Nostalgia is a fickle beast. Ever have memories of an old cartoon you used to watch and be filled with glee? Only to check for it on the internet and realise that it has either not aged well, or your memory hasn't? The old Transformers movies did that for me. Cheesy, strange sound tracks, and the inevitable character that is both unbearable, and unfortunately the main one. In video games, Super Mario is renowned as one of the kings of gaming.
As a mascot to a developer, he has withstood time and is recognisable across the globe! The question is, has nostalgia tainted the memories of the Italian plumber? Or is he still truly king of consoles? Super Mario 3D All Stars is a culmination of the big three 3D flagship games for Mario, tidily placed on one cartridge, for one console.
Unlike our other reviews, we can't split this into a "how to play" and "how it handles", as it's three games, really. So we'll go through each in chronological order of release, and review them that way! Hold onto your hats, it's going to be a wild ride!
Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64 was the first true 3D game in the Mario franchise. The premise is the same old story, Bowser has taken Peach and Mario needs to save the day. It's a tried and tested method for these games, and as the first one in 3D it wouldn't make sense to change the overarching goal. What's different is that the game is hosted across worlds, accessed through a hub world. In this case, Princess Peach's Castle acts as the hub, and players access the worlds by using paintings. Inside each painting are power stars, a resource used to unlock more areas of the hub world to access more paintings.
As the game progresses, Mario will unlock enough stars to take on the big bad Bowser. Doing so progresses the game further, unlocking large sections of the castle, until you have the final showdown with him! However, the game doesn't end with a rolling credit screen and a 'You Win!' You can still continue playing to collect every Power Star, a challenging feat for even the most seasoned video gamer!
Super Mario 3D All Stars' first game is undeniably one of the monoliths of gaming. By no means did it put Super Mario on the map, but it is one of the reasons he stayed there. The game is robust in how it enables the player to control Mario, and how players can engage with the worlds to earn stars. What's more is how diverse and wonderful the worlds are. There's a charm and a uniqueness to each of them, with a beautiful orchestral symphony edging you into each and setting the theme and atmosphere excellently.
The developers clearly put in a lot of thought and consideration into the way the player can move and use Mario. For a middle aged plumber, the bloke's got a real spring in his step! You can hop, skip and backflip, backflip from a standing position, jump into a dive, smash the floor, punch and kick, side step, crawl, crouch and slide. All things which will undoubtably enable you to navigate the diverse and vibrant landscapes and collect Power Stars. But there's a catch! These wondrously superb movements all obey the laws of physics (in the Mushroom Kingdom). Any jump at speed will require slowdown, meaning any uncontrolled dive will earn you gravity's punishment.
This Super Mario 64 port is a game of two faces. With one, it presents the beauty of what a 3D Mario is, with its elegance, booming soundtrack and iconic moments. The innovative and new mechanics, and the nostalgia it holds for so many. With the other, it shows how difficult and unforgiving a game it can be. The jump from 2D to 3D was always going to be a shock for players, but this came in and was almost alien! And with the ridiculous level of control available, all fault ended with the player's inability to control Mario.
It's a game you have to master to truly succeed at, and one which is tremendously rewarding once you do. It's by no means our favourite of the three available in Super Mario 3D All Stars, but it's still one of our top games of all time. The game truly is nostalgia at its best.
Super Mario Sunshine
Super Mario Sunshine is the only one of these games we had no nostalgia for. It may seem like a cardinal sin to other Mario fans, but we never owned a GameCube. Saying that, we took to Sunshine like a duck to water.
Princess Peach has NOT been kidnapped. It's shocking, but she's present in the game as someone to interact with (though only for quick lines and comments on the story). Mario sets off on holiday, however upon landing he finds that the island of Delfino has recently been terrorised by a darkly coloured, moustachioed miscreant. In doing so, they have removed the shine from Delfino and plunged much of it into darkness... Naturally, the citizens of Delfino are livid, and look for someone with an equally as dapper moustache to blame: Mario.
And, as punishment, you are tasked with removing all the graffiti, vandalism and unruliness caused by the dark doppelgänger. Through doing so, restoring Shines and bringing sunshine to Delfino!
The game begins with you collecting FLUDD, the staple mechanic item for Sunshine. FLUDD, or the Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device, is essential to Mario's adventure here. Dark Mario has spilt no end of goo and slime around the island. Removing it is one of the main goals for Mario, and often brings much joy to the citizens. Also, the FLUDD's ability to spray water allows Mario to hover and float.
Different parts of the island are unlocked progressively, with Delfino Plaza acting as a hub for these portals. Each portal hosts an island location, and each location hosts episodes where Mario has objectives to complete to unlock Shines. As the game goes on, Mario engages in several showdowns with Dark Mario. This is where the story unfolds and the big reveals occur! Only once Mario finishes his chores and appeases the unforgiving islanders can he enjoy his well earned holiday!
Super Mario Sunshine does what Super Mario 64 did for controlling Mario... Which doesn't leave much! But 64 did not give Mario a water pressure jetpack or the ability to jet wash several drives at once. But, his handiness aside, FLUDD is undeniably a truly wonderful addition to the game. There is scope for alternative nozzles as time goes on, and these move the game from 5th to 6th gear. It ups the ante and gives even more opportunity for players to manipulate Mario's movements.
Like with 64, Mario can hop, skip and backflip, backflip from a standing points etc... However! Mario’s gymnastic abilities are coupled with a tonne of awesome tricks from FLUDD. Players can manoeuvre Mario in 18 directions (including down) freely, and still feel challenged by many of these Shines! Unlike 64, when you choose a challenge for a Shine that's the challenge you get. As time goes on, some more do appear within other worlds and challenges, but initially, what you take on is what you're going for.
