Like a lot of people, I didn’t really know what to expect from Bowser’s Fury going in. The snippets of game footage I’ve seen so far gave the impression of Super Mario 3D World with new Bowser-themed challenges layered over the top of old ones—which would have been great in itself—but Bowser’s Fury isn’t that. From what I’ve seen of it so far, it feels more like a whole new game than a bonus add-on for a remaster, and it’s awesome.
The thing that stands out most, obviously, is Bowser himself. He’s big and he’s mad , he’s angry, and he loves to throw a tantrum. What that means, in practice, is that you’ll be happily running around a grassy field or making your way through a bright, playful obstacle course when the sky goes dark, you hear a big roar, and everything gets messy. Plumes of lava start erupting from the ground, blocks fall out of the sky, deadly new traps appear out of nowhere, and the kaiju-like King of the Goombas keeps shooting beams of fire at you, forcing you to quickly find something to duck and cover behind. It’s the sort of stuff you’d normally only see in a Bowser’s Castle level, but spilling out into the rest of the world.
These ominous twists don’t dramatically alter the difficulty—though I’ve only played the first area of the game so far—but they certainly ramp up the intensity. The mostly relaxed pace of the standard levels suddenly gets a sense of pressure and urgency, creating a dynamic ebb and flow of tense excitement and more chilled out moments. If you want a more tangible reward, there are also plenty of treasures that can only be reached when Bowser’s in fury mode, thanks to the extra blocks that appear and the destructive power of his supercharged fire breath.
Part of what makes this work as well as it does is a more typical 3D platformer approach to world and level design. The original Super Mario 3D World puts a 3D spin on 2D-style platforming, complete with a side-view camera and discrete levels connected only by a overworld level select map. By contrast, Bowser’s Fury has the over-the-shoulder camera and big, connected game world you’d expect of something like Super Mario Odyssey or Spyro the Dragon. There are still “levels” in the form of different islands, but they’re all seamlessly connected to one another, and travelling between them is as much a part of the game as those levels themselves.
Which isn’t to say the 3D World influence is completely absent from Bowser’s Fury. It uses the same assortment of costumes and transformations, with a lot of the original game’s unique obstacles and level design elements. The difference now is that the world itself is more holistic and feels like one big playground, which makes those Bowser transformations all the more effective.
All this for what is, essentially, framed as a bonus add-on for a remaster Super Mario 3D World, which is itself a substantial, impressive game. The Switch version comes with the usual remastered tweaks, as well as online multiplayer—a very welcome addition indeed, with multiplayer being one of the strongest points in the Wii U original. That would have been enough to bring 3D World to a new audience who skipped the Wii U (or who simply want a more convenient way to revisit it), but Nintendo, to its credit, decided to go ahead and stick what feels like a whole new game onto the side. I haven’t seen far past the first area of Bowser’s Fury so far, but I can’t wait to see how those ideas build up and how far it can take its unique premise.