Super Mario 3D All-Stars Review: Even All-Stars Have Flaws

  • Switch
Screenshot 2020-09-24 at 10.15.08 AM
Super Mario 3D All-Stars is now available on Nintendo Switch Nintendo

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a truly beautiful thing if you are a fan of Mario games. This collection bundles together three of the best out there with Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy all included in one package. While I could wax poetic about these three games for a long, long while, let’s just say I personally would grade all of them a 10 out of 10. However, how do the three games fare in their port over to the Nintendo Switch?

The three Super Mario games all look stunning running on the Nintendo handheld console. Because Nintendo is emulating the Mario games, they are presented in 3D All-Stars almost exactly like how they were back in the day. There have been no major graphical overhauls or rebuilding here. Yes, Super Mario 64 is still boxy and angled, but the lines are crisp and the colors pop. That said, the Mario character model in Super Mario 64 does look like he has been cleaned up a little. I don’t remember Mario looking quite so nice on my Nintendo 64.

The grand-daddy of 3D platforming hasn't lost a step Photo: Nintendo

One of the downsides to the use of emulation for Super Mario 3D All-Stars is that these games, for better or worse, are presented just like they were before. This means that Super Mario 64 is in full-screen instead of wide-screen. Especially when playing in handheld mode, this makes the screen feel a little blank with how much is permanently blacked out.

That said, Super Mario Sunshine and especially Super Mario Galaxy both look phenomenal. Sunshine was always a pretty game, and it’s been cleaned up a little bit to really show off here. Seeing as how Super Mario Galaxy was the most recently released of the bundle, it makes sense that it also looks the best. 

As for game controls, both Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine run beautifully. Both games were designed to be played with standard controllers, so their transition to the Switch is fairly straightforward. However, Super Mario Galaxy isn’t as simple. Because it was designed to be played with the Wii-mote, Galaxy often relies on movement-based controls and pointing the Wii-mote at the screen.

Unsurprisingly, Super Mario Galaxy looks the best out of the group. Photo: Nintendo

Thankfully, the “Mario requires players to flick the Wii-mote to spin” control scheme has been replaced by pressing the Y button. Additionally, when playing in handheld mode, players can use the Switch as a touchscreen device to interact with certain gameplay elements. However, when playing in docked mode, players are required to use the Joy-cons to point at the screen, mimicking the Wii-mote’s control set-up.

While this does work fine enough, it is probably my biggest disappointment with Super Mario 3D All-Stars. I have a GameCube-style controller I like to use when playing on my docked Switch. Because of the transition from Wii to Switch, I can’t use this controller when playing Super Mario Galaxy. There was no way around this? Like mapping the pointer cursor to the right stick or something? I guess not. This may be a minor gripe to some, but I was certainly bummed when I loaded Galaxy up on my TV and found I couldn’t even select my game file without switching to the Joy-cons.

As a whole package, Super Mario 3D All-Stars is one of great highs and confusing lows. While we do get three near-perfect Mario games in one package, there are also the inclusions of the soundtracks for all three games that can be played from the main menu. My biggest question here is simply “why?” It’s cool that Nintendo included them, I suppose, but is anyone genuinely going to their Switch when they want to listen to music? Was the expectation that people would play these songs through their TV? Listen on the go while using the Switch as the world’s largest MP3 player? I’m really not sure what the logic was behind this move.

I've always loved Super Mario Sunshine, so seeing it look so good on the Switch is such a great feeling Photo: Nintendo

And yes, I know I’m the millionth person to point this out, but the absence of Super Mario Galaxy 2 in the bundle is glaring. Considering the fact that Nintendo didn’t really put in any effort to clean these games up and are just emulating them, it seems like Galaxy 2 could have been easily tucked in there somewhere. The only reasonable answer I can figure is that Nintendo is planning on a more proper re-release of Galaxy 2 later, but Nintendo might have been smart to at least announce this plan instead of keeping fans guessing.

Additionally, the full $60 price tag may seem a little steep to some. Recent remakes and collections like the superb Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+ 2 or the well-received Spyro and Crash Bandicoot remakes featured rebuilt games and released for $39.99 each. Heck, even Mafia: Definitive Edition is only $40. Paying $60 for games many of us probably already own, without even going into the timed release nonsense, just seems a little much. 

Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy on Switch are excellent, there’s no doubt about that. If Nintendo were smart, they would make more games from their back catalog available. Being able to play these three games on the Switch is awesome, and I cannot overstate how happy I am that I get to do so. I just wish the Super Mario 3D All-Stars bundle could have delivered a little more.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars
Super Mario 3D All-Stars Review: Even All-Stars Have Flaws
Playing three classic Mario games on the Switch is great, but I wish the collection could have offered a little more
  • Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy are all 10/10 games
  • Everything looks and plays great
  • Questionable Nintendo business decisions
  • Why soundtracks? Where's Galaxy 2?
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