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October 2021

Super Mario 3D All-Stars

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Sept. 18, 2020


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Switch Review - 'Super Mario 3D All-Stars'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 21, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Optimized versions of 3D Mario games Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy are coming to Nintendo Switch in one package.

Buy Super Mario 3D All-Stars

At the time, Super Mario All-Stars for the SNES was one of the most amazing games you could get. It was a visually updated version of pretty much every Mario title up to that point, so it represented an absurd amount of gameplay in one little package. Aside from a DS re-release of Mario 64 and some virtual console ports, the 3D games have firmly remained on the systems on which they debuted — until Super Mario 3D All-Stars. The newest collection from Nintendo (rather confusingly available only until March 31, 2021) finally gives players a chance to bring three of Mario's biggest games onto one system.

Mario 64, the first game in the collection, can comfortably be called the daddy of 3D platformers. Others existed before it, but it's arguable whether any genuinely good 3D platformers preceded it. Nintendo took its popular plumber and brought him into a new dimension with a completely new play style. At first blush, it seemed wild. There are no mushrooms to grow bigger or smaller, Mario has a health bar, the world map is replaced by a hub castle, and so on. Mario 64 ended up being an instant classic, and despite being one of the first, it also is one of the best. Most people reading this review have probably played Mario 64 and know how good it is.

Your goal is Mario 64 is not only to rescue Princess Peach but also to collect 120 Power Stars hidden within paintings in Peach's castle. Each painting takes Mario to a different area with different challenges; some are in the open, and some are hidden. There are certain things you can only unlock through slightly esoteric means, such as looking up at the ceiling to gain the ability to use the Wing Cap, an item that lets you fly freely for a period of time. You don't need all of the stars to finish the game, but the level design is good enough to more than justify going for them all.

Despite Mario 64's age, it still remains one of the most enjoyable platformers ever made. The bright, colorful graphics keep the dated character models from looking too awful, but little can save the blurry-textured environments. The camera, one of the very first 3D platforming cameras, is awkward and requires you to fight with it more than you should. Taking all of this into account, the game is still a blast to play because the phenomenal level design and gameplay manage to hold up to two decades of improvements from similar titles.

The second game in the collection, Super Mario Sunshine, is probably the most controversial of the 3D Mario titles. Rather than being a straightforward traditional platformer, it meshes the "collect a thing" gameplay of Mario 64 with the addition of the FLUDD water pack, which gives Mario the ability to hover and spray water to clean goo from things. The game ends up being a weird combination of very forgiving platforming and water puzzles — and what amounts to being the island janitor.

The strange combination is unfortunate because when the game shines, it is really fun. The level design is strong, and collecting all of the Shines in the game an enjoyable process. When bookended by Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy (not to mention Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Super Mario Odyssey), it just doesn't feel the same. You have to go into it expecting something different from the norm to get the most out of it. If you're looking for more traditional hop-and-bop Mario gameplay, you'll need to look to the other titles in the collection.

Super Mario Sunshine, like the rest of the collection, didn't see very many updates, but its presentation has still aged much better than Mario 64. The colorful GameCube graphics upscaled very well, and there are still a lot of striking graphical flourishes that give the game a sense of depth that is sometimes lacking today. The Switch does not support the GameCube's fully analog shoulder buttons, so "fast spray" and "slow spray" have been divided among two of the shoulder buttons. It takes some getting used to, but it works fine. I miss the more direct control, but it's basically the same thing.

The third game, Super Mario Galaxy, was a return to tradition after Sunshine. It goes back to the Mario 64 mold, where you have a hub world to access different areas, so you can go to other worlds to collect stars. Galaxy feels more linear; rather than the more open worlds of Mario 64, you tend to get focused, challenge-based levels where you can't deviate from the star you are going for. However, these levels are so amazingly designed that it isn't a loss at all, and it feels just as addictive as the original 3D game.

Of the three games in the collection, Super Mario Galaxy has seen the most significant changes since the original title used the Wii's motion controls. It's understandable that the game doesn't want to completely reinvent itself, but the middle ground doesn't satisfy anyone. When playing docked, the game uses the Joy-Con's built-in motion sensor to replicate the Wii's functionality, and that works well enough. If you choose to play undocked, all of the motion controls are replaced by either touching the screen or tilting the entire system. It works, but it feels genuinely awkward, especially for things like the in-game menus, which could easily have used regular button controls. The game does allow you to perform the Spin move with a button press instead of a waggle, and that's a huge boon.

Of the three games in the collection, Super Mario Galaxy has aged the best. It still has flaws — and I would argue that its sadly absent sequel is better — but it was a striking and lovely game at launch, and it still looks great to this day. It might not be quite as shiny as Super Mario Odyssey, but the simple, cartoonish graphics age much better than attempted realism, and the music is still fantastic. You could buy the collection for Galaxy alone and come away happy. It is disappointing that Super Mario Galaxy 2 was not included in the collection, and its absence feels odd since you can now play all of its brethren on the Switch.

In the end, Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a perfectly adequate collection of three very good games. Even if Sunshine isn't to your taste, Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy are two of the finest platformers ever made, and they absolutely make the collection worthwhile. The only disappointment is that not enough was done to adjust and touch up the games for the Switch. Despite that shortcoming, there's hardly a better bang for your buck on the Switch than Super Mario 3D All-Stars, and it is a must-have for any Switch owner. Just remember that for some reason, it's only available for purchase through March 2021.

Score: 8.5/10

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