Super Mario 3D All-Stars Review — A Star-Studded Collection

by Ethan Rabbitts

The original Super Mario All-Stars released back in 1993 on the Super Nintendo as a collection of pseudo-remakes for Mario’s previous adventures released on the comparatively less super NES. Graphically updating Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 2, Super Mario Bros 3, and the formerly Japanese-exclusive Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels into a unified 16-bit art style, the original Super Mario All-Stars was an ambitious collection that looked leaps and bounds ahead of its initial counterparts. 

For that reason, when rumours of a potential 3D interpretation of the All-Stars name began circulating earlier this year, many fans were excited at the thought of a remade collection of Mario’s 3D escapades. Now that it’s out in the wild, we obviously know that this wasn’t the case. In Super Mario 3D All-Stars, what you see is more or less what you get: it includes Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy exactly as they were at release, a music player that gives you access to each game’s original soundtrack… and not much else. 

That being said, it’s easy to critique Super Mario 3D All-Stars for what it isn’t, when we should focus on what it is. What Super Mario 3D All-Stars is, is a collection that brings some of the most beloved games of all time onto one cartridge, and sees them looking better than ever before. Super Mario 3D All-Stars is pretty committed to reminding you of that fact from the get-go: upon loading the game, it treats you to a -short little montage of Mario collecting the signature Power Star (or a Shine Sprite in Sunshine’s case) in each of the three titles. The whole thing is set to an original rendition of the infamous “Star get” jingle, even if it is a tad ironic that it pulls inspiration from Super Mario Galaxy 2’s rendition more than any of the other three. 

Super Mario 3D All-Stars

The flashy yet functional title selection menu ties the whole package together.

All this is to say that Super Mario 3D All-Stars does a lot to present itself as a collection worthy of the All-Stars name. Not only is it flashy, but 3D All-Stars’ menu is functional above all else. While it is simple, switching between any of the three titles and paging through their soundtracks is consistently fast and snappy. The loading times are relatively low, too, allowing you to leap between the sun-drenched shores of Isle Delfino, the outer reaches of space and the empty halls of the Mushroom Kingdom Castle with reckless abandon. 

It might seem trivial to hone in on an aspect as small as the menu, but if it were less functional than it is it would serve to drag the whole experience down. Unfortunately, though, the music player isn’t as functional as one would hope — it’s easily accessible and serves its basic function just fine, but the lack of any real robust options within the player itself is a little disappointing. 

Although I do appreciate the ability to listen to the tracks in sleep mode, the lack of any shuffle, loop or replay options is a strange call; while not extremely detrimental to the overall experience, it does undermine the decision to allow fans to put their Switch down and listen to the soundtracks while otherwise occupied. Furthermore, it’s not a major complaint but the absence of something as simple as a progress bar seems strange. It doesn’t ruin the package as a whole by any stretch of the imagination, but given that it is the only bonus added besides the games themselves, it can be somewhat disappointing.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars

Super Mario 3D All-Stars’ relatively barebones music player.

Regardless of my nitpicky gripes with the music player, the package’s overall quality was always going to be determined by the games themselves — perhaps unsurprisingly, each of the three still holds up incredibly well. While I don’t exactly love all three games equally, it’s hard to deny that the overall quality on display here is anything but impressive. However, although Super Mario 64 benefits greatly from the migration to the Nintendo Switch, predominantly because it doesn’t have to rely on the Nintendo 64’s notoriously wear-and-tear-prone control stick, the same can’t be said for Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy, which both suffer from minor control quirks of their own. 

The issue with Super Mario Sunshine’s controls is nowhere near as major as the one with Galaxy’s, which I’ll get to shortly, but Sunshine suffers due to the Switch’s lack of analogue triggers; where the original Gamecube release utilised the pressure sensitive triggers to control the water pressure of Mario’s F.L.U.D.D, with a “full click” allowing Mario to stop in place and spray in 360 degrees, the 3D All-Stars re-release has seen these duties spread across two buttons. 

Holding down ZR allows Mario to spray as he runs, whereas using the R button locks him in place for greater control. While it certainly is the best solution I could imagine, it still does end up feeling less elegant than the original controls, and took a while to adjust to. While it might be less problematic for new players, it still remains an aspect where the original release overshadows this new re-release, as minor as it may be. 

Super Mario 3D All-Stars

It’s not a dealbreaker, but Super Mario Sunshine controls less elegantly than it did on the GameCube back in 2002.

On the slightly more problematic side of things, Super Mario Galaxy’s controls suffer considerably due to the absence of the Wii’s sensor bar. Simply put, the Switch’s motion controls can’t capture the 1:1 precision of the Wii’s IR sensor, even if the gyro-based cursor does come close. 

The cursor’s controls are surprisingly smooth, but the missing sensor bar causes the cursor to consistently drift out of alignment. It’s hard to fault this flaw too much given it’s an inherent drawback of the Switch’s differing hardware, but nonetheless, similar to Sunshine’s missing analogue triggers, it causes more complications than would be ideal. Fortunately, with the R button mapped to reset the cursor, a quick fix for this misalignment is never too far away. 

Exacerbating its control issues, Super Mario Galaxy doesn’t hold up as well in the Switch’s handheld mode either, with the cursor controls migrated onto the touch screen rather than using the standard motion controls. I imagine that this was a decision Nintendo made to avoid forcing players to awkwardly tilt their entire system around, and although it does actually provide greater precision than the motion controls, it soon becomes apparent that shifting one of your hands off the Switch to tap on the screen not only leaves Mario vulnerable, but isn’t exactly the most comfortable experience for the player. 

Like the other control issues I’ve had, this isn’t exactly a deal breaker, but I did find myself more keen to play the game docked rather than on the go. It’s not that the game controls poorly in handheld mode, but players who picked up the collection on the Switch Lite may be forced into playing a very different version of the experience. 

Super Mario 3D All-Stars

Super Mario Galaxy’s intuitive IR pointer controls slightly suffer due to the Switch’s lack of a Wii-like sensor bar.

Graphically, the transition onto the Switch fares more favourably for all three titles. While Super Mario 64 doesn’t play in either full HD, or a 16:9 display, it’s clear that the higher resolution and reworked textures do wonders to smooth out the game’s presentation. While the game largely shows its age, this is the best Super Mario 64 has looked to date. 

Unfortunately, similarly to its presentation, Super Mario 64 shows its age in more ways than one. While Mario’s movement is still incredibly smooth, other aspects of the level design stand in somewhat of a contrast. Nintendo made no effort to conceal the stages’ edges and ironically, because of the increased resolution, the relatively low quality of its skyboxes stands out far more than it had ever done before. Similarly, it’s now easier than ever to spot when the game not-so-sneakily switches out Mario’s standard model for his low-poly equivalent. 

Super Mario 3D All-Stars

Super Mario 64’s skyboxes don’t hold up graphically as well as the rest of the game.

Ultimately, these were all minor complaints when considering the game as a whole. While it does show its age the most out of the three titles in the package, for a game as early and formative as it is, Super Mario 64 held up incredibly well, remaining as my favourite title amongst the big trio on display. 

For more seasoned fans of Super Mario 64, the 3D All-Stars version might have a few quirks to grow into. In an attempt to realign its dated camera system, Nintendo altered the previously inverted x-axis to a “default” camera scheme that aligns more with modern standards and the franchise as a whole. Where this decision makes more sense in Super Mario Sunshine, which has a 360-degree camera system comparable to modern titles, Super Mario 64’s incremental system feels a tad strange with this alteration. It’s more likely than not that this comes down to my years of muscle memory with Super Mario 64, but it was still a transition I had to adjust to, and the fact that Nintendo failed to include any options to configure the camera is baffling and dated — although, sadly, it’s not a surprise. 