The aesthetics, feel and soundtrack of Super Mario 3D All Stars’ Sunshine screams island getaway. If it wasn't for all the goo, bad guys and an evildoer with dapper facial hair, you’d be forgiven for thinking Mario had made it onto his holiday. The game's image and feel is iconic to itself and sits unique from any previous Mario titles. Even to date, no other Mario game has enabled players to feel so free in how they manoeuvre Mario and utilise the world around him. The only restriction is the limitation of not being able to explore the worlds outside of the designated Shine, which is a shame. However, we forgave this due to the game’s overall aesthetics, feel, and the joy it provided! Sunshine alone would give you your nostalgia hit!
Super Mario Galaxy
Super Mario Galaxy is the final, and most recent of this trio of games. The game originates from the Wii and takes advantage of the motion controls of the Switch too. But! Without the sensor bar to complicate things, you can centralise your cursor easily with a single button touch! I'm no fan of motion controls as a core mechanic, which may be why Wii Fit and I never got on, but this opened up much more pleasant experiences!
Super Mario Galaxy does follow the trademark "Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach" theme, and wholeheartedly utilises it as the cornerstone of the story. But now Bowser isn't messing around, as he has not only his vast armies and arsenal of war boats, but a flying saucer! If you hadn't already guessed it, Super Mario Galaxy takes place wholly in space! The game begins with the inevitable kidnapping and a blast through space. This in turn introduces the main mechanic for the game's movement: gravity.
Super Mario Galaxy's levels are a collection of platforming extravaganzas, with each having opportunities for Mario to walk on all sides of a platform, with all gravitational pulls not linked to platforms travelling towards black holes. From this, Mario also gains the ability to spin in midair. Though a trivial ability at first glance, this enables him hover in mid air, disable his enemies, and use launch stars to fly from platform to platform across each galaxy. The other key addition to this game is a player's ability to use Star Bits, a resource easily found across all levels. You can use the motion controls or touch screen to fire any Star Bits you may have found as an attack, or to activate something.
The game takes place on the Comet Observatory, where the (now) well known character Rosalina lives with the Lumas. This acts as a hub for access to the many galaxies. Both Rosalina and the Lumas are full of useful information. As the game progresses and Mario collects more Stars from each galaxy, so does the hub. You start in a darkly lit, barely inhabited platform with a gentle melody playing over the background. After each major success, the Comet Observatory slowly comes back to its former glory and symphonic sounds burst into life, little by little. When the observatory is back in top shape, you traverse the universe to its core for a showdown of epic proportions. All in the name of rescuing your precious one!
Super Mario Galaxy is our favourite of the three games in Super Mario 3D All Stars. It has gorgeous charm to it with a beautiful aesthetic, superb control, and a lovely story. You cannot deny the beauty of the game - even a player who doesn't enjoy Mario would be blown away by the spectacle of colours, imagery and beautifully orchestrated theme. Each little galaxy feels like a universe within itself, with it comprising of a group of similarly themed islands or planets. They fit together neatly but never feel identical. Of course, sometimes the theme is a junkyard. A collection of space nonsense and scraps of rockets. A collection random machines covered in spikes, lasers and traps. Either way, it's thematic to the world. Nothing every feels out of place!
When you first get your hands on Mario, there's a feel of limitation. Compared to the other two titles here, players don’t get full control of Mario. Galaxy introduces a new limitation: the effect of gravity. You can no longer dive, a beloved action previously, but Mario's ability to interact with the world around him reduces that limitation. You'll launch through stars, manipulate the gravity, fly off of giant plants and run a full 360° around any spherical surface! There's no end of scope for movement in new and unique ways!
What's more is the new power ups. Though I won't go into masses of detail, know that Mario can become a bee. And that's one of the more reasonable power ups here. The utilisable items are genuinely out of this world! There is also some scope for multiplayer in this game, but it's limited to firing Star Bits and, in our opinion, isn't the biggest selling point.
The final thing to mention for Galaxy is the platforming itself. Launching through the cosmos, jumping over black holes, and diving into new areas blindly can seem terrifying in any other circumstance. Mario Galaxy earns players' trust by time and again delivering reliable, player controlled movements. For a game that limits the movement compared to its predecessors, it trumps them at ensuring the actions are player driven. All mistakes are player made, and all successes are theirs to earn! The game enhances this further by progressively adding more and more mechanics for the player to use. These introduce new movements to worlds and tie into one another beautifully. Truly a marvel of gaming, especially for as rocky a console heritage as the Wii!
Super Mario 3D All Stars: Final Thoughts
Was Super Mario 3D All Stars the nostalgia trip we anticipated? Sort of. To reduce it to nostalgia is to sell these games short. The All Stars collection demonstrates that these games are truly timeless, and that they haven't wrinkled with age. Each of these games holds its place in history for its own reasons. Super Mario 64 as the groundbreaking game that showed everyone how control should be executed. Super Mario Sunshine as a growth on that control and commitment to something unique, done extremely well! And Super Mario Galaxy, a game that took the motion control and used it in a way that didn't need you to launch across the room, and with its aesthetic, visuals and overall execution.
There's no denying that we were Mario fans before Super Mario 3D All Stars, but this has given our love a new lease of life. Three consoles' staple games have been lovingly tied to the Switch now, and they sit rightfully where they should be. Now you can play all the behemoth Mario games on one handheld console with ease. A brilliant collection that is undeniably an essential for any Switch gamer!