Super Mario 3D All-Stars – First Impressions

It’s been a week since the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection was released for the Switch after Nintendo made the suprise announcement only a few weeks prior. I woke up to the social media frenzy caused by the announcement as rumors had been circulating for what seemed like an eternity that Nintendo was planning on releasing Super Mario 64, Sunshine and Galaxy on their immensely successful little hybrid console. Much of the excitement gave way to a mix of skepticism and disappointment as Nintendo revealed that the games were to feature no major changes or improvements outside of upgraded visuals and a few minor tweaks to the control schemes. There was also the rather odd decision to make the collection only available until the end of March 2021, which seemed to confuse, as well as upset many fans(Nintendo announcements and their reception by gamers afterwards could be its own lengthy post). Nintendo is perhaps the only company to rival Disney in its ability to consistently generate HUGE profits by playing on fan’s nostalgia. After catching up on some of the details about the lack of major improvements to the game and it being a limited time release, I questioned whether or not this was something I really needed to purchase right now as I already own all three games on their original consoles…

In what should suprise precisely NO ONE, I pre-ordered a copy of 3D All-Stars. I also decided I would attempt to write out a few of my thoughts on the collection after spending a fair amount of time with all three games.

Super Mario 64

Mario 64 looks pretty nice in 720p, but is unable to be played in now-standard widescreen 16:9 and is only available in a 4:3 aspect ratio

It’s difficult to know where to begin when talking about Super Mario 64, let alone say anything that hasn’t been discussed countless times since it revolutionized video games in 1996 by showing that fully three-dimensional games could be more than a mere gimmick. Mario 64 is a timeless classic and I’ll admit that I was a bit disappointed to hear after the anouncement of Super Mario 3D All-Stars that it was going to be a very bare-bones HD remaster. The game does look nice in 720p, but it’s too bad that the oldest and most important game in the collection didn’t get more improvements.

As I anticipated prior to its release, the biggest drawback to Mario 64 on the Switch is going back to the N64-era “sometimes fixed, sometimes free” camera. Lakitu follows Mario around as the game’s camera person and still ends up getting stuck on various objects in levels just like the N64 version. I honestly didn’t think having non-inverted camera controls in the Switch version of the game would be as noticeable as it has, but I regularly found myself rotating the camera to the opposite direction. I guess my muscle memory built up from playing the game in years past was stronger than I realized…

Super Mario Sunshine

I love Mario Sunshine, as I’ve mentioned the game numerous times and have many, many wonderful memories of those late-August nights playing it on my Gamecube. It may be the most divisive Mario entry this side of the Paper Mario games as some feel the level design wasn’t up to the same standard as Mario’s previous outing, the revolutionary Super Mario 64. Others have stated the F.L.U.D.D backpack simply felt like a gimmick and betrayed the 3D-platformer purity of 64. I’ve spent an hour or two playing Sunshine and feel the game’s controls still hold up well, with the biggest change in the game’s feel being due to the Switch Pro Controller or Joycons not having the same analog shoulder buttons that the Gamecube controller had. You were able to press the R Button completely down and Mario’s F.L.U.D.D pack would spray water in a tighter, more-focused stream allowing maximum distance, press down the R Button a little less and the water would come out in a wider “shotgun” spread. While playing on the Switch, you can only achieve this after holding the ZR Button down for a couple seconds and the stream will eventually reduce down to a sputter. The absence of the Gamecube’s inverted camera controls was easier for me to adjust to in Sunshine than it seemed to be while playing Mario 64.

My biggest disappointment in the HD remaster of Super Mario Sunshine is how the game could have risen to beloved status of Mario Galaxy if Nintendo could have polished up the gameplay just a tiny bit and tweaked the camera control/angles. I still love Super Mario Sunshine, but I was honestly hoping for just a little more of an upgrade…

Super Mario Galaxy

Super Mario Galaxy was a game that I didn’t play until a few years after it was first released in 2007, but I immediately fell in love with everything about the game. Nearly everything about the game is exceptional – controls, level design, music….I LOVE the orchestral soundtrack! Being originally released on the Wii presents its share of challenges as the motion controls must be implemented to Joycons/Pro Controller. For the most part, the game’s controls work pretty well and don’t hinder the gameplay much. The biggest change for me in playing Mario Galaxy is while playing in handheld mode, you need to tap the screen to fire star bits and to use the Pull Stars, having to take a hand off the Switch doesn’t feel very intuitive, but hasn’t hampered Galaxy’s phenomenal experience all that much either. It’s a shame Mario Galaxy 2 wasn’t included in the collection as well, considering many believe it to be even better than the original…

Is Super Mario 3D All-Stars worth it?

For anyone curious about the 3D All-Stars collection and wondering if it’s worth purchasing, I believe this depends on your answer to an additional set of questions:

  • Do you already own these games?

If you don’t own an original copy of 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy it is definitely worth the price as used copies of Mario 64 and Mario Sunshine can cost around $50 each, with Galaxy being less expensive(as with most Wii games, currently). If you already have original copies of the games, it’s a little harder to justify paying $60 for HD remasters running on an emulator unless…

  • Is the convenience of playing all three games on the Switch important to you?

By far, the most appealing aspect of the 3D All-Stars collection for me is the ability to play them on the same console. I’ve spent a large part of my play time lying in bed grabbing a few stars(or sprites) here and there before going to sleep. 3D Mario games like this are still great choices when looking for something to play in small doses.

My ultimate criticism of the Mario collection lies primarily in the fact that there wasn’t any real improvements made to the three games, save for the video quality. It’s difficult not to feel like the old “one step forward, two steps back” analogy is applicable here, especially given Nintendo’s history in demonstrating imagination and innovation. I will point out, however, that this precedent has been set in the past in regards to releasing a “lazy” collection of emulated games as Nintendo released Super Mario All-Stars for the Wii as a limited-time(the same as 3D All-Stars) release of the SNES game that offered simply a chance to play classic Mario games on the Wii console. So, while the most recent Mario collection may cause Nintendo to appear a bit complacent or even greedy…it’s not an unprecedented, or even recent situation. Damn, would I have just angered my 12-year old fanboy self with that (mild)criticism of Nintendo and pointing out their historically conservative business decisions…

Despite some minor gripes about the 3D All-Stars collection, I still love the games as much as nearly any other game I can think of…I was just hoping for a little bit more. Did you pick up Super Mario 3D All-Stars? If so, what do you think of it? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!