I don't know how to define Bowser's Fury (DLC? New Game? Expansion?) but I love it.

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bigsocrates

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Edited By bigsocrates

Bowser’s Fury is the new add on for the Switch re-release of Super Mario 3D World. The question of what it is from a mechanical standpoint isn’t very complicated. It’s a remix of Super Mario 3D World assets (with some new stuff added, and controls and a camera that are much closer to Mario Odyssey’s) into a vast open world lake level, where Mario searches out “cat shines” in order to fight Bowser, who has been corrupted by some kind of sludge into a giant dark form, that’s sort of a mix between Godzilla, Bowser, and Ganon. The shines are spread out across islands on the lake and are accessed through standard Mario challenges ranging from getting to a specific point where a shine is to fighting a boss to collecting blue coins in a specified time limit to completing a time trial race course on back of Plessie, Mario’s giant Loch Ness Monster friend, who also lurks around in the water and is used to travel from island to island in the lake.

When Bowser's not raging he looms over the lake in shell form, threatening to unleash heck when he rises high enough into the sky. The ever rising shell of doom casts a Ganon like shadow over the sunny and joyful world.
When Bowser's not raging he looms over the lake in shell form, threatening to unleash heck when he rises high enough into the sky. The ever rising shell of doom casts a Ganon like shadow over the sunny and joyful world.

Mario is accompanied on this adventure by Bowser Jr., who also explains the threadbare story, and mainly serves to hold power ups, meaning that Mario, for the first time I can remember in a platformer, has a substantial and immediately accessible inventory. `Just like in the main 3D World game when you collect a powerup that replaces your current one the old powerup goes into inventory, except here you can hold up to 5 of each type, meaning you can have an inventory of dozens of powerups. Because there are no lives in this mode you get a new powerup into inventory with every 100 coins, and you will naturally have quite a few stored up by the end of the ~5 hour adventure. Bowser Jr. can also kill enemies (and you can select how often he does this) and paint over specific points that you indicate with a gyro, often giving you a powerup for your trouble but sometimes doing something more substantial like opening a secret pipe. While Bowser Jr. is AI controlled by default a second player can take control of him, though he definitely serves a secondary role to Mario, especially in the massive boss fights.

Bowser Jr. can go off and paint areas of the walls, resulting in powerups for Mario. As you can see you can have an inventory of up to 30 total items, all of which can be accessed at the touch of a button, meaning that Mario has a larger toolset at any one time than he ever has before.
Bowser Jr. can go off and paint areas of the walls, resulting in powerups for Mario. As you can see you can have an inventory of up to 30 total items, all of which can be accessed at the touch of a button, meaning that Mario has a larger toolset at any one time than he ever has before.

And yes, there are massive boss fights. After collecting a certain number of shines Mario can use a “giga bell” to transform into a giant Super Saiyan Cat Mario and battle Bowser across the open world, which mostly consists of swiping at him with your claws or stomping on his belly after he launches a falling shell attack. These battles resemble Kaiju battles and you can use the islands for cover from Bowser’s projectiles and beams, waiting for him to expose himself. It’s a fascinating and unprecedented use of a Mario open world level and even though the battles are relatively simple and easy (especially because you can take 3 hits and there are new cat bell powerups constantly respawning) they are a lot of fun.

Saiyan Cat Mario vs. Giant Bowser in a sludge covered lake is not something I expected from an official Nintendo game.
Saiyan Cat Mario vs. Giant Bowser in a sludge covered lake is not something I expected from an official Nintendo game.

When you’re not fighting Bowser he mostly lurks in the center of the lake, much like Gannon, but every 5-15 minutes or so he emerges to wreak havoc, turning the normally sunny environment dark and rainy and dropping dark shards into the levels, changing their geometry. He also blasts at Mario with flame drops and a giant beam, the latter of which is the only way to destroy fury blocks, scattered throughout the island, each group of them hiding another cat shine. Bowser can be tamed either by waiting him out, collecting a cat shine, or beating him in a kaiju battle, though the last option is only accessible if you have enough cat shines for the next tier, and defeating him will unlock a new set of islands to explore (meaning you only really get 4-5 kaiju battles between the beginning and the credits, though they do evolve in complexity as they go.)