Super Mario 3D All-Stars

If you’ve been paying attention to any online discussion about 3D All-Stars, chances are you’ve heard of something called the “Shindou version” before. Properly known as the “Shindou Pak Taiou” version of Super Mario 64, the Shindou version was a re-release of the game that came out in 1997, and it appears to be the version that this re-release is based upon. While the main purpose of the re-release was to add functionality with the fancy new Rumble Pak, there are a few other smaller changes — or perhaps big depending on who you’re asking. Probably the most significant alteration of them all is the removal of the now infamous “Backwards Long Jump” glitch. While most casual players would never encounter the bug, the “BLJ” is an exploit that allows players to manipulate Mario’s speed and send him through walls skipping large swathes of the game. 

While you’d have to go out of your way to discover it on an average playthrough, the BLJ was a massive factor that influenced Super Mario 64’s meteoric success in the speedrunning community. Obviously if you’ve never touched speedrunning before this couldn’t be any less significant, but as someone who keeps a keen eye on the Super Mario 64 speedrunning scene (but has not nearly enough skill to get into it himself), it does feel like a small part of the game’s DNA has been taken away. Aside from that, the only other notable change is that Mario’s infamous “so long, king Bowser” line (because that’s totally what he says) has been altered to a gleeful “buh-bye!”, presumably since not many people heard it as it was supposed to be. Ultimately the whole Shindou “controversy” doesn’t amount to anything at all, but if you’re a big fan of the original Super Mario 64, you might find yourself feeling a tiny bit nostalgic for what was lost… but maybe it’s all worth it for this easter egg that’s totally not creepy at all. 

Super Mario 3D All-Stars

Heading back to something more on track, both Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy benefit immensely from the updated visuals. While Super Mario Sunshine’s dated models stand out a little, the ability to play the title in widescreen for the first time ever is a selling point on its own. While the increased visibility did highlight some developmental shortcuts, such as the fact that NPCs stop animating during other conversations, it ultimately doesn’t detract from the fact that Super Mario Sunshine is a visually gorgeous game that holds up 18 years later. 

Similarly, when revisiting Super Mario Galaxy, I was frequently hard pressed to believe that the title is now 13 years old. It always felt like a high definition game that had been downscaled to standard definition, and after playing through it on the Switch I adamantly felt the same. In some ways, Galaxy felt like it benefited from the visual overhaul the least, having already looked so good, whereas elsewhere it benefits the most being able to pass for a modern Switch title in more instances than not. 

While the visual upgrades might be minor across the board, the visual appeal of all three games is testament to the Super Mario series’ strength in presenting itself in a joyous and colourful art style. 

Super Mario 3D All-Stars

While online discussions about Super Mario 3D All-Stars may be less than overwhelmingly positive, and I’ve done my fair share of complaining throughout this review, I found myself hard pressed to have anything but fun. Even though I still find Super Mario Sunshine to be something of a weak link in the collection due to its relative lack of polish (which is ever more apparent after being sandwiched between both 64 and Galaxy), the value that’s on display here is overwhelmingly abundant. 

While it’s technically true that Nintendo could have done more to make Super Mario 3D All-Stars live up to the “All-Stars” name, after having played through all three games I couldn’t care less. They were all such a joy to replay, and the changes the collection does make were significant enough to keep things feeling fresh and new. If you’re already a Mario fan you’ve probably picked up Super Mario 3D All-Stars by now, but if you somehow haven’t played any of these games before, 3D All-Stars is the perfect place to begin. 

Super Mario 3D All-Stars

Our verdict:

Super Mario 3D All-Stars doesn’t exactly go overboard on making its selection of games seem overly new, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that three of the greatest 3D platformers of all time have come together in one star-studded collection. 


 Ethan reviewed Super Mario 3D All-Stars using a retail Nintendo Switch code downloaded from the eShop.


This article was originally published on Doublejump. If you enjoyed what you’ve read, you can support the site further by following us on social media, becoming a Patron, and/or purchasing some merchandise!

1 comment

Doublejump Digest: October 4, 2020 - Doublejump October 4, 2020 - 9:50 pm

[…] Ethan declared that although it doesn’t include any real efforts to make the games seem new, Super Mario 3D All-Stars still brings “three of the greatest 3D platformers of all time” together in one star-studded collection.  […]

Reply

Leave a Comment!