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Super Mario 3D All-Stars Review: Come for Galaxy, stay for the rest

Super Mario 3D All-Stars heads to Nintendo Switch this week, continuing the fine tradition of Nintendo bundling old Mario classics in a neat little package. This time around, the 3D offering groups the Nintendo 64’s Super Mario 64, the GameCube’s Super Mario Sunshine and the Wii’s Super Mario Galaxy. Spare a thought for Super Mario Galaxy 2, the title Friendly Fire Show’s Ben Salter easily called the better of the pair.

There are three games available in this bundle, so let’s hit them up one by one, shall we?

Super Mario 64

If you haven’t played Super Mario 64 on Nintendo 64, you’ve likely played it on the Wii Virtual Console or even via a (nifty) Nintendo DS port. While I never owned a Nintendo 64 myself, I remember playing the game at my cousins’, spending a disproportionate amount of time pulling on Mario’s nose rather than, you know, actually playing the game. Because I didn’t own the game, I think I’ve run around the entrance of Princess Peach’s castle more than anything else, so 3D All-Stars gave me the chance to really dig into the game without the neat little DS enhancements once offered.

If I’m being honest, Super Mario 64‘s age is showing. This is the only title in the bundle that runs in a paltry 720p regardless of mode, square and somehow both jagged and muddy at the same time. While Super Mario 64 DS mixed things up a bit — starting you off as Yoshi and letting you unlock Mario, Luigi and more, enhancing character models and adding some new mini-games — this is an up-rezzed version of the original for all the good and bad that brings. I didn’t have the patience for 64‘s clumsy camera, dated graphics and clunky controls. My husband, who owned an N64 and has put likely hundreds and hundreds of hours into the thing, thought differently. Thus, there’s something to be said for nostalgia.

Super Mario Sunshine

3D All-Stars makes it a point of highlighting each of its titles’ original release dates, but that’s unnecessary as you can certainly tell that from the quality of of what’s been presented. 2002’s Super Mario Sunshine is leaps and bounds more impressive that Super Mario 64 — in visuals (720p handheld, 1080p docked) and mechanics. That said, Sunshine is still pretty dated, with clunky (but less clunky than 64) controls and a camera that’s improved, but still not great. While exploring for Shines, you’ll frequently run into areas where the camera simply wigs out, offering no help at all as you’re stuck between two high walls without any idea of where you actually are and how you’re going to get out.

It’s honestly a bit strange — Super Mario 64 DS was more than a simple up-rezzed port, taking full advantage of the console it was released upon. The same isn’t necessarily true for any game in this collection, merely giving a fresh coat of paint and controls that have been mapped to the Switch and its various configurations. While the FFS’ Ben was concerned that the Switch’s digital triggers may make some puzzles trickier than they originally were, I never ran into one that proved difficult. Instead, I struggled with actually getting to those points, and almost tore out my hair with a majority of secret areas (read: pachinko!).

Super Mario Galaxy

I won’t lie: I thought Super Mario Galaxy was the GOAT long before this bundle ever was announced, and I walk away from my time with 3D All-Stars with that opinion reaffirmed. FLUDD’s alright, I guess, but it’s got nothing on Rosalina and her Lumas. Those who miss the waggle of the Wii can use that control set, while thankfully the rest of us can resort to mere button presses to get Mario to spin and engage with Star portals.

The oldest title of the bunch, Galaxy obviously looks and controls the best of the lot, and I can’t wait to work towards the 100% completion I originally earned on the Wii.

The TL;DR of this all is simple: Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a decent bundle of games, though Super Mario 64 has aged poorly with clumsy controls, muddy visuals and no real effort by Nintendo to remaster or re-energise the game for the umpteenth platform you’ve just bought it on. Again. Super Mario Sunshine is a vast improvement upon that (and it should be, published five years later), though Super Mario Galaxy is truly the pick of the bunch, a game as great now as it was back then. Rosalina for life.

That all said, I think I’m in the camp of gamers sick of remasters and instead wanting proper remakes. It’s worked for Crash Bandicoot, for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, and it looks to have worked for the upcoming Mafia Definitive Edition. I’d imagine that 64 and Sunshine with some modern sensibility would be spectacular as well. While Nintendo’s original All-Stars release stands the test of time even today, that’s because of the nature of the games themselves. Early 3D titles like this, even at the calibre of Mario, are still rather garbage in this day and age (and I’m not even going to touch on reports that each game in this bundle comes by way of an emulator when Switch Virtual Consoles are nowhere to be found).

Counterpoint: as a Galaxy fan, I’ll willfully pull out my wallet for a Switch version, and I can imagine Mario fans across the board will say that about at least one title of the three on offer. It’s a low effort release by Nintendo — bolstered by the impending fear of FOMO if you don’t buy this before March 2021 — but it’ll be a purchase you’ll ultimately be satisfied with. It’s the games as you remember them (for better or worse) without any real new bells or whistles apart from the opportunity to take the titles on the go. Perfect in COVID times, right?


# out of 10

The good

  • A decent bundle of games that will appear to Mario lovers of all kinds.
  • Galaxy FTW.

The bad

  • Enough with the re-releases — let’s have some modern remakes that justify the pricetag.
  • No one liked when Disney put movies back into the Vault, Nintendo, so don’t you start too.


Super Mario 3D All-Stars was reviewed using a promotional code on Switch, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for close to fifteen years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.