I simply do not get Nintendo in some cases. If you desire a microcosm of the head-scratching quandary you’ll frequently discover at the heart of the business it’s here in this, Super Mario 3D All-Stars. Here are 2 of the best video games ever made – and Super Mario Sunshine – in a collection that remains in a lot of methods lacklustre.
That name Nintendo has actually chosen with this 3 video game package – uniting Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy – does not assist. The initial Super Mario All-Stars, launched back in 1993 on the SNES, was a relatively extensive run through all the mainline 2D video games to date. It wasn’t simply a collection either – there was a substantial visual transformation that offered whatever the exact same Super Nintendo shimmer, enhanced the audio and presented save declare the older video games. It was more a series of remakes than a remaster.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars, in contrast, can in some cases seem like absolutely nothing more than a ROM dump. It is more than that – the good news is – however it still seems like less than it might be. It is not in any method extensive – the choice to cut aside Super Mario 3D World for its own re-release next year makes some sort of sense, while the choice to not consist of Super Mario Galaxy 2, successfully a growth pack for the initial Galaxy which is here in all its splendor, does not. Whereas I’m uncertain whether the initial All-Stars were remakes or not, I’m uncertain you can even call the video games in 3D All-Stars remasters.
Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine stay at their initial 30fps. Sunshine gets pressed with dignity into 16:9, which assists smooth however not totally eliminate the issues with its uncomfortable electronic camera. Super Mario Galaxy’s movement manages stay ingrained, making portable play difficult to the point of aggravation. These feel more like transfers than anything – faithful to the originals with just the lightest of touches used in the porting procedure.
And I can comprehend the technique. These are valuable masterworks – well, 2 of them are – that need