35 feels like a weird number, right? You’ll often hear about people celebrating significant milestones for all kinds of things but thirty-five… that one doesn’t come up as much as you’d expect. The sad bois out there will most likely be playing their very small violins and lamenting the fact that “nothing worth celebrating lasts that long” but if we may shut them inside their damp cupboard to stifle their whinging, I think thirty-five isn’t really considered to be an important number.
One year anniversary, five year anniversary, ten, twenty, forty, fifty. For whatever reason, people don’t really care all that much for thirty-five, a societal standard that I think Nintendo unknowingly brought into the production of Super Mario 3D All Stars.
What is meant to be a game highlighting three of the (arguably) most beloved 3D Mario games from across three generations of consoles unfortunately comes across as a half-hearted attempt at thrusting older versions of Mario into the limelight without actually doing much to modernise or update them to our standards, resulting in a collection of games that’s good, but only because they always were good and not because this re-release somehow makes them better.
The fact of the matter is that it’s difficult to look at Super Mario 3D All Stars and not scratch your head at all the missed opportunities and lazy decisions. While the presentation of the collection itself is slick, featuring the complete OSTs of every game that can be perused whenever you feel like just staring at thumbnails of the games and the actual games themselves… well, a lot more could have been done.
I can already hear those Nintendo fanboys shrieking that modernising or updating the games in any way that may be considered a remaster or, gods forbid, a remake violates the integrity of what those games always were. Yet after having sunk multiple hours into Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy, all of those games have significant problems that could have been remedied with the slightest of fixes. So let’s go through them all one at a time, shall we? I love it when games structure the review for me.
Super Mario 64
Undeniably the most important and historically valuable game in the Super Mario 3D All Stars collection, I will say that playing Super Mario 64 today suuuuuuuuucks. While I can stand back and appreciate everything it did for gaming when it was released back in 1996, like most games over twenty years old it exists as something to play out of either nostalgia or curiosity because actually playing Super Mario 64 in 2020 is utterly painful. Nintendo has done next to nothing to modernise the gameplay and, again, I understand why. They want the game to feel like it did twenty four years ago, to keep it authentic. Yet just a few weeks after Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 proved that you can stick to the classics while actively making that project better by modern day standards. The dated graphics are charming to look at and the soundtrack is as memorable and meme-worthy as ever, but the way Super Mario 64 controls is utter garbage. Maybe players on the N64 were more tolerant of frustrating, unresponsive and slippery platforming but nowadays, that doesn’t fly.
I’m possibly missing the forest for the trees though. It could be that Nintendo intentionally left the game in its outdated form to show off the contrast between old and new, a tangible reflection on how far the series has come. Yet I have to imagine the only people who will appreciate Super Mario 64 in its base form are those fans who originally played it. Folks who missed out on the original release, who I’m willing to bet will be a sizable portion of people, will purchase this collection and walk away from it bearing more resentment in their heart for one of the most influential games in history because it’s just so frustrating. Look, it’s nice that the game was upscaled to 720p and features rumble, but for what Nintendo is asking for this collection, I would love to have seen some actual refinements.
Super Mario Sunshine
A game that I think most people overlooked when it was announced to be within the collection, myself included, Super Mario Sunshine turned out to be far more fun than I remembered. That might be because I came directly off of Super Mario 64 and the general speed, responsiveness, and flexibility of the controls instantly improved the experience. Again, it’s helped along by the fact that it has one of my favourite soundtracks to any game and a tone that feels unique and distinct enough to set itself apart from other Mario games, both 3D and 2D.
Having said that, it still has its issues. Sunshine often feels bloated and longwinded to play, resulting in tedium that sets in faster than most other Mario games. FLUDD, while charming in its own way, feels very much like a gimmick that becomes over utilised way to quickly, and controlling his spray of water is too fiddly to ever feel satisfying.
Many folks may begrudge the fact that Sunshine was included in 3D All Stars and I understand their complaints. Sunshine isn’t even a contender when it’s compared to Super Mario Galaxy 2, the 3D Mario game many feel should have been included. Yet that would mean featuring two Mario games that originally released on the Wii and given how this collection is meant to showcase three unique generations of 3D Mario games, it would have been disingenuous to not include Sunshine. Having said that, playing Sunshine on the Switch was a much better experience that I thought it would be and while it may not redeem it in many fan’s eyes, coming at it with lower expectations certainly led to me having way more fun with it.
Super Mario Galaxy
Undeniably one of the best games of all time (and that’s not even a controversial statement to make) Nintendo somehow managed to screw up Super Mario Galaxy in some form. By upping the game’s resolution to 1080p, Super Mario Galaxy looks better than ever yet for some utterly bizarre reason, the ability to turn off the motion controls first used in the Wii release is just… absent. Now that’s fine for people who own the original Switch, even if it does make playing in handheld an absolute ball-ache. Yet if you’re on the Switch Lite, get ready to constantly interrupt your gameplay and tap the screen as you collect all the Star Bits raining down from the sky. It’s dumb, unintuitive and I refuse to believe Nintendo, of all companies, couldn’t have come up with some kind of updated control scheme. Hell, just map the aiming reticule to a shoulder button and move it around with the right stick! Why force players to use the Switch’s touch screen when the very act is the antithesis of the Wii’s motion controls?
Beyond that glaring problem, Super Mario Galaxy is (still) exceptional in every other way. Variety in gameplay, environments and mechanics the entire game stays fresh while never running out of new and exciting content and challenges for the player to explore. Oh, and obvious mention to the soundtrack which might actually be my favourite of all time. Bold and sweeping, bringing in an actual orchestra to audible match the grand scale of Galaxy was a genius move on Nintendo’s part and playing through it again made me realise just how much time they clearly investing in the game’s sound alone. If anything, Galaxy remains the standout 3D Mario game and even though the adaption of the motion controls feels lazy to a fault, I’d still recommend it to everyone even who’s even slightly interested in video games.
The Whole Package
Thirty-five isn’t an especially well-known milestone and I think Nintendo just went and proved that with this collection. All three of the games included in Super Mario 3D All Stars are no doubt unique and worthy of being played on their own merits, yet I can’t shake the fact that this collection is an uninspired cash grab from Nintendo’s side. Beyond the weirdly shady business practice of only offering this bundle for a limited time, Super Mario 3D All Stars does little to justify porting these older games onto the Switch. Playing them in their original capacity would most likely be a more enjoyable experience even if the upscaled graphics look a little prettier. Mario, being the icon that he is, deserves better than the port Nintendo has given some of his more well-known adventures and that makes me a little sad.
Last Updated: September 16, 2020