Now, nearly 30 years later, Nintendo is bringing out its second Mario All-Stars collection: Super 3D Mario This $59.99 Nintendo Switch release includes Super Mario 64All-Stars.
Long ago, in the days of the Super NES, Nintendo released Super Mario All-Stars. It was a brilliant idea, a collection of three classic 2D Mario games (and the original Super Mario Bros. 2, which was never released in North America) on a single SNES cartridge, all overhauled with new, more detailed, more colorful 16-bit graphics.
Now, nearly 30 years later, Nintendo is bringing out its second Mario All-Stars collection: Super Mario 3D All-Stars. This $59.99 Nintendo Switch release includes Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy, all on a single card or download.
These games don’t get major graphical upgrades like the games in the original All-Stars, or the more recent Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy and Spyro Reignited Trilogy collections on the PlayStation 4, but they’re still classics that play just as well as they did on their original consoles.
Inexplicably, Nintendo is only offering Super Mario 3D All-Stars as a “limited release.” This doesn’t just mean that the number of physical copies will be limited, but that even the digital version will no longer be available to purchase after March 31, 2021.
Back to the Classics
The three games in this collection are all very distinct from each other in style and gameplay. In Super Mario 64, Mario runs and jumps around Peach’s castle, exploring different worlds found in magic paintings to collect stars.
In Super Mario Sunshine, Mario must use a backpack-mounted water gun called F.L.U.D.D. to clean up gunk on the sunny Isle Delfino, collecting shine sprites to help restore the town.
In Super Mario Galaxy, Mario flies between planets each with their own gravitational forces in various themed “galaxies” (levels), collecting power stars to restore a cosmic observatory and travel to the center of the universe to rescue Princess Peach.
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Basically, all three games have you hopping around as Mario to collect the shiny items needed to proceed through levels, but each title has its own unique mechanics with which to do that.
The titles stand the test of time, and are still fun to play today. Super Mario 64 certainly shows its age due to the awkward camera controls and slippery platforming, but considering its legacy as the first major 3D platformer, those quirks can be forgiven. Super Mario Sunshine looks and plays much better than Super Mario 64, though its controls are still a bit loose, and its difficulty curve is very uneven.
Super Mario Galaxy is the best of the three in terms of feeling like a modern, enjoyable Mario game, with tight controls, impressive gravity-based physics, and a crisp, colorful look. I spent the most time with Super Mario Galaxy, but all three games are worthy of respect and attention.
Not New or Improved
Unlike the original Super Mario All-Stars and its 16-bit makeovers of classic NES Mario games (available now for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers), the games in Super Mario 3D All-Stars receive no such graphical overhaul.
The models, textures, shaders, and light effects for all three games are untouched from their forms on the N64, GameCube, and Wii. The 2D interface elements are redrawn to the Switch’s higher resolution, and the games are rendered in 720p or widescreen 1080p, so edges look much more crisp.
Still, those aren’t very significant upgrades when you compare the collection to total remakes like the Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy or Spyro Reignited Trilogy. The performance is similarly underwhelming; all three games appear to run at 30 frames per second or around that, and I didn’t see them touch 60 frames per second at any point.
Similarly, all gameplay and physics are unaltered from their original forms. Super Mario 64 plays just like Super Mario 64 did, with its slightly slippery controls and limited camera control. Super Mario Sunshine keeps its somewhat heavy-feeling physics. Super Mario Galaxy locks away its camera controls from you at almost all times.
This is fine, especially for nostalgic purists who want to play the original games in their original forms, but I can’t help but look at Super Mario 64 and wonder what the experience would be like with Super Mario Odyssey levels of tight controls. Even some little tweaks to smooth over the rough-feeling edges of these 24-, 18- and 13-year-old games would have been welcome.
One modern concession has been added to Super Mario Galaxy, to account for the Nintendo Switch Lite and using the Switch in handheld mode. Usually, you use the right Joy-Con (or motion sensors on the Switch Pro Controller, 8Bitdo SN30 Pro+, or other gamepads) to control an on-screen cursor to use pull stars, collect star bits, and stun enemies. However, in handheld mode (or with the Switch Lite) you use the system’s touch screen for those functions.
It makes sense, since tilting the system while you’re looking at the screen feels awkward. In fact, it feels particularly awkward in the ray surfing galaxies, which use motion controls regardless of Switch model or mode, forcing you to tilt the system in your hands to steer.
It’s disappointing that the bundle lacks Super Mario Galaxy 2. It was a fairly direct sequel to Super Mario Galaxy that didn’t make any drastic changes to the formula, but it offered more of the same excellent platforming as the original Super Mario Galaxy, and was just as enjoyable to play through. It also had a giant Mario head flying through space as the hub world, which was great.
While Super Mario 3D All-Stars doesn’t add anything new to the games themselves, it does have a nice built-in audio bonus. The collection includes the soundtracks for all three games, with a music player that lets you listen while the screen is off.
That’s a good extra, but it would have been nice to see a bit more content on top of it to celebrate these games, like the concept art in Capcom’s Mega Man Legacy Collections.
Almost Super All-Stars
Super Mario 3D All-Stars lives up to its promise of letting you play three classic 3D Mario games on the Nintendo Switch, and adds the soundtracks of the games to the package for good measure.
It isn’t an overhaul like the original Super Mario All-Stars was for its classic NES Mario games, though, and that feels like a missed opportunity. Super Mario 64’s visuals look very dated, and Sunshine and Galaxy both have little quirks and frustrations that could have been smoothed over with some tweaks. The games look sharper, but they don’t necessarily look better.
That will please purists, but it will disappoint players hoping for a more modern remake collection, like the Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy and Spyro Reignited Trilogy. Considering those compilations are available on the Nintendo Switch, as well, and each cost $20 less than Super Mario 3D All-Stars, that leaves this collection feeling a little flat.
Still, these Mario classics are three excellent games, and worthy of a recommendation. The collection itself just could have been more. If it wasn’t for Nintendo’s strange “limited release” of the game, I’d recommend waiting a bit for it to go on sale.
Originally published at PC mag