When it comes to Mario’s 3D adventures, it would appear that there are two types of fans- those who prefer the open-world formula (Super Mario 64, Super Mario Odyssey) and those who prefer a more traditional, linear approach (Super Mario 3D Land/World, Super Mario Galaxy, Sunshine to an extent). Admittedly, I fall in the latter category, although I can appreciate both design philosophies. I’m pleased that Super Mario 3D World has finally received a Switch port with a few tweaks and QOL improvements. Although I had completed the Wii U several years ago, I was more than happy to revisit, considering metroidvanias have entirely swamped the platforming genre as of late. As we all know, this port also comes with an exclusive add-on known as Bowser’s Fury. Unknowingly, I saved the best of both worlds for last.
Admittedly, Bowser’s Fury is nowhere near the length of the main entree, and I cannot in good faith say that it’s worth the $59.99 price on its own. But, for its 6-8 hour runtime, I CAN say that I enjoyed the entire ride and that it was the most fun I had with an open-world 3D Mario game since Super Mario Sunshine.
As expected, the plot is nothing more than an excuse to go out and collect Fury’s primary collectible- Cat Shines. Bowser has gained immaculate power and has gone Giga, much to the dismay of his pint-sized son. Working together with Bowser Jr, your goal is to pick up as many of those shines as possible to awaken each locale’s Giga Bell. Which in turn transforms Mario into a mega-sized cat capable of going head to head with Bowser.
On the level design and progression front, Bowser’s Fury dares to be different by marrying the sandbox-style gameplay of Super Mario Odyssey with the platforming-based challenges found in titles such as the main game and Super Mario Galaxy. Technically, this is also the first time in the series’s history that the traditional power-up system is employed in an open world environment. The result is something that blends beautifully.
There are 15 different islands to visit across Lake Lapcat. They encompass all of the Super Mario tropes you’ve come to expect at this point. From the green, grassy Fur Step Island to fiery Mount Magmeow (aren’t the puns adorable?)- all the bases are covered. On each island, there’s a lighthouse to restore by collecting a Cat Shine, which in turn opens up several new challenges which reward you with more. Par for the course, progression is gated by these collectibles, and you’ll need to snatch a set amount before awakening the Giga Bell to battle Giga Bowser.
Perhaps one of my biggest gripes with Super Mario Odyssey was that you got a moon every time you farted. In turn, it made them less satisfying to collect than the power stars found in previous sandbox Mario games. I never truly felt tested by most of Fury‘s Cat Shines in the same way I was in Super Mario Galaxy 2. There was still gratification to be had, especially when I discovered unorthodox ways of getting them, like in Super Mario 64.
Giga Bowser emerges every five to six minutes to shake things up a bit to rain down fiery asteroids and assault the player with his trademark flame breath. This isn’t just for spectacle and providing more obstacles to overcome, however. Scattered throughout the island are “Fury Blocks” that Mario cannot break independently, often housing cat shines or pipes leading to more. This is where you’ll need to be smart and bait Giga Bowser into smashing them up for you via his breath attack. Initially, I was worried that this would ruin the pacing on the road to 100% completion. Due to the time between encounters being so short and the fact that I had so much fun just goofing off in between, it was (much to my surprise) never a pace breaker. I never found myself waiting around for Bowser to rear his monstrous head to clear out Fury Blocks.
Perhaps the most significant thing about Bowser’s Fury is that despite its relative ease, thanks to stockpile 5 of each power-up, it is a blast to 100%. As fantastic as 3D Mario can be, many players can agree that full completion is often marred by padding or “that one mission.” Whether it’s the green stars from Super Mario Galaxy 2 or the infamous pachinko challenge from Super Mario Sunshine, you may find yourself growing weary or frustrated at some point as a completionist. The same can be said for many 3D platformers besides those in the Mario franchise, unfortunately.
Fury, however, nails this better than many full-fledged games. While there are some recurring missions (such as chasing down a shadowy version of Luigi), none of them outstay their welcome. The game is continually throwing fresh and well-designed challenges at you for the majority of its run time. By the time I had collected all 100 cat shines and put a halt to Giga Bowser, I was eager to start a new file and do it all over again right away. That’s not something I could say after 100%ing the Super Mario Galaxy games or Odyssey, and it’s reason enough to praise Bowser’s Fury.
I do have a few minors gripes with the add-on. As mentioned earlier, I can’t help but feel like it’s a little too easy at times. There is hardly any penalty for dying- you lose all of the coins you’ve collected and get kicked back to the beginning of whichever island you’re visiting. Considering that collecting 100 coins just gives you another power-up at random, and power-ups are already in abundance elsewhere, it doesn’t even feel like a slap on the wrist. Second, the titan-sized duels with Giga Bowser are a novelty at first. However, I couldn’t help but think that they did not evolve or get more challenging with each consecutive bout. Perhaps it’s the fact that Bowser’s Fury is considerably shorter in length than any big-league 3D Mario. However, these two problems never really got in the way of the fun I was having otherwise.
In the end, Bowser’s Fury might not have the length nor complexity of a big-budget outing. However, it’s a glimpse into what could be the framework of one. Double the size, make it just a little more complicated, amp up the bosses, and I believe Nintendo would have another winning recipe for the next full-price romp.
9 Cat Bells out of 10