Who needs reviews? Super Mario 3D All-Stars brings together three classic 3D Mario adventures into one nostalgia-fuelled package, with Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy some of the most adored titles in most Nintendo fans’ memories – they still hold up today too, so if you’re a fan of Mario games you’re going to want to buy it immediately (especially since you won’t be able to after March next year).
Sometimes though, we need to know a bit more about the remastered collections we’re playing. After all, titles like Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Spyro Re-ignited Trilogy and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 have offered classic titles that have also been built from the ground up to completely modernise the experience, which raises the bar for expectations as to what a remaster should offer. Mario 3D All-Stars hasn’t quite done that, but instead made some visual improvements, upped the resolution, and made minor gameplay alterations to modernise the experiences for the Nintendo Switch. Is that enough? We’d be lying if we said no – this is Mario we’re talking about, after all, and each title is still bloody brilliant to play – but we’d also be lying if we said it wasn’t a shame that this remastered collection doesn’t feel as revolutionary as some of those aforementioned re-releases.
Given the fact that all three games have been out for years already, I’m not going to go into too much depth about them… instead, I’ll give quick summaries down below and mention how they feel to play all on the Nintendo Switch.
Super Mario 64 was the titular plumber’s first foray into 3D platforming, and boy was it something special. Launching alongside the Nintendo 64 twenty-four years ago, it showed that Mario’s timeless gameplay could make the transition to 3D thanks to its fantastic level design, Mario’s acrobatic manoeuvres, and its charmingly vibrant world that really brought the Mushroom Kingdom to life.
Whilst Super Mario 64 holds up well today and still feels as fun to play as it did in 1996, there’s no doubting that it is the game in the package that could have done with the most work. Whilst the visuals have seen a slight improvement thanks to the increase in resolution, the controls could feel a bit clunky in places whilst the camera could also cause problems – especially if you’re used to more modern platformers that give more fluid control over the camera. It also doesn’t have widescreen support like the other titles, limiting gameplay to a 4:3 screen ratio.
Don’t get me wrong, there are hours of enjoyment to be had from the game (especially if you’re looking to grab all one-hundred-and-twenty stars), but you’ll feel like you’re playing a game from 1996. Oh, and that message on the fountain that has been theorized to contain a message about Luigi? You STILL can’t make out the text on it…
Super Mario Sunshine has always been a bit of a divisive title around Mario fans, with some loving the new FLUDD-based (Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device) take on gameplay and others not appreciating it. I mean, come on: who wouldn’t want to blast away at enemies with water and use powerful bursts of it to get around in tricky challenges that had a heavy focus on vertical platforming? It adds a whole new way to approach platforming in the series and shows that Mario’s 3D adventures can indeed have unique hooks of their own that show they’re about more than just running and jumping. Add to that the wonderful setting of Delfino Island and a delightful soundtrack and it’s clear to see that Super Mario Sunshine is a special game – no matter WHAT anyone else says.
Whilst I’ll admit that it does have its flaws (hello, Pachinko level) and some gameplay mechanics can take getting used to, it’s been great re-visiting Delfino Island – it’s probably my favourite game out of the three and seeing it in a HD resolution with some bolder and more vibrant colours has been a real treat. Super Mario Sunshine may have a divisive reputation, but please, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t dive into its charming escapade.
Then we have Super Mario Galaxy, a game that is considered by many to not only be the pinnacle of the 3D Mario games but 3D platformers in general. It’s hard to argue against that consensus too, with Mario defying gravity across an abundance of planet-themed levels that are simply marvels of ingenious platforming level-design. It always felt more epic in scope than all other Mario games, whilst playing it in a slicker upscaled resolution makes the already stunning universe you explore feel more dazzling than ever. It’s hard to call it anything less than perfect.
The only real caveat that the game had when it originally released on the Nintendo Wii? Motion controls. I know, I know, the console was built with motion controls in mind, but I’ve always been more of a ‘controller in your hand and not having to waggle your arms like a lunatic’ kind-of gamer, so it was always something that bugged me about the game. Thankfully, you have the option of playing the game without motion controls in Super Mario 3D All-Stars – provided you’re playing on the Nintendo Switch’s handheld mode, where one action has been changed into a touch-screen motion.
Of course, those who do appreciate the motion controls can use them if they prefer, giving a more authentic take on the Super Mario Galaxy experience. I don’t know why you’d want to, but hey, you do you.
So it’s clear that all three games are special, with each offering a unique platforming experience that always brings something fresh and original to the table. Nintendo are master innovators and it’s something that has always been best displayed in the Mario series. Getting to enjoy some of the finest examples of it in one package in Super Mario 3D All-Stars has been a treat.
Despite this, it’s hard not to be a bit disappointed that more wasn’t done. Sure, it’s great to see the games in a HD resolution and, if I didn’t make it clear, I loved being able to play Super Mario Galaxy without motion controls – I just feel that there was room for improvements in other facets of each game’s design, especially with Super Mario 64 where modernised camera controls or even a complete rehauling of the visuals would have gone a long way in revolutionising the experience. Activision managed it with both Crash and Spyro… why couldn’t Nintendo do it here? Add to that the fact that it’s a full-price release and that Super Mario Galaxy 2 has been oddly omitted and it becomes difficult not to feel a little hard done by at times.
Still, there have been enough improvements made to help the games stand the test of time, whilst the outstanding gameplay experiences that each title offers does more than enough to make this a special release. It might not be the best collection you’d have played from a ‘remastered’ perspective, but I don’t think we’ll ever see a more impressive selection of ground-breaking games put together in one package like this… well… unless Nintendo have something planned for The Legend of Zelda’s upcoming thirty-fifth anniversary…
There is absolutely no denying that Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a brilliant collection of games that is essential for anyone’s Nintendo Switch library; I just wish that Nintendo did a little bit more to make it that extra bit special.
It’s certainly an iconic selection of titles for both newcomers and veterans to to enjoy on their Nintendo Switch though and it really is wonderful to have such an accessible and satisfying way to dive into some timeless classics. This might not necessarily be the best ‘remastered’ release that you’ll see, but there’s no doubting the brilliance of the masterfully-designed platforming adventures included in the package.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch