Releasing in September of 2020, Super Mario 3D All-Stars came as a pleasant surprise when it was announced in the Nintendo Direct; but the subsequent decision to pull it from both physical and digital storefronts half a year later proved baffling to everyone. Given that this collection also only included half of the 3D Mario entries (omitting Super Mario 64 DS, Super Mario 3D Land, and Super Mario Galaxy 2), people wondered just what the hell Nintendo were thinking. As you may have expected, these decisions created a somewhat critical reception from the fanbase.
Now that three years have passed since that original release (has it been that long already?), we’ve decided to look back at the collection to see whether it was truly that terrible, how the individual releases hold up in the modern era, and also note any differences to the original entries.
As Super Mario 3D All-Stars is more of a front-end for these three games and contains very little in the way of extras, aside from the soundtracks for the included games, it makes sense to simply review each of these three games individually. The collection contains no galleries, save states, border options, or really anything other than the option to view the game’s controls and, as such, there’s very little else to say about things outside of the main games.
Anyway, in the words of the famous plumber: let’s-a-go!
SUPER MARIO 64
The first game in the collection is a game that needs no real introduction. Super Mario 64 is considered a classic for good reason as it’s the game that took the iconic series into the third dimension with remarkable success and was rightfully considered a masterpiece at the time. Whilst future games have refined the foundations that the game set, even the likes of Super Mario Odyssey still takes heavy inspiration from it.
From the moment you jump out of the pipe into the grounds of Peach’s castle, you’re greeted with a huge area to explore in order to play around with your extensive new move-set. Whilst the plot is still the same ‘rescue Peach from Bowser’ nonsense with little else to complement it, it’s something that’s quickly forgiven due to the degree of immersion the game provides by throwing you into the castle and having you access paintings to reach the game’s mainstages. It’s a masterstroke in game design, and few games have come close to matching it.
Mario’s moveset was considered pretty revolutionary at the time due to the number of kicks, jumps, somersaults, wallkicks, longjumps and so on for him to get around but going back to the game in 3D All-Stars provides a stark reminder as to how far the controls have progressed since then. Everything works really well for the most part, but I found that they lacked a certain sense of precision at times – especially when combined with a camera that occasionally doesn’t feel like co-operating. It’s hard to say whether the movement problems are due to the analogue stick differences when compared to the N64 original, or whether it was always like this, but it’s something I did note at times – particularly on the later stages where I found myself fluffing some rather simple platforming.
But this gripe don’t really take away from the game’s main strength: the diverse set of fun levels that you explore in your quest for the power stars needed to unlock the door to Bowser. Some stages, such as the almost-perfect Bob-omb Battlefield, are huge playgrounds for you to explore; whereas others offer something far more straightforward, such as Cool Cool Mountain which is essentially just an indoor slide and an outdoor slide. There are loads for you to play around in and most of them are good fun, with only the water-based stages being truly painful to play.
Super Mario 64 is a great game that laid the foundation for the 3D platforming genre and is absolutely worth a replay today. Would it be better if they gave it the widescreen treatment like Super Mario Sunshine? Sure. Should they have used the original game as a base so that it’d be the new standard for speedrunners? Absolutely – the infamous backwards longjump is great to play around with regardless of skill level. Do any of these issues matter? Not in the slightest.
SUPER MARIO SUNSHINE
The next game in the collection is a divisive game, for sure, but Super Mario Sunshine is not only my favourite entry out of the three Mario games, but it’s also probably my favourite Mario game of all time. It’s not perfect for sure, and certainly does have some glaring issues, but they’re faults in what is otherwise a really charming game that takes great strides in differentiating itself from everything else in the franchise.
One of the things that makes the game stand out so much is how much of a narrative departure Sunshine is, with the the game having a surprising emphasis on story compared to the other two games in the pack (or really. Rather than setting up a simple kidnapping plot, as is often the case, the game instead opens up with Mario & friends going on holiday to Isle Delfino. It’s an idyllic resort and their promotional video is what entices the gang to take a break there; however, Peach suspects that not all is as it seems as she spots a strange figure that looks remarkably figure. Her suspicions prove correct after they land and see the once beautiful island now covered in a strange brown gunk, plunging Isle Delfino into darkness. To make matters worse, eye-witness report that the culprit is actually Mario!
