Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is really two full and complete games in one. But where 3D World is a reissue of an excellent game that never got the love it deserved because it was released for the ill-fated Wii U, Bowser is something wholly new.
It’s still recognizably a Mario adventure. There are platforms to jump between, environmental puzzles, ticking clocks, power-ups, Goombas… the gang’s all here. But sitting on top of all that are two fundamental changes that completely shake up the pace and flow we’ve come to expect over almost 40 years.
The first: Bowser’s Fury is set in an open world. The story unfolds around Lake Lapcat’s enormous collection of cat-themed islands, with each island standing in for what fans would typically think of as individual Mario “worlds.” The open waters, which you navigate with help from Plessie, of 3D World fame, also hide plenty of secrets.
The physical layout of Bowser’s Fury puts more of a premium on exploration than you’d traditionally expect from the focused and discrete world design of earlier Mario games. That’s especially important because of the way this world reacts to Mario’s presence.
Bowser’s Fury opens with the titular villain consumed and corrupted by dark and evil goop, transforming him into Fury Bowser — basically, a Mariofied take on Godzilla. As you play, Fury Bowser pops into the world at random times, setting off stormy weather that makes harmless creatures temporarily evil and rains down massive, molten rocks.