We reckon superstar tradesman Mario has likely had more great game releases than burst pipes to fix. That’s fine by us, and this compilation – celebrating 35 years since his first Super adventure on the NES – compiles three of those greats.
Upon booting, we land upon a simple flip screen menu system, with pages featuring a brief history of each of the included games – Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy – as well as a very sweet, very useful bonus. The music of Mario is just as special as the games to many, and here we can let our ears luxuriate in the full soundtracks of all three games, which amounts to some 175 tracks. What a great start to the Mario party.
Super Mario 64 was a launch title for the Nintendo 64 console back in 1997, and basically cast the template for all 3D platformers to come. There have been a lot of them in intervening years, yet they all bear some of the DNA that made this both a captivating – and often challenging – game, and one that also sold quite a lot of consoles.
Presented in its original 4:3 ratio – old TVs weren’t as wide as modern ones, so there are black bars down the sides – this keeps things faithful, while the graphics have been improved a little. Basically everything that you may remember from the original is here, even if the thrill isn’t quite the same when looked at through 2020 eyes. Story-wise, Princess Peach invites Mario to her castle for a spot of cake, however that ends up being a lie as Bowser’s gone and done what he always does and kidnapped the hapless princess. You know what to do, Mario…
Super Mario 64 is a vital historical artefact, although playing it without one of those questionable N64 controllers and with knowledge of what’s followed it – most notably the truly astounding Super Mario Odyssey – this is now more of a curio than a must-play experience.
Super Mario Sunshine, however, stands up quite a bit better. The 2002 GameCube game polarised some fans of the little plumber bloke, introducing “Shadow Mario” (actually he’s… nah, no spoilers for those new to the game) and an interesting water cannon mechanic known as F.L.U.D.D. (Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device). We love how it took the basic template established back in 1997 and expanded upon it. The improved graphics also don’t hurt, and here it has been neatly embiggened to fill the now standard 16:9 ratio screen.
Story-wise in this one, the idyllic Isle Delfino is the getaway choice of Mario, Peach and entourage. Upon arrival, however, they encounter all sorts of gloopy graffiti, and as the purveyor of this defacement bore a striking resemblance to Mario, he’s charged with cleaning up all of the mess. While he’s at it, he also sets about getting to the bottom of just what’s going on, and while Peach manages to avoid being kidnapped, familiar faces may be at work behind the scenes…
Whereas we found Super Mario 64 a bit of a chore to revisit, not so with Super Mario Sunshine. With punchy levels and fun boss battles, it has a lot to offer even now.
Ah, now for a bona fide slice of brilliance. The Nintendo Wii didn’t need any help shifting from store shelves, so the arrival in 2007 of Super Mario Galaxy just shifted lots more of them, making it Nintendo’s most successful console at the time. As the title alludes, this one sent Mario and those in his orbit into space. Why? Because that’s where nasty old Bowser has sent Peach’s castle. You know what to do, Mario, complete with expanded move – and suit – repertoire.
While it maintains many of the features established in Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy has much more in common with Super Mario Odyssey, and is just as great today as it was 13 years ago. If you’ve not had the pleasure then you’re in for a real treat.
So, we have three classic games in one handy package (mind you, the omission of Super Mario Galaxy 2 is very disappointing) that doesn’t require the possession of three classic but obsolete consoles. What’s not to love? This is where putting what often amounts to an arbitrary rating poses a challenge. Other than the small amounts of aforementioned tarting up and necessary adapting of some controls to suit the Switch, the three games are as they were back when, appearing to be run via emulation. So, what we’re given is essentially authentic, and that will be seen as a very good thing by probably just as many who will cry “Lazy!”, having expected modern remasters the likes of which we’re more used to nowadays.
Ultimately, Nintendo were damned if they did or damned if they didn’t. All we know is that, for the most part, we had a damned fine time reliving three important chunks of Mario’s legacy. Happy 35th, mate!
Super Mario 3D All-Stars is available September 18, exclusively on Switch.