September 18, 2020
Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a collection of three classic 3D Super Mario games: Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy. The announcement excited many, and is what many Nintendo fans have been asking for, even if its missing the beloved Galaxy 2.
To entice the people returning, higher resolutions and joycon rumble function is supported in this Switch port. Plus, y’know, three wonderful Mario games on Switch. Then, there’s the odd newcomer, like myself. I didn’t grow up with Nintendo games and consoles and as a result have played none of the three. A whole world of classic platforming action was in store for me. Eager, I jumped right in.
Bringing it back
I started my ventures with All Stars with the staple that is Super Mario 64. This is a game that, no joke, is older than me. It’s the little platformer that could. The one that so many gamers hold near and dear to their heart. Without a doubt, I understand the pedigree this famous plumber’s first 64 bit journey has. Still, booting it up and receiving that neat little pan across Peach’s castle, iconic song in background, got me pumped. Even as a very, very late newcomer, I felt warm and homely inside.
Super Mario 64 follows the story of the titular hero delving through the many portals to worlds Peach’s Castle has, working his way up to reach Princess Peach at the building’s tippy top. I don’t need to go into depth here, you know the sitch. I think my biggest worry stepping into the game was how it would hold up. I’m firmly of the belief that some older games are absolutely held up on a pedestal by gamers, just simply because of that: they’re old nostalgic gems from their childhood. Simply put, new may not equal better but sometimes this also rings true to classics. Thankfully, this was far from the case and my concerns were quickly silenced. Barring some nitpicky frustrations here and there, Super Mario 64 still plays great.
Going through the levels and hunting down those coveted stars was a gameplay loop that absolutely scratched the itch for platforming and collecting fun I found myself in the need for recently. In this, I also found my favourites in the worlds the game has to offer.
Just typing this, I think fondly of the simplicity that the opening Bob-omb Battlefield world has. Cool, Cool Mountain offered me that challenging but quite fun penguin race. Big Boo’s Haunt, the more ‘secret’ level accessed from the castle’s courtyard, offered me some fun spooky setting. Hell, I even found love for the infamous Rainbow Ride, the difficult final world that saw me undertaking a hellish obstacle course, all while trying to stay on top of that tiny magical carpet. All three of the games within the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection would have me finding this favouritism in its levels. Its 64 that had me the most divided in deciding personal rankings. I just adored all of them so damn much, each in their own ways.
So much can be said about Super Mario 64 and the importance that game holds. I won’t faff on about it too much, everything to be said about it has already said. What I will say is that if you’re a newcomer this’ll absolutely play well for you. Neat little touches such as the level design, learning the acrobatic flow of Mario’s jumps and even the in-game lore explanation for the use of cameras, are all charming and shine bright.
If there were complaints to be had about this version of Super Mario 64, they’d be nitpicky. The game holds up remarkably well except for the quite finicky wall jump manoeuvre. With artful and skilful backflips at the triple jump bounce at your disposal, players are mostly able to ignore it. It’s an issue that’s fine in the other two games in Super Mario 3D All-Stars but I just wish it worked more here too to pull off even more precise platforming. The version of the Super Mario 64 that’s in this bundle is the original Nintendo 64 one. I understand wanting to emphasise that each game in this collection be the console versions. Totally fine. Still, knowing the DS version of Super Mario 64 is out there, adding more playable characters and stars to collect, left me wanting more. With an $80AUD price point for Super Mario 3D All-Stars, it would’ve added extra value for players.
Slip, slop, slap in Super Mario Sunshine
Players’ next adventure will see them soaking in the rays and hitting the beach! Yes, it’s time for Super Mario Sunshine. I know it’s far from a disliked game, but it’s still absolutely the underdog and least spoken for game out of the trio. Therefore, going in I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Boy did I not expect the wild narrative rides it’d take me on. I’m sorry, Mario’s been framed in a crime and sent to jail, only to essentially be put on probation on a tropical island, tasked with cleaning up the place? Sign me up.
