All Together Then: Super Mario 3D All-Stars
Hoo hoo! It's-a me, Mario! Let's a-go! Alright, that's enough of that.
Ooh, Nintendo have done a special thing here. Packaged up in one, erm, package, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy are getting their encore on Nintendo Switch. This is shockingly generous, despite the many, many whinges and moans that the games aren't in widescreen, aren't remade from scratch, or whatever silly nonsense. Okay, it would have been nice to see Super Mario Galaxy 2 but we haven't, it's not here, and the package is well worth the money even without that game. And I didn't care much for Galaxy 2 anyway, so there.
At any rate, this seems an extremely opportune time to have a good old All Together Then look at the games on offer in this collection. So, here it is. All Together Then!
Super Mario 64 (1996, Nintendo 64)
A game that nobody has a sensible opinion on, it's Super Mario 64. The favourite of screeching speedrunners everywhere, this cast off the shackles of two-dimensional platforming gameplay and cast the portly plumber into a very impressive and expansive world of polygons and painting portals. It's a runaround that has captured the imagination of millions, and deservedly so - there are few games more outwardly impressive than Super Mario 64 was at the time of its release.
I can't speak to whether or not it holds up, as it's not a game I ever liked even when it first bowed its head. The change of focus from Mario's linear 2D courses was too much of an adaptation for me, and quite frankly it still is. I find getting kicked out of a stage after reaching one of the Power Stars to be simply irritating, and the controls - while versatile - feel imprecise to me. But it doesn't really matter what I think - this is one of the most acclaimed games of all time, and has been perpetually played since 1996. Everyone knows it and there's a huge community rinsing it of its secrets. I don't like it, but it deserves to be here and I'm glad it is.
Super Mario Sunshine (2002, Gamecube)
A very odd duck indeed, this long-awaited Gamecube title shifted the exploration gameplay of its predecessor into the tropical clime of Isle Delfino and pitched Mario against Shadow Mario, the ultimate lifeform. No, wait, that was Shadow the Hedgehog. Of course, Sunshine isn't too dissimilar to Shadow the Hedgehog in that they're both unusual spin-offs of a major platforming series that most people criticised quite harshly. But Sunshine is certainly an interesting experience. The level design is as strong as ever, and it still looks remarkable in places. It's so un-Mario at times that it fascinates me - one of the earliest boss battles sees you stretching the legs of a squid until they snap off, the detached limb wriggling with frantic violence in Mario's grip. There's also the matter of the Blue Coins - necessary for 100% completion, there's no way to actually track how many of them you've found and, more egregiously, how many are actually left in each of the levels. This gets even more taxing when Blue Coins will appear or disappear in the same environment depending on which of the "missions" you're currently doing.
It's not a bad game, but it has more moments of frustration than most of the Mario series combined. It's nice to finally get a chance to revisit it, though, and I've personally been spending the most time with this one due to my relative unfamiliarity with it. Weird, but good.
Super Mario Galaxy (2007, Wii)
One of the Wii's killer apps, the original Mario Galaxy remains the best and is still a joy to play. A freewheeling planet-hopping romp through space, it showcases Nintendo at the absolute top of their game. The only thing holding it back now, in 2020, is the fact that the environments are noticeably linear and compact compared to the Switch's absolute masterpiece, Super Mario Odyssey. But Galaxy remains essential. Many will rejoice for the mapping of the spin attack to a simple tap of the Y button, but I personally adored playing with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk as I felt the more freeform movement it enabled suited the gravity-defying gameplay brilliantly.
Still, there's nary a dull moment and unlike the sequel the additional challenges are pitched perfectly; "Prankster Comet" revisits of previous levels will transform their feel by pushing you into a speed-run or coin-gathering mission, some of which are shockingly demanding. It's the perfect length, with even a full 100% clear not completely monopolising weeks of your gaming time. It also looks beautiful on the Switch, though it looked (and still looks) ace on the Wii, as well. An absolute classic worth your £50 all on its own!
A review copy of this title was provided by the publisher.