Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story review

  • Amazing mix of platformer and RPG
  • Clever writing to back up creative concepts
  • A treat for long-time Mario addicts
  • Sometimes a little too easy
  • Not very mature
  • Not epic in scope and length

Let's be honest with each other: the DS has more quality RPGs than anyone has the time to play. We get paid to do it and even with 30 hours a month on public transit we're still woefully behind. And yet here we are again with another high-profile DS RPG that comes out the same month as at least three others that we can think of. What makes Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story any more worthwhile than the rest of this creamy crop? Pull up a toadstool and listen.

A Traditional Original

Mario RPGs have been around for nearly 15 years and have always successfully mixed tried and true RPG staples with the skill-based platforming found in the core Mario titles. This entry is no exception, as it still requires skillful leaps in the overworld (as in a standard Mario adventure) and precise button presses for offensive/defensive moves during the game’s RPG-style battles.

Just as in the past, the Mario Bros go questing with Mario assigned to the A button and Luigi on B. When battles begin, don't expect to keep one eye on the screen and the other on your email, as each attack needs careful timing for maximum effectiveness. Example: when you select “Fight” on the menu, you don’t zone out while the attack unfolds. You watch intently, waiting for the correct time to push A again and deal even more damage (or block it, if you’re defending). Learning your enemies and their different tells can mean the difference between dying to a low level enemy and taking no damage in a boss fight. Though mostly unchanged from previous games, the battle bits are still engaging and make each battle feel like they matter, and most importantly, help reduce the general tedium of RPG battles.

The story is reminiscent of previous games, but in the best possible way. The Bros explore the Mushroom Kingdom in the hopes of curing the mysterious illness “the Blorbs,” which turns people into giant, spherical fat-bodies. The cause is revealed very quickly as Fawful - the top henchman from the outstanding Superstar Saga - has spread the illness around to make the Mushroom Kingdom ready for conquering. Does he kidnap Princess Peach too? Of course he does, though his purposes are a bit more complex than Bowser's.

Above: We welcome the return of Fawful, Mario's funniest enemy

Speaking of Bowser, he’s home to the most drastic change to the formula this time around. He’s still introduced as a humorously incapable villain, but after he swallows both Mario bros (we’ll let you see why and how), you’re able to switch between them at your discretion. Bowser wanders the Mushroom Kingdom in search of Fawful on the top screen while the Bros sift around Bowser’s guts on the bottom, desperately trying to find a way out of their nemesis’ innards.

In battle, Bowser plays comparably to Mario and Luigi, though obviously his fighting style is a bit more brute force than the Italian siblings. Whether you’re punching the crap out of guys or blowing fire, the attacks still involve the same level of attention in battle, and thanks to Bowser's newfound ability to suck (lolz), he can inhale enemies and let the two plumbers continue fighting them in his stomach. That’s got to be a first, right?

Even though the story has some of the usual set-pieces - kidnapped Princess, Mushroom Castle overthrown, collect a certain number of star things - the plot moves in surprising ways. It almost feels random as the next corner Bowser turns leads him to a bizarre new situation, like eating a giant carrot or sneezing his way to a remote island. It takes time for the story to ramp up until all the pieces are laid out for Mario and Luigi to save the world, but the twists and turns are so delightfully absurd it’s hard not to smile and take them in stride. Bowser is already a world-famous villain and thanks to the situations found here, his stubbornness and downright stupidity have made him an exceptional co-star as well.

More Info

Release date: Sep 14 2009 - DS (US)
Available Platforms: DS
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Nintendo
Developed by: Alphadream
Franchise: Mario
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence
PEGI Rating:


  • fartinapot - May 13, 2010 10:41 p.m.

    I loved this game. Best on the the ds. One thing bothers me though. I beat the final boss twice, and it won't let me save after i beat him.
  • charlie_red492 - April 12, 2010 3:03 p.m.

    This game is really good and keeps you busy for hours. There is bits that are hard but once you have finished the fight you feel so happy.
  • phantom2468 - September 26, 2009 7:09 p.m.

    I just got the game yesterday and I LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • dreamgor - September 19, 2009 8:30 a.m.

    i will get it and i will love it but i have to protest on the "is it better than" section sonic chronicles SUCKS! VERY limited damage including when you use special moves. no coins from enemies and a VERY limited amount of coins even if you did it as me and want through the whole game and the chase sequence is... let's just say that on the final boss it's impossible... so yeah... and also i doubt it's better than WEWY as it is my favourite game ever the only thing that will surpass it is a WEWY or a Disgaea MMORPG recaptcha: alliance 04 ... whut?
  • mario2417 - September 18, 2009 5:20 a.m.

    come on you gotta get this game =(
  • mario2417 - September 17, 2009 3:04 a.m.

    does any one know when this comes out?????
  • mario2417 - September 15, 2009 11:50 p.m.

    im so gonna get mario luigi bowsers inside story it looks so fun
  • alexluck - September 15, 2009 10:26 p.m.

    Hooray! I'm gonna get this. This article makes me wish I finished Superstar Saga, though
  • Spybreak8 - September 15, 2009 7:37 a.m.

    lol its like the developers played the worm level in Gears of War 2.
  • JoeMasturbaby - September 14, 2009 10:45 p.m.

    "Plus Bowser’s Inside Story is 200 times less emo, which is always appreciated, even if Mario and Luigi don’t rock the latest Shibuya fashion." HAHAHAHAHA i loved TWEWY, might have to get this when i get cash.
  • RandomIdoit - September 14, 2009 10:35 p.m.

    I just wish this game was harder... according to the review anyways.
  • Zeos - September 14, 2009 8:31 a.m.

    I'll be able to die in peace once I own this game... why did my DS have to get stolen!? ><
  • TestDDs - September 14, 2009 2:42 a.m.

    What is Mario? Why are there 200 Mario game title? And why can't i grow a mustache like That?
  • Cyberninja - September 13, 2009 10:50 p.m.

    so which should i get this, ff4 or scribblenauts? i only have 40 dollars
  • zIndianaJonesz - September 13, 2009 8:57 p.m.

    where do they get these ideas i mean it looks cool but how did they get a story like this to be created
  • secretsearcher - September 13, 2009 5:40 p.m.

    Hmmmmmmmmmmm I might get this, might not. I'm debating whether or not to wait for Golden Sun DS or get this to hold me over until then. But I do still have to get Lost Age...
  • Xenath - September 13, 2009 7:50 a.m.

    I prefer TWEWY because of gameplay. I like the concept of this game but I don't think I'll be picking it up due to lacking tons of extra cash. Good review though, keep it up.
  • Defguru7777 - September 12, 2009 10:23 p.m.

    This looks awesome. The next RPG for the DS that I pick up after this'll probably be Golden Sun DS next year.
  • CatrParrot - September 12, 2009 10:22 p.m.

    Sounds like a great game, definitely gonna pick this up. My question is: will it be more well-received than GTA Chinatown Wars? reCAPTCHA: Armco saratov WTF?
  • GoldenMe - September 12, 2009 8:47 p.m.

    Why is everyone confused if they should by this game or not? Of course they should fucking buy it. I know I am, seeing as how I like it better than the core Mario games.

Showing 1-20 of 39 comments

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