While not my favourite of the bunch, it’s absolutely the game in the Super Mario 3D All-Stars that arguably has the best vibes. Gorgeous tropical music plays. The ocean waters are a nice crisp blue. Locals, known as piantas, are chubby, friendly and in desperate need of help (and fruit, if you’ll give it to them). There’s a weird shadow version of Mario running around, doing graffiti crimes. Need I even mention the cheesy voice over dialogue the game has to offer in cut-scenes? Even when Mario has work to do, there’s still some fun for him to have. Seriously, Sunshine is just bursting with atmosphere and stuff to do out the wazoo.
The main mechanical difference that Sunshine has compared to 64 before it is the addition of a new tool in Mario’s toolset. F.L.U.D.D, a water pack that Mario carries on his back, is used in combat, traversal and puzzle solving. Our hero can now spray water at foes, along with mud and other goopy liquids. Flipping the F.L.U.D.D so that it shoots water at your feet serves as a mini brief jetpack, allowing for both longer and slightly higher jumps. A fair amount of the time this works well enough but there’ll absolutely be moments you fight with both the camera and controls. Eely – Mouth’s Dentist, a mission in Noki Bay that sees you deep underwater using your F.L.U.D.D to help clean an eel’s was an absolute battle with this. Already I had the limited oxygen timeframe, now I had to work that in with this? It absolutely soured a really fun idea for a level for me.
“While not my favourite of the bunch, it’s [Super Mario Sunshine] absolutely the game in the Super Mario 3D All-Stars that arguably has the best vibes.”
When it comes to levels, so many are a blast. The rollercoaster ride moment in Pinna Park as you meet Bowser Jr for the first time is fantastic. Finally, I also got to play the very discussed but also very infamous pachinko level. In this level, you’re thrust in front of a giant retro styled Japanese pachinko machine. Then, Mario must jump into the machines launcher, aiming for each of the red coins. Physics and controls are wild here. Hilarity ensues.
This is all good and well in levels that are entirely optional and serve as challenges for you to polish off more of those shines. Another level I think back to in this regard is one that saw me cautiously edging a giant watermelon towards a juice bar, down a hill and past an enemy filled beach. They’re frustrating, but man can they also be funny.
On the other hand, Mario Sunshine’s main levels will also offer some of the most out there challenges in its main path than any other 3D platformer I’ve played before it. Some platforming moments are required to be so precise to a near ludicrous amount. This resulted in me throughout the game getting Game Over after Game Over after Game Over. It was absolutely painful at times, even when I was having fun. I still shudder thinking about controlling that cursed boat in the final level, Corona Mountain, ruining an otherwise enjoyable final boss right after. These are the parts that hurt Sunshine the most for me. Forever it’ll be the Mario game with some of the most lovely environments to boot, but please don’t anyone ever ask me to do those frustrating parts again.
Mario lifts off in Super Mario Galaxy
Rounding out the trio Super Mario 3D All-Stars has on offer is Super Mario Galaxy. It’s the most recent of the bunch, releasing in 2007 on the Wii. With great reliance on the motion controls the console the game was originally home on, and wonderful exploration, there was many a wonder just how this’d pan on the Switch. Thankfully, it’s my favourite game of the bundle and it plays fantastic.
Introducing the idea of exploring levels in the form of galaxies and planets, there’s a reason Super Mario Galaxy is one of the highest rated 3D Mario games. Playing it even now, it’s easy to why. It’s pure magic, and its translation to the current Nintendo console captures that just as well. It’s also easy to be impressed by how varied the levels are in the game. When you normally think of themed planets or galaxies for a game, your brain often gravitates to natural staples in sci-fi. There could be your fiery lava themed levels, your icy scapes and maybe a space station to throw into the mix. Instead, Super Mario Galaxy considers all the weird and out there combinations and ideas and absolutely runs with it.
