Since early 2020 there has been speculation that Nintendo would be putting together some of the best 3D Mario games in a single collection, due to the fact that this year is Mario’s 35th Anniversary. Then Nintendo casually dropped a Mario Direct unveiling Super Mario 3D Allstars which includes Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy. This is a collection of some of the best 3D platform games off all time, but it feels like Nintendo could have done a little better when it comes to celebrating the 35th birthday of one of their most iconic characters.
Super Mario 3D Allstars on the face of it is a wonderful collection. 1997’s Super Mario 64 revolutionised 3D platformers, 2002’s Super Mario Sunshine improved on many of Super Mario 64’s mechanics and added a new FLUDD system and 2007’s Super Mario Galaxy is a wonderful experience. However, when brought together in this collection for some reason it doesn’t feel as good as it could be. Before I get into the improvements, let’s have a look at the games first.
First of all, we have Super Mario 64. It stays pretty much true to the original game with some graphical upgrades. The game stays at its original aspect ratio and runs at 30 frames per second. It plays just like the Super Mario 64 I remember. I got this as an import from Hong Kong back in the days before the internet was widely available and I still remember playing it over and over as a teenager. Super Mario still holds up pretty well, albeit with a few camera issues here and there (that may even be true to its original form). The game is still as fun as it was back in the day and the visuals look crisp and there are the familiar music and open feel to the game which takes me right back. It’s incredible to think Nintendo made this 3D platformer and executed it so well on their first try. To take Mario and transfer that feeling of movement and joy of exploration from 2D to 3D, even today this game either tops of is a mainstay of ‘top 10 games of all time’ lists.
Super Mario Sunshine is an interesting one to go back to. Arguably of the games in this 3D collection it’s the weakest entry, but that’s not to say it’s a bad game at all, just when you compare it to two of the greatest games of all time the flaws are more obvious. Nintendo introduced FLUDD into this game allowing Mario to spray water, attack and move in new ways. It’s still a fun adventure with many of the characters this time given voice lines and there’s a significant graphical upgrade over Super Mario 64, gone are the polygons and sharp edges and this is much closer to the visuals of Super Mario we know and love today. Super Mario Sunshine didn’t manage to live up to the very high expectations set for it by Super Mario 64, but it’s still a good entry in the overall history of Super Mario games. If you’re coming to this fresh having never experienced Super Mario Sunshine, then it’s worth playing through.
Super Mario Galaxy is much more like it and perhaps one of the most ambitious Mario games in the series. This port onto the Nintendo Switch looks absolutely beautiful and had stood the test of time albeit a 13-year-old game. Motion controls are mixed with traditional controls and the Mario is taken to a new level with the ability to explore the cosmos. Mario can explore little planets and the sense of gravity, exploration and space is turned on its head. Nintendo really innovated here and elevated Mario to a new level after the semi-lacklustre showing of Super Mario Sunshine. This game is a joy to explore from start to finish with Nintendo trying out new ideas all the way through. The gravity and Mario’s traversal across the planets and moons is something to behold.
Super Mario Galaxy is the one I keep coming back to time and time again. Its story, graphics and music are all wonderful, and perhaps one of Nintendo’s greatest achievements in their long history of making amazing video games. The only tricky thing with porting this to Nintendo Switch is the motion controls. This game was designed with the Wii Remote in mind, and you can use a combination here of motion controls in the pro controller or in handheld mode by using the touch screen.
It’s a great experience going to back to all three of these titles, however, it still feels like Nintendo could have done more for the 35th Anniversary 3D collection. When you load up the game you can select either the games or the soundtracks of each game, and that’s about it. Super Mario 64 could have done with a 16:9 mode, although Nintendo may have wanted to stay as true to the original form as possible and not being a game developer I don’t know how much work that would have been to convert the game to modern-day widescreen. It would have been nice to have some artwork or something a little extra to explore. The games are great and it’s awesome to have them on Nintendo Switch, but when you look at other collections and what they have done for big anniversaries (and this is Super Mario after all), I still feel like Nintendo could have done more with this package.
Then there are the missing entries. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is often regarded as good if not better than the original and there was an outcry from fans when this was announced. Super Mario 3D World has been excluded from the collection too in favour of its own stand-alone release, coming early in 2021. The final thing I wanted to touch on was the limited release window. Super Mario 3D Allstars has been made available for physical or digital purchase until the end of March 2021, when it’s going away. This seems slightly odd to me, although Nintendo could be wanting to commemorate the 35th Anniversary with a ‘had to be there’ collection. It feels like a strange move, as many people could discover this collection after the fact. I immediately pre-ordered the physical collection… which is not something I normally do and this has already shot up to the 3rd best selling game of the year, meaning Nintendo once again has struck gold, hot on the heels of their earlier success this year with Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
This is a collection of some of the best 3D Mario games out there, with Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy being near-perfect games. Super Mario Sunshine is an interesting game that’s worth playing, but if you have never experienced Mario before Super Mario Odyssey, then it’s worth checking out this collection and understanding how we got to modern-day Mario games. it would have been great for Nintendo to ‘celebrate’ this collection a little more in-game. For me, Super Mario Galaxy is worth the price tag alone and it’s a great bonus to have the other two games on there even if they don’t hold up quite as well as they do in my memory.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: September 18th 2020 (available until March 31st 2021)