The famous video game icon, Mario, has appeared in a multitude of genres throughout the past few decades. Ranging from side-scrolling platformers to sports games to even teaching typing, there is no doubt that most gamers have played some iteration of the jumping hero. However, few Mario games were as significant to his identity as the evolution into the 3D space. For the first time ever, Nintendo has developed Super Mario 3D All-Stars, a collection highlighting three of the top 3D Mario games. Released on September 18th, 2020 players can now enjoy Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy all in one package for the Nintendo Switch. So, does this new collection capture the elements that made these games great without any pitfalls? Continue reading this Super Mario 3D All-Stars review to find out!
At their core, all these entries to the Mario series are platforming games. In other words, players complete varying missions by utilizing Mario’s wide kit of jumping abilities. The icing is that each game offers a variation to Mario’s abilities, providing a unique identity to all. While hopping around to collect stars is the focus, these 3D Mario games also include memorable storytelling, boss battles, collect-a-thons and light puzzle solving. When reviewing remasters, it is important to assess whether it maintains authenticity while still bringing notable enhancements to the table. This Super Mario 3D All-Stars review was completed using both docked and handheld modes, along with the Joy-Cons and Nintendo Switch Pro Controller.
Grab Super Mario 3D All-Stars on the Nintendo eShop for $59.99
Story – Simplicity Evolved
At the end of the day, Mario games typically follow a consistent plotline. Mario’s nemesis, Bowser, kidnaps the Mushroom Kingdom princess, Peach, and the iconic plumber needs to get her back. That said, the three games reviewed in the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection do manage to break the mold. While the overarching plotlines stick with the tried and true premise, it is the individual missions that make the memories. From saving a baby penguin in Super Mario 64 to racing the great Piantissimo in Super Mario Sunshine, earning stars in this collection goes deeper than basic platforming. With personalized tales for each mission, Nintendo managed to take the storytelling of 2D Mario games to the next level.
Since the All-Stars collection is made up of remasters, players can expect these classic stories to remain intact. Fortunately, Nintendo did not change or remix the plotlines, thereby maintaining the authenticity I personally desired from a re-release. However, for those hoping for hidden extras or bonus levels, you may be disappointed to learn that there is nothing of the sort here. While this collection does not offer any story enhancements, the choice of games included are perfect for fans of the Mario series. Both Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy introduce new characters, Bowser Jr. and Rosalina respectively. Players new to these games may recognize these personas from other Mario games like Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart. With a variety of 3D Mario games to choose from, Nintendo picked some of the best when it comes to story and character origins.
Gameplay – What Mario Was Made For
Crisp, addictive gameplay has been key to Mario games ever since his original appearance as “Jumpman” in the 1981 arcade classic, Donkey Kong. Whether controlling Mario to jump over barrels or bottomless pits, the thrill of platforming is always the main draw. In the early 2D Mario games, players would simply race the hero from the start to finish of each level, beating various obstacles and a time limit. That changed when Nintendo released Super Mario 64, the first of the three games offered in Super Mario 3D All-Stars. With a 3D space to move around in, the limitation of a start and finish line was no longer necessary.
Bigger than ever before, each of the games in the All-Stars collection has a central hub world for Mario to explore, as well as several sub-worlds complete with unique designs and multiple missions. These objectives have tons of variety, ranging from typical platforming to epic boss battles. The best part, however, is the signature star reward Mario grabs at the end of each level. Claiming all the stars is not necessary to beat the story, but anyone familiar with these classic games will know the real excitement lies in the challenge of collecting them all. With each game hosting 120 stars to find, lack of gameplay content is not an issue for the All-Stars collection, making three for the price of one well worth it.
Reviewing the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection would not be worth the time if Mario’s controls were not enjoyable. Thankfully, Mario’s kit of abilities is easy to learn, but hard to master. A key aspect to what made these games so timeless. Each game offers a personalized variation to Mario’s abilities so hopping between them never gets stale. Super Mario 64 created the classic jumps, Super Mario Sunshine includes a water-powered jetpack and Super Mario Galaxy introduced a spinning jump for blasting around in zero gravity. Players should be able to find hours of enjoyment learning Mario’s moves, whether fans of platforming or not.
As remasters, the gameplay in each is preserved and nearly the same as the original experience. While I appreciate Nintendo’s focus on authenticity, more could have been done to enhance these titles for the modern era. For instance, some controls are changed due to the different button layout of the Joy Cons versus older controllers. Viewing the controls in game is speedy, a nice touch. However, there is no option to remap the controls to a more preferred setting in game. I see no justification for this omission in today’s gaming industry, especially when viewing it through an accessibility lens.
In addition, Super Mario Galaxy, which relies on motion controls, was a hassle with the Pro Controller and in handheld. I strictly played Galaxy docked with the Joy Cons separated, because flipping between buttons and touchscreen did not feel good. Some extra effort to improve the controls, or even providing customization, could have gone a long way to making the overall experience better. All in all, the reviewed gameplay of the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection manages to nail the authenticity expected of a remaster, but unfortunately without the enhancements to make it genuinely great.
Graphics & Audio – Clarity Like Never Before
When assessing a remaster, the graphics of the new version should be superior to that of the original. This is especially true for the Super Mario 3D All-Stars review, because the included games are over a decade old, two for Super Mario 64. The All-Stars collection boasts up-scaled, high-definition resolutions and widescreen support for Super Mario Sunshine. As a fan of the original games, I was happy to see fantastic visuals in both docked and handheld modes. While honed eyes can tell these games are from older consoles, I think the upgraded visuals in-game are worthy of a modern release.
That said, the All-Stars collection is not perfect when it comes to graphical upgrades. I immediately noticed a blurred fuzziness when the cutscenes for Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy came onscreen. This difference is particularly noticeable when the game flips between the cutscenes and in-game graphics. The other disappointing limitation is the aspect-ratio for Super Mario 64. Unlike the other two games, this one does not offer widescreen support and there are large black bars on each side of the screen, even in handheld mode. Sunshine also suffers from frame rate drops in handheld mode, which is concerning given it originally released in 2002. For a full-priced remaster, I was a little let down by these lacking enhancements, despite the visuals being authentic.
In my opinion, Mario game music represents some of the most memorable aspects in the series. I am pleased to say for this review that Super Mario 3D All-Stars knocks it out of the park in this regard. The three games chosen for this collection are some of the best when it comes to soundtrack. Many gamers will likely be able to hum the “Slider” theme from Super Mario 64, because it is that timeless. Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy have soundtracks that certainty heighten the experience. From the tropical vibes of Sunshine to the interstellar tones of Galaxy, the All-Stars collection has it all. Nintendo even did players a solid by including a music player for all three games, available to play anytime. The All-Stars collection preserves the authenticity of these soundtracks, but it also goes the extra mile to enhance them, too.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch console.