It’s in these levels that I found the most fun. The Honeyhive Galaxy saw me as bee Mario, floating and sticking to honey to my hearts content in a lush green world. Meanwhile, the Ghostly Galaxy thrust me into a Luigi’s Mansion themed galaxy, where I was reunited with Mario’s dear brother. I know I’m thirteen years late to the party but let me react to that galaxy alone: holy shit.
One galaxy known as the Rolling Greens Galaxy also saw me on a small golf course set all within space. Atop I jumped a large sphere that in it contained the star I so desperately needed. My task was simple. With my Switch in hand, I must cautiously navigate this hole filled course, using the console’s motion controls to edge my way towards my end goal point. Hilarity absolutely ensued. Motion controls just worked so well here, and translated from the Wii way better than I ever could have imagined.
This just kept happening. The use of motion controls found more and more ways to surprise me. Yes you could swing your joycon to do small actions like slide along a pole, but it goes further, and transcends into the collectathon nature of the game.
Aside from your typical coins, one-ups and the important stars you’re collecting to power your base, a new collectable is available in the form of star bits. These are well worth collecting, as you’ll come across little star creatures known as Luma that desperately want to be fed these bits in order to spawn new galaxies and planets. The method of collecting them is just as enticing too. Outside of looting them from enemies you squash, you’ll often find them floating through the stratosphere as you travel among planets. Being slung from one planet to another, hovering the provided cursor over the star bits to bring them to ol’ Mario is just so satisfying.
The storytelling alone in Super Mario Galaxy is some of the most solid I’ve now seen in a Mario game. It’s in this game we’re introduced to the charming and endearing absolute queen that is Rosalina. She’s both charming in design and in character. In between visiting galaxies, checking in on her in the library and getting to experience her story-telling chapter sections was one of the absolute biggest delights I had in the game. Now being properly introduced, she’s become my favourite Mario character and I desperately want to see her in more adventures.
I was so ready to be disappointed with Super Mario Galaxy. It was so reliant on the Nintendo Wii tech that I, like I assume many, was nervous at the idea of it being translated. Players will be pleased to know those worries are absolved. It plays great and allowed for me to fall in love with the game in the way I imagine everyone else did all those years ago. With a gorgeous art direction, fun worlds to explore and stellar than ever gameplay, Super Mario Galaxy is still magic.
How aptly does Super Mario 3D All-Stars assemble the greats?
Wrapping up Super Mario 3D All-Stars as a whole, it’s a solid port collection. I can see nostalgia filled players being as stoked as ever with how great Sunshine looks, and being pleased by how well 64 and Galaxy still play. Hell, I can’t see myself launching the game just to listen to it all that often but the addition of all three of the game’s soundtrack available in the main menu is another welcome enough edition.
Where it stands I definitely have some issues with the package as a whole. The apparent limited time frame of being able to pick up Super Mario 3D All-Stars is another back step in game preservation from Nintendo once more. Not to mention, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is just missing entirely. Knowing the love had for that game, I entered it already bummed out about the absence. Wrapping things up with the first Galaxy, and I’m as itching to play its sequel with no means to whatsoever. Come on Nintendo, give it to me.
- Some of Platforming's greats all on the Nintendo Switch
- Excellent vibes
- As always, Mario soundtracks shine bright
- Fun and amazing level design and gameplay
- Motion controls work wonderfully
- No Super Mario Galaxy 2, what the hell?!
- Mario 64 is not the updated DS version
- Some of Sunshine's gameplay hasn't aged gracefully
With quite the high price point, Super Mario 3D All-Stars will be quite the difficult sell for long time fans. However, for every fan burned by the age old story of expensive remasters and ports, there’s players like me, getting to explore the magic of some wonderful games for the first time ever. Frustrations aside, you could do a whole of a lot worse when it comes to ports. If you’re at all keen to get your jumping, cleaning and galaxy surfing on, delve on in.