After a rather questionable trial, Mario is sentenced to clean up the island and restore the island to his former glory. It’s a really nice plotline about pollution and the problems tourism can have on places, and it’s even extended to sub plots contained within each of the game’s worlds too. The native Yoshi species of Isle Delfino are currently in hiding due to them being suspected of poisoning the sunflowers of Pinna Park, but come back the whole island once the true culprit is found and dealt with; the water of Noki Bay is polluted so much that the aquatic race are unable to return to their underwater homes, meaning that the remaining residents have to work with Mario to find out what is causing the problem and how they can get it cleaned up. There are so many little stories contained within the game and they all follow this same environmental theme. It really is impressive how much depth they’ve added to the narrative as speaking to most of the residents will further enhance the lore as you hear about their various plights.
Sure, this great storytelling is somewhat undermined slightly by Peach’s capture partway through the game, but even that is forgivable as the writing and surprisingly good voice-acting helps to add a degree of charm to this slightly disturbing sub plot. It really is a shame that the franchise basically ignored both storytelling and voice acting both before and after, as it’s something I would love to see return in a mainline Mario game – but I guess that’s also what helps make Super Mario Sunshine so unique too
It’s not just with the storytelling that is a huge departure either, as the way Super Mario Sunshine plays is also incredibly unique as it is quite different to the solid groundwork that Super Mario 64 laid down in the previous entry. The bulk of his basic movement is largely similar for the most part, with the game keeping many signature moves and tightening them up a bit – but they also controversially cut out the popular long jump in favour of a hard-to-use-but-great-when-mastered spin jump instead. Whilst some may bemoan this change, there is a very good reason for the alteration: complementing his moveset, Mario also gains access to a water pack known as FLUDD that provides him with a plethora of new movement options to help him get around. It’s an inclusion that feels strange and first due to how different it feels from anything experienced before, but the more you get used to FLUDD and it’s various functions, the more you’ll be sliding and hovering around with ease. It’s a very rewarding moveset and feels great to use, even if there are certainly some off quirks that mean it can be quite tricky for newcomers to get to grips with.
With its seaside theming, the seven stages (or nine including the expansive hub area and the short finale inside the mountain) aren’t quite as varied as the diverse locations of Super Mario 64, but they all contain enough unique elements to make them stand out from one another. Ricco Harbor is full of beams and cranes designed for moving cargo from the docked ships outside of a small portside town; Pinna Park is a funfair complete with a rollercoaster, swinging pirate ships, a merry go round, and huge ferris wheel; and Sirena Beach homes a huge luxurious hotel with an emphasis on horror, as it’s home to ghosts that are terrorising the guests. There’s so many great twists on the basic beach formula, and they all look absolutely stunning – especially with this new HD coat of paint.
Unlike other 3D Mario titles, however, Sunshine has a far more linear approach to its gameplay. Rather than obtaining a minimum number of the main collectible, Shines, instead the game tasks you with completing the seventh episode of each major world. The reason for this is so that you work your way through each area’s narrative and dealt with their particular environmental issue. It’s a reasonable aim, but it has the added side effect of rendering every other Shine in the game completely obsolete. That means that even the ones contained within the excellent hub world are absolutely unnecessary, and the game offers no real 100% completion reward either for your troubles.
Sure, this does have the added side effect of waving away some of the game’s obvious issues, such as the need to collect the Shines obtained by trading in the blue coins scattered around the game’s episodes seemingly at random, or the 100 coin shines that are physically impossible should you choose the wrong episode to do it in, or even the game’s notorious frustrating Shines that seem to be fundamentally broken on a mechanical level. Things that were spoiled in the rush to get the game out, but are ultimately avoidable for anyone just wanting to beat the game.
But that isn’t necessarily a net positive as this system also means you’ll probably miss out on so much good stuff too if you’re only going for the bare minimum. Delfino Plaza in itself is probably just as fun to explore for Shines as any of the individual worlds, but absolutely none of it is required at all. You also miss out on the eighth Shine of each world, which takes place in a much happier version of the level after resolving their issues and also contains some of the game’s more interesting challenges. Heck, even those blue coins are a lot of fun to find making them a great idea in principle, but annoying in execution as you try and find every single damn one without any decent way to keep a track of them.
