I wasn't sure it was possible to wrap up childhood nostalgia, put it in a plastic jewel case, and sell it for circa £50 / $60, but somehow Nintendo has done it again. Super Mario 3D All-Stars is the latest surprise release from Nintendo, revealed just over two weeks before hitting shelves as part of Mario's 35th birthday celebrations. It's quite the celebration of our favourite dungarees-wearing former plumber hero too, packaging some of his greatest 3D adventures in one bundle for the Nintendo Switch.
Release date: September 18, 2020
Platform: Nintendo Switch
For your bucks, you get: Super Mario 64, originally released on the N64 back in 1996; Super Mario Sunshine, which was released in 2002 for the GameCube; and Super Mario Galaxy, which arrived on the Wii in 2007. Plenty of fans raised the missing Super Mario Galaxy 2 when the bundle was announced, and I won't lie that it does feel like a missing piece in the offering.
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However, what you do have here regardless is a pure slice of gaming nostalgia. These aren't remasters or remakes, but re-releases in one glorious, celebratory bundle, all modernised slightly for the Switch. Many of us are looking at this as a way to revisit the 3D Mario games of our youth. As someone who never owned an N64 or GameCube back in the day, and would have to beg to play Super Mario 64 and Sunshine on friends' consoles in snatched hours here and there, this feels like a delight. But, it's also a great way for players who missed out on the original releases to understand why everyone always talks about this trilogy of games as so pivotal in Mario's history.
All three games have been updated with higher resolutions than their original releases, so they don't look startlingly retro on your Switch. Edges have been smoothed, and overall gameplay polished with improved framerates to boot. What you end up with are the games that look and play how you remember them, rather than actually how they were, which is a very nice feeling indeed. What a pair of rose-tinted specs nostalgia can be, eh?
Of course, what's also been tweaked is the control mapping for each game, meaning there's a little relearning required for each game compared to the originals. As the oldest of the trio, Super Mario 64 needs the most wrestling when it comes to the new control scheme. Weirdly enough, it plays the best when using Joy-Cons - either in handheld mode or otherwise. I've found it near-impossible to play with a Pro Pad in TV mode, because of the oversensitivity of the Pro Controller's joysticks. The game is fairly focused on Mario's ability to walk at different speeds, so you don't quite have the finesse of movement when using the Pro Pad, whereas it's much more enjoyable when controlling Mario with the Joy-Cons. Otherwise though, it's a joy to marvel at its 90s glamour in a little box in the centre of your Switch screen.
Super Mario Sunshine takes the control scheme changes in its stride, mapping the GameCube's dual-level trigger controls for the FLUDD to the two right-hand shoulder buttons. It works a treat, and makes Sunshine a surprisingly natural fit for the Switch - even when playing with the Pro Pad too. Hearing its joyful tracks blasting from my Switch will never not bring a smile to my face.
Super Mario Galaxy has had a much larger control overhaul from its Wii debut. The motion controls are still there if you're dual-wielding Joy-Cons in TV or tabletop mode, but you can also use the touchscreen to collect star bits or interact with stars if you're going full handheld. It works fantastically well at recreating the Wii experience tastefully on Switch. However, for those not enamoured with motion controls, I have bad news. While it's not an issue in handheld mode or on the Switch Lite, if you don't want to use motion controls while in TV mode it's impossible to turn off. What that means is that I've constantly got the little star bopping around my screen while playing with the Pro Pad, which definitely isn't super annoying… However, it's worth noting that the motion controls work so well that I quickly switched back to the duo of Joy-Cons.
It's a small niggle, especially as Super Mario Galaxy looks so great on the Switch. It does well to not show its age too much, especially as the most recent mainline 3D Mario adventure on Switch is the beautiful Super Mario Odyssey.
But, it's not just about the games though. Super Mario 3D All Stars also gives you the complete soundtracks for all three of the titles that you can just play straight from the lovely title screen. Serious nostalgia for the ears, and yes I've listened to all 81 tracks of the Super Mario Galaxy soundtrack at least six times in the last week. It's particularly nice that there's a 'music-player mode' you can enable by hitting the minus button. It turns off the screen, and just lets you immerse yourself in the tunes, effectively turning your switch into some kind of retro MP4 player.
It's debatable whether you'd call it an added bonus, but it's also worth mentioning that this is a limited release project. If you want to get your hands on Super Mario 3D All Stars, you're going to need to be quick. Physical copies of the game are a limited production item, and the digital version won't be available to buy after March 31, 2021. It's certainly an interesting decision on Nintendo's part, especially as it's such a great bundle.
All in all Super Mario 3D All Stars is a celebration of some of Mario's greatest achievements that will bring joy to old and new fans of the titles alike.
Review code provided by the publisher.