It’s amazing to think that it has been 35 years since Super Mario Bros. first released on the Famicom in Japan. Even though I know full well that Mario has been around for longer than I’ve been alive, it still feels staggering to be reminded just how long the character and IP have existed. In that time, Mario and his fellow residents of the Mushroom Kingdom have continued to be one of the largest IPs in existence, with every game release selling millions of copies and smashing records on the Nintendo Switch. Celebrating that 35th anniversary, Nintendo have released their first Mario collection since the Nintendo Wii with the release of Super Mario 3D All-Stars, a collection of fantastic games that simply didn’t get the treatment they deserve.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars collects three of the most important and well-known 3D Mario games: Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64, Super Mario Sunshine for the GameCube and Super Mario Galaxy for the Nintendo Wii. Disappointment at the lack of Super Mario Galaxy 2 aside, these represent the journey Mario has been on since he made his foray into the third dimension. Alongside each of these games comes their soundtrack, filled with a mass of fantastic music that hits the nostalgia centres. Beyond that, there’s simply nothing to this collection, with no additional cool features like historical timelines or concept art/interviews that we’ve seen in collections like the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection. It really is a pretty barebones collection, which is pretty disappointing.
How do the games in Super Mario 3D All-Stars make the transition to the Switch? Let me tell you.
Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64 is probably the most lacklustre part of this collection. Regarded as the progenitor of the 3D Platformer and revered as a masterpiece of design, Super Mario 64 is one of the most important games in the history of Super Mario. That’s why it so disappointing to see the game thrown into this collection with little to no work done to it whatsoever beyond getting it to run on the Switch.
There’s been some very slight texture work done to the game which improves the very occasional sign or piece of wood, while the music has also had its quality improved. Beyond that, this is very much an absolutely barebones port of the game. Running in 720p, the game hasn’t been updated to hit the maximum resolution the Switch can support, while the game’s 4:3 aspect ratio has been kept causing the screen to just be surrounded by black space. Some sort frame around the game could have gone a long way here or even simply boosting the size of the game to fill the full vertical space of the screen.
There’s no free camera controls, with the original c-button camera controls mapped to the right analog stick. Given the Nintendo DS port of the game received full 360 degree camera controls, albeit through utilising the handheld’s touchscreen, it would’ve been nice to see something similar done here.
Super Mario Sunshine
This is actually my favourite game of the collection, although it is also a relatively barebones port job as well. Somewhat reviled by many of the fanbase, Super Mario Sunshine introduces the F.L.U.D.D., a water spraying backpack. Incorrectly blamed for the Isle of Delfino becoming covered in sludge and paint, it’s up to Mario to clean the Island, defeat the vandals messing up the joint and collect 120 Shine Sprites along the way.
Upped in resolution to 1080p in docked mode, the game receives a noticeable boost in resolution and image clarity that comes with it. What really helps here is the game’s clean and colourful art style, which has really stood the test of time in a way that the other games in this collection haven’t. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I found Super Mario Sunshine to be the best looking game in Super Mario 3D All-Stars.
Beyond that resolution boost though, there’s once again not many improvements or changes to the games at all. The game benefits from being players with a more standard controller in the Switch pro controller or joy-con when compared to the GameCube controller, but beyond that there’s been no tweaks to the camera or controls which can sometimes feel too finnicky for the level of precision that’s often required in the platforming. The lack of inversion controls for the F.L.U.D.D. is also somewhat frustrating at points. Still, this is easily the best port in the collection.
Super Mario Galaxy
Super Mario Galaxy is widely viewed as the best 3D Mario game to ever be released and with good reason. Its imaginative gravity-based gameplay, its journey through galaxies, the introduction of brand-new suits and characters like Roslina all combined into an amazing adventure. It was filled with a charm and pizazz that set it aside from every game that came before it. While much of that charm comes across in Super Mario 3D All-Stars, the implementation of the game’s motion based controls pull the whole experience down.
Much of Super Mario Galaxy’s controls centred around the motion controls that the Nintendo Wii featured. Pinpoint shooting of star bits at characters to stun or feed them, using the waggle to trigger Mario’s spin attack and selecting options in the menus are just a few of the mechanics that largely or completely required motion controls. The disappointing aspect here is that little of this has changed. When playing in docked mode, this required the joy-con or pro controller gyro meters, which are significantly less precise than the Wii’s pointer controls were and required frequent recentering as I played. Handheld mode fairs little better, with the motion controls switched for touchscreen controls. That means you need to frequently let go of the game’s physical controls to interact with the menus or collect/use star bits. Both methods are awkward and actively pull the experience down.
Graphically, Super Mario Galaxy doesn’t hold up quite as well as Super Mario Sunshine does, but it still looks good today. Also upped in resolution to 1080p in docked mode, Super Mario Galaxy’s textures somewhat muddier and less clean than Sunshine’s which is made more apparent now with the jump to 1080p. The music also well and truly stands the test of time, continuing to be one of the best Mario soundtracks of all time.
Overall, Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a significantly lesser experience than I hoped for. While all three games are amazing in the context of their original releases, even the most recent game is nearly thirteen years old. If the collection had gone beyond being a simple port and upping of resolution this could have been an utterly amazing experience, but unfortunately the lack of improvements to the game makes it a lacklustre collection. It’s still worthwhile jumping in if you’re a fan of 3D platformers or Super Mario in general, but don’t expect these games to amaze in quite the same way they once did. Also, don’t forget that Nintendo will be delisting the game from sale on March 31st 2021, in a move that I’ve been quite critical of.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars was reviewed on a regular Nintendo Switch in both docked and handheld modes, with a review copy provided by Nintendo. For more information, check out the game’s official website.
- A great trip through the history of 3D Mario games - Included soundtracks are fantastic - Super Mario Sunshine's art style holds up incredibly well
- Collection is incredibly barebones - Little work done to improve Super Mario Sunshine - Super Mario Galaxy's touchscreen/motion controls actively harm the experience