Could these issues have been resolved in 3D All-Stars without fundamentally changing the game? Perhaps. A minimalistic tweak would have been to add a proper blue coin tracking method and maybe add in some kind of basic 100% reward (Luigi, anyone?); whereas bigger changes could have required a set number of shines to trigger the final area that’s just a little higher than getting those seven main Shines. Nothing too substantial to alter the core game, but enough to help solve the game’s biggest issues.
I only really despair at these shortcomings because I love the game so much. It has a bit of a bad reputation, but it’s absolutely not deserved. Go in with an open mind, and you may very well fall in love with Isle Delfino like I, and so many others, did.
SUPER MARIO GALAXY
Moving onto the final game in this trilogy, and it’s a bit of an anomaly for me. As someone that only owned a Wii very briefly in order to play Metroid Prime 3, the Galaxy duology completely passed me by and as such I went in with absolutely zero nostalgia for the game. It’s not even a game I was really interested in at the time either as the abundance of waggling during that console generation really put me off. I knew it was probably decent like the 3D Mario games that came before, but I just didn’t fancy shaking a wiimote around. Now that Super Mario 3D All-Stars provided me with way to play Super Mario Galaxy with a normal controller, I was excited to finally give this one a try.
After the layered story of Super Mario Sunshine, Galaxy takes a step back and goes for something slightly more traditional. Sure, it opens with some weirdly in-depth lore explaining how the power stars formed but it soon becomes about rescuing Princess Peach whilst also helping another space princess out with her ship. Whilst there is some backstory given to this new character, Rosalina, and her Luma friends there’s not really anything deep or compelling enough to make you care all that much.
But that’s where the gameplay comes in to sweep up the mess of a story. As the first real departure from the prior collectathon format, Super Mario Galaxy plays very much like a 2D game played in three dimensions. Exploration is kept to a minimum as you traverse smaller with tighter platforming challenges between you and your goa. Those who have played Super Mario 3D World on the Nintendo Switch should have a fair idea as to what to expect here, as it feels like a very similar format – albeit with the addition of a hub area to separate each stage. Rosalina’s Observatory is a huge step down from both Delfino Plaza and Peach’s castle due to it’s far smaller size, but it’s still a nice little area for you to run around with in order to practice your platforming skills between levels.
As ever, there are 120 power stars for you to collect across the game’s plentiful number of galaxies, with each one usually containing a handful up for grabs. Like in Sunshine, selected stars will lead to you collecting that one specific collectable, but given that the level themselves change up a fair bit for each one, it doesn’t feel like you are retreading old ground.
Whilst being rather linear experiences (with many levels even shifting into 2D at points), the stages are a lot of fun to get around due to Mario’s moveset that takes everything from Super Mario 64 and makes it that bit tighter – and it even throws in a spinning attack too. This spinning attack is great for dealing with enemies, but can also used to activate warp stars that blast Mario across the skies to the next planetoid challenge. There are also pointer controls that are mainly used for collecting the numerous star bits, but often often feels like a chore due to how clumsily it is implemented – however, given that it’s not really of huge importance, it can also be tolerated for the most part.
Unfortunately, the pointer controls weren’t the only issue I had with Super Mario Galaxy. Another core element of the game involves collecting certain power-up that transform Mario into a multitude of objects. There’s Bee Mario, Spring Mario, Boo Mario, Fire Flower Mario, and more. Whilst some of these feel like solid additions to the platforming, there are far more that just come and go without ever giving you a chance to get used to them. They’re not exactly bad, and many are even fun to use, but they’re vastly underused and leave some feeling rather pointless as an inclusion.
Despite my overall negativity in the review, Super Mario Galaxy is still a lot of fun. It may lack that same feeling of explorative wonder of the previous games, and also contains a number of questionable design choices that do affect an ordinary playthrough, it still offers some fun platforming for the Mario aficionado.
Super Mario 3D-All Stars packs together three very different 3D Mario games that all hold up rather well. Whilst people will certainly have very clear favourites, you can’t really go wrong with any of them as they all still look and play really well. If there’s any real criticism, aside from being an incomplete limited release, it’s that these games deserve far more love than they were given. Manuals, galleries, bonus unlocks, or just anything else would have made this more of a worthwhile anniversary celebration.ould have made this more of an anniversary release than in its current state.