspects of Bowser’s Fury is how it mixes some chaos into the precise craftsmanship of Mario level design. Every few minutes, a giant Fury Bowser will rise and rain fire and brimstone down on Mario. In order to survive the onslaught, you can either collect a Cat Shine, or you can simply outlast the attack for several minutes. (Of course, you can also collect the giant bell that turns Mario into Giga Cat Mario and fight Fury Bowser head-on, but I can’t go into too much detail about that in this preview.)
So far, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is a re-release that’s giving players, even those who already played the original on the Wii U, multiple excuses to revisit the game. Not only is the inclusion of online multiplayer perfect for our era of lockdown, but Bowser’s Fury is almost a full game (or at least a half-game) in and of itself. It’s a little surprising to see Nintendo make such an expansive effort when it comes to re-releases, and it’s a welcome change. But it also means that, in the future, Nintendo won’t be able to get away with just packaging and releasing decades-old games without adding something, anything, to sweeten the deal.