All this combines into something unique in the history of Mario. It’s kind of like a small scale Zelda game (minus the narrative, complex inventory, and deeper puzzles) set in the Mario universe and was clearly inspired by Breath of the Wild. From Bowser lurking at the center of the map waiting to be challenged like Gannon in that game, to the fury moments that resemble BOTW’s blood moons, to the fact that Mario can collect and hold a large inventory of items (and Plessie functions like an ever available Epona) this is the Mario and Zelda fusion we never knew we wanted. The challenges are very Mario (each of the islands is like a small version of a Mario 64 level in its design, complete with 5 unique cat shines collected through varied goals and objectives that evolve as you progress, replacing enemies and obstacles with new versions like how Mario 64 remixed its levels depending on the star you were after) but the structure is way more like Hyrule and the ability to explore is intoxicating.

See those islands? You can go to them. And many more. As you collect shines you clear out sludge from the lake and new islands rise. By the end the accessible area is massive.
See those islands? You can go to them. And many more. As you collect shines you clear out sludge from the lake and new islands rise. By the end the accessible area is massive.

Bowser’s Fury is fantastic. I finished it in a single day, immediately after beating Super Mario 3D World, and as good as that Wii U classic is I liked Bowser’s Fury way more. The open world exploration, the clever remixing of items, the complete freedom of camera movement and choice of what to do, those are my favorite things in Mario games and Bowser’s Fury distils them into one giant playground. It doesn’t have the boundless creativity of Odyssey and it’s much smaller in scope, but it’s also more cohesive and it’s by far the biggest Mario map ever created. The ability to just get on Plessie and ride wherever you want is intoxicating, and the fact that you get to carry your powerups with you and choose whatever you want for a given situation makes for a more dynamic approach to the game, since you can climb something as cat Mario, switch to tanookie Mario to glide down, switch to fire Mario to wipe out some enemies and then switch to boomerang Mario to grab and item (there are no twin cherries in the game for obvious reasons.) Even though the assets are mostly from 3D World it feels fresher and newer than I could possibly have imagined because of these structural changes, and I really wish that it were 3-4 times as large as its already impressive size.

Cat Shines are the new moons!
Cat Shines are the new moons!

But its size brings up what I think the more interesting question is about this game. What….IS it?

It’s not DLC, because it’s not separately available. It’s not an expansion, because it isn’t related to Super Mario 3D World at all except for borrowing assets and being on the same cart. It doesn’t even play like that game. It’s sort of its own title, but Nintendo isn’t treating it that way.

Does this count as a Mario game? Would it be eligible for Game of the Year (I could easily see it making my top 10.)? Should it be included separately on listings of the series? It’s certainly big enough to be its own game. There’s at least as much content here as in something like Astro’s Playroom. If I bought it for $20 I would be thrilled with the purchase, and even for $30 I would be satisfied. But it’s not separately available, even though it should be, since the biggest Mario fans probably owned Wii Us and purchased 3D World back in the day and shouldn’t have to rebuy it.

The closest analog I can think of is something like Star Fox Guard, but that game was available separately, and was far less substantial than this one.

Bowser's Fury doesn't even have its own entry on Giant Bomb's Wiki. It's that hard to categorize!

Seriously, this is a really big area.
Seriously, this is a really big area.

I’m also fascinated as to how and why Nintendo conceived of this thing. Was it originally intended as its own game but they decided that the prototype wasn’t good enough to go ahead with as a full title but worth polishing as a smaller release? I could easily see that happening, except for the fact that Bowser’s Fury is built from 3D World assets, which seems to suggest that it was made for this particular package. If that’s the case….why? Nintendo’s other rereleases of Wii U games have included small extras, but nothing nearly as big as this. A new mode here, a new character there, but not a whole separate adventure of their flagship character. Look at New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe and its tiny additions and then look at this thing. And 3D World was already one of the best Wii U games. Why would Nintendo bother making a whole new game just to sell a game that was already going to sell well?

Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze got a new character to play with. Super Mario 3D World got....this. Why?
Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze got a new character to play with. Super Mario 3D World got....this. Why?

I feel like there has to be a story here. Either the team was just prototyping using old assets and they decided their prototype was so good they should polish and release it, or they started developing this as an independent game and then decided it wasn’t good enough for its own release (very wrong) but was good enough for people to play it, or…something. It’s just such a weird thing to exist, and an even weirder thing to package with 3D World, which is a totally different type of Mario game.

Whatever it is I hope that some of the elements of Bowser’s Fury are incorporated into newer Mario games. Just as Odyssey freshened up the series with its capture mechanics and wildly creative worlds, the structure of Bowser’s Fury allows for an experience that’s definitely still Mario but doesn’t just repeat older beats that we’ve all played to death at this point. The game is far from perfect, with serious frame rate issues and a lot of camera problems during the kaiju battles, but it is one of my favorite gaming experiences in recent memory and, for me, a reminder that even though I don’t play my Switch very much I usually have a fantastic time when I do.

Bowser's Fury? More like Mario's a furry! The game is obsessed with cats and that's one of the strongest connection to 3D World.
Bowser's Fury? More like Mario's a furry! The game is obsessed with cats and that's one of the strongest connection to 3D World.

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EightBitShik

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Nice, I can't wait to play this. I pre ordered it 2 months ago but we are going through an ICE AGE in Texas right now so it's like 3 days late.

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Relkin

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Man I would love to play this, but I don't have a Switch and probably won't get one for a while yet. Good on them for making something as cool as this in what otherwise seems to be a basic remaster.

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What a fantastic introduction and analysis to Bowser's Fury! Thank you for taking the time to write all of this up. I was a bit on the fence about picking up 3D World on Switch, since I already played the WiiU version, but your detailed explanation and enthusiasm for the Bowser's Fury addition has convinced me. Looking forward to exploring this odd delight!

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bigsocrates

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@hungrymatango: Thanks for the kind words!

The one thing I'd say is that the Bowser's Fury section is pretty short. It's really good but there are only 100 Cat Shines to get, and many of them are quick little things like a 20 second time trial race or a 1 minute boss fight. If you do not plan to play 3D World it's hard to recommend at full price, fun as it is. Of course if you do plan to play 3D World again then it's a pretty attractive combined package.

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Eribuster

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Thanks for the review!

This makes me wish Bowser's Fury was available separately as an eShop purchase. I already have Super Mario 3D World on Wii U (though I never put that much time in to it), and it sits uneasy with me to buy the game again at US$60.

Then again, I don't have my Wii U plugged in anymore, so the convenience of just getting the new Switch version is not without merit.

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wollywoo

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I've been playing this for a few hours and enjoying it so far! It was surprising to me that it's complete separate from 3D World - I assumed it would just be an additional world, but it's a completely separate game that just happens to be in the same package as 3D World.

The bundling here is a bit frustrating then, for players who don't want to re-buy 3D World. But Nintendo knows what it's doing, at least in terms of garnering sales. Their strategy of slowly doling out re-releases of all the major Wii U games over the course of the Switch's lifetime is clearly working, judging by the massive sales figures. On many of these they include some kind of bonus features to entice the hardcore fans to re-buy - and it seems to work, judging by the many comments I read from Nintendo fans who are content to buy the same games over and over and over. Not to mention that Nintendo games are legendary in general for their longevity on store shelves without ever taking the slightest price cut.

Their strategy of limited-time releases for games like 3D All-Stars also seems to work. And damned it if it doesn't work on me also... the idea of missing out forever on the chance to buy it drives me crazy.

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bigsocrates

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@wollywoo: In terms of connections to 3D World the main ones are that it reuses some of the assets of 3D World (though there are some unique assets there) and I believe Mario has the same move set (e.g. no triple jump) but otherwise, yeah, it's entirely its own thing. It's not even the same kind of Mario game as 3D world, since it's a full camera control exploration game, like 64 and Sunshine, not a linear challenge platformer.

