‘Super Mario 3D All-Stars’ review: a lovingly crafted package of Mario’s best adventures

After years in the Nintendo vault, some of the finest ‘Mario’ titles have finally made their way to modern consoles with a flourish

Super Mario 64 was my first video game. A groundbreaking 3D platformer, its vivid visuals and mythical music made a hell of an impression on me, but my limited toddler platforming skills meant that I never finished it. Despite hours and hours of play, I simply couldn’t make it to the third floor to take on Bowser and save the princess as instructed, leaving Peach in limbo for 23 long years.

However, I’m pleased to report that I’m finally well on my way to saving her in 2020, thanks to the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection. I’ve made it past the mischievous piano that used to haunt my dreams, dodged the (in retrospect, extremely terrifying) desert Pokeys and now the third battle with Bowser is in my sights.

The best part is that, even on a new device with a less cephalopodic control scheme, Super Mario 64 feels right at home on the Nintendo Switch. I tugged and shaped Mario’s gooey face on the main menu, like nothing has changed since 1997, and felt the same rush of endorphins from those classic save screen flutes as they welcomed me into the open arms of one of the all-time greats.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars
Super Mario 64. Credit: Nintendo

But the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection isn’t just about Mario’s first jaunt into the third-dimension. The collection covers three generations of play, with 2002’s Super Mario Sunshine and 2007’s Super Mario Galaxy also baked into the nostalgia-filled package.

All three games have been ported to the Nintendo Switch with a focus on retaining the visual style and feel of the original release. There are some extra quality-of-life features, but they never intrude on the core experience, which feels intentional. Even some of the small, frustrating intricacies of movement in Super Mario 64 have been left in to reflect the past properly, and I endorse this authentic approach.

To alter the nitty-gritty like that would be heretical – like playing a version of Ico or Shadow Of The Colossus without the engineered jank. Yet it does benefit from an upgraded 720p resolution on the Nintendo Switch, with haptic Joy-Con rumble added to accent the little man’s movements.

It doesn’t run in widescreen, but in a game of its age, I’m sure there’s a good reason as to why it wasn’t possible. Across all three games, Nintendo has been careful not to tamper too much with the experience in order to make this collection feel like a love letter rather than a reimagining. It’s clear that the point was to make these games playable on modern hardware rather than issue a full-blown remake.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars
Super Mario Sunshine. Credit: Nintendo

The port of Super Mario Sunshine is just as impressive, with a bump in resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio teasing out all of the detail I clearly missed as a child. Given that the game is renowned for its tricksy FLUDD control scheme, I was surprised at how well I adapted with the Joy-Cons after being out of practice for so long.

The muscle memory came flooding back shortly after my arrival to Delfino Island, and it didn’t take long until I got the hang of Mario’s flashy water-spraying techniques, leaping above the busy terraces to scrub graffiti and collect durians. There are also helpful menus attached to each game which show players how to perform all of the advanced platforming tricks, which is a nice touch.

Yet, it’s Super Mario Galaxy that really stole the show. Despite the fact that it’s the most modern title in the collection, it’s also the one game in the trio I had spent the least time with prior to its Nintendo Switch port. But when I did, I was bowled over. You could mistake it for a completely new, modern Mario game given how good it feels to play.

I recommend docking the console and detaching both Joy-Cons for a truly sublime experience at 1080p. The fluidity of motion Mario can achieve as he’s blasting his way around planets is mind-boggling, and the level design holds up perfectly. Shaking the Joy-Con to make Mario spin feels intuitive, and firing star bits at enemies with pointer precision is just as rewarding as it was in 2007.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars
Super Mario Galaxy. Credit: Nintendo

It’s a devilishly addictive package, and if you ever tire of one game you can hop to the other in seconds thanks to the 3D All-Stars collection’s superb loading times. What a delight it is to skip between three generations of inventive Nintendo gameplay as and when you like, with each platformer offering its own unique quirks. This leads me to the main impression the collection left me with: a real retrospective admiration for Nintendo’s respective attitude towards its Mario platformers over the years.

After the 3D paradigm shift that was Super Mario 64, Nintendo has yet to catch Mario sequel-itis. The developer has constantly found ways to iterate upon a winning format with its inimitable charm, turning the platformers that followed 64 into unique and ultimately legendary experiences. Games like Super Mario Sunshine and Galaxy are absurd beasts on paper, with artificially intelligent dousing devices and anti-gravity manta rays. But when put into practice, they just feel right, blending so effortlessly into the player’s own imagination as if these wild ideas were always there.

The impossible milieu of the Mario platformer has propelled the entire genre into new dimensions, and this collection is a testament to Nintendo’s brave design principles that have inspired so many.

‘Super Mario 3D All-Stars’ will be released on September 18 for Nintendo Switch.

Our Verdict

Given its scarcity, those with rose-tinted memories of Mario’s finest outings have probably made their mind up about Super Mario 3D All-Stars. It’s the portable package we’ve all been waiting for – and let me tell you, this trip to the past is by no means bittersweet.

Yet, what excites me most is the prospect of new players getting to try out these classics without the burden of expectation or nostalgia on their shoulders. How does a new generation interpret something as endearing and unusual as Super Mario Sunshine? If you’re new to Mario or platforming games in general, this is the perfect place to start or continue your journey with the plucky plumber. And if that’s the case, I envy the adventure ahead of you!

Pros

  • A lovingly crafted set of ports that complement rather than intrude upon the original experience
  • Hours upon hours of platforming fun, with well-adjusted control schemes to boot
  • Three albums of magnificent Nintendo music to shuffle through

Cons

  • None to mention, but it’d be nice to see a port of Super Mario Galaxy 2!
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