I think the bundling is really frustrating. The people who owned the Wii U are the hardest core Nintendo fans, and they have no way of buying this separately. Nintendo 100% knows what it's doing and what it's doing is cruddy to its biggest supporters.

On the other hand it's a great deal for Switch only owners. It's an opportunity to experience a "lost" classic and get something fresh and new at the same time.

What I don't understand is why Super Mario 3D World, which was one of the most acclaimed Wii U games, was the one to get this treatment. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze got tiny little upgrades, as did last year's Pikmin 3. Why was the game that was already going to be the most attractive given this huge sweetener? Why not put the effort into something that wasn't guaranteed to sell 7 figures anyway?

And what do you call it? Is it a new Mario game? Is it an expansion of an old one? I think it's kind of its own game but it's not really being treated as such.

It's a very strange thing!

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Eribuster

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It bears mentioning that last year's (2020) Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, a remaster/up-port of Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii, also got a new and sizeable epilogue addition titled Future Connected that reworked some cut assets in to a new chunk of JRPG. It's not a port of a Wii U game, but it is a similar rare case of a new version of an old game getting a significant addition.

Compare and contrast this to the HD versions of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on the Wii U where again we saw minor additions along with the change in graphics.

Between Bowser's Fury and Future Connected, the only explanation I can think of why they exist is that Nintendo Tokyo and Monolith Soft felt like making it!

Bowser's Fury reminds me of Half-Life: Blue Shift, a stand-alone Half-Life expansion that gives you a side story with the security guard Barney as the protagonist. Blue Shift is shorter, tighter chunk of Half-Life that was released before Half-Life 2.

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bigsocrates

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@eribuster: Not only am I aware of Future Connected but I played it.

The thing is, RPG epilogues added to new releases aren't that uncommon. Tales of Graces F is another example (though you have to finish the main game to access the epilogue there.)

The thing that makes Bowser's Fury so unusual is that it's just...a different thing. It has no apparent relation to 3D World except for the reuse of some assets and moves and, of course, Mario himself.

Half-Life: Blue Shift is totally different because it was stand-alone. What makes Bowser's Fury so unusual is that it's a brand new game that's only being sold in a package with a port of an old one, and it's not a sequel or sidestory or any other continuation of that game.

I don't think that Bowser's Fury or Future Connected were made because the companies "felt like making it" because both cost millions of dollars to develop and needed some commercial purpose. Future Connected had an obvious one; make sure that Xenoblade Chronicles' dedicated fanbase pick up the release by offering them a semi-sequel as part of it. Xenoblade Chronicles has a famously small(ish) but devoted fanbase, so this makes a lot of commercial sense.

Bowser's Fury also makes commercial sense because Mario has a huge fanbase and even a small open world Mario game is going to make a lot of people who might already have owned 3D World or not be sure they want it plunk down their $60. But it's still a very rare thing and it makes it even odder how little work was done to other Wii U ports. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, for example, got a couple minor additions but nothing substantial, and Super Mario 3D World was probably going to outsell that anyway so why give this massive boost to the game that's already a guaranteed top seller but let the other games sink or swim on their own?

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AshuSP

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#10 AshuSP  Online

I had a blast playing through Bowser’s Fury and it is a really interesting way to add additional value. I honestly compare it a little to the additions Nintendo made in their Mario & Luigi rereleases. This is a very strong package and made it easy to justify yet another Wii U port double dipping my credit card.

Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if Nintendo did a smaller experimental project like this on their own once a year with Mario and their other franchises and charged $30 USD for it digitally.

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bigsocrates

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@ashusp: I do think that it's a pretty strong package, mostly because Super Mario Brothers 3D World is a really good game, and Bowser's Fury is also quite special. Both are top notch in quality and it's hard to argue with that.

I would love it if Nintendo put out smaller scope stuff like this on a regular basis. Not every game has to be a massive adventure, and getting more Nintendo stuff to look forward to and enjoy would be great. I think $30 is a lot for Bowser's Fury but I've definitely spent more on games that I got less enjoyment from so I wouldn't feel too bad about that price point.

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flameboy84

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I've not bought it yet but will eventually, so many nintendo games still on my back log. Great write up really excited about where this takes the series, maybe a full fledged open world Mario on Switch Pro.

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TheFlamingo352

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Weirdest part of Bowser's Fury to me is that it probbbably won't net them many more sales. Wii U ports do gangbusters, and this is a major Mario title most people haven't played--they could've sold Bowser's Fury separate and made a ton more cash (though that wouldn't be a very Nintendo-like solution).

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#14  Edited By MightyDuck

Great write up of your thoughts on Bowser's Fury. It's been great to read your takes on a lot of stuff lately @bigsocrates.

I am psyched to play both this and Mario 3D World. I haven't really had a Nintendo console since the N64 so I've missed out on a ton of the charm and fun that Nintendo puts into their games.

It's been great to replay all these "new" (to me) games on the Switch. Honestly, that little system is getting so much playtime this year over my PS4. I forgot just how fun Nintendo games are and the mechanics/feel are always spot on.

At this point, I could see myself holding off longer on a PS5 and just enjoying the Switch as more games (hopefully) come out this year.

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bigsocrates

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@mightyduck: Thanks for the kind words.

Nintendo games really do have a special quality to them. I think it's because of the company's insistence on polish and willingness to take the time to get things right. The fact that the hardware tends to be weaker also helps a bit because there's not as much focus on cutting edge tech and a lot more on making everything "feel" right and work well. Not every game is perfect or even great (Kirby: Star Allies and Arms spring to mind) but they're all polished, and when they hit that sweet spot there's nothing like it in gaming, really.

The Switch has a really strong library of amazing games. It doesn't have the breadth of PlayStation in terms of sheer number of good games (obviously there are lots of games on Switch, but tons of them are either junk or ports that will look and play better on other systems) but it may be the best system out there in terms of truly great games. And yeah, if you haven't been in the Nintendo eco system for awhile it has a pretty strong library of older hits to explore. I've been playing Super Mario Galaxy (I had a Wii but never played Galaxy) and that game holds up fantastically well!

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Brendan

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This bums me out because I got a WiiU near the end of it's lifespan, and only played through 3D World like three times in a row with my wife a year ago just before getting a Switch this past August. I have no desire to play all of 3D World again but it would be cool to play Bowser's Fury so I would be willing to pay for that title alone but not the whole game. It's a shame.

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OSail

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I just 100%ed Bowser's Fury a few minutes ago and it is a very good 3D platformer, but the flaws do speak to the benefits that 3D World has several years after it's initial release.

The free camera can be a pain at points which leads you to notice control flaws that seem almost non-existent in 3D World, the kaiju Bowser battles are a bit clumsy and happen too often, despite the Bowser kaiju battles happening fairly regularly waiting for him to fulfill some Star goals feels a bit dated, and the open world is fantastic but it's more impressive as a technical thing rather than anything more, and the way situational music kicks in isn't very smooth? It'd be like if you had all of Super Mario 64 but you didn't have to jump into paintings to access levels, which is very cool, but I'm sure it'll be used in much more interesting ways moving forward.

With that being said I back what the OP wrote in most regards as Bowser's Fury is a great 3D platformer with a lovely short-ish run time that reminds you of the great ideas found in the Mario series over the last few decades. Well worth playing.

As a bonus new experience packed with one of the best games of the 21st century there's not much else to say for how great the Switch 3D World package is.

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Willy105

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I think it is R&D for the next Mario game, and they decided to let people play it.

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imunbeatable80

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This is a fantastic write-up.. im excited to play this with my twins when they get a little bit older. Honestly i hope this style carries over for some future games. I dont know how much of an impact it has on odyssey 2 (assuming that is in development) but maybe this goes towards the next "new new new super mario bros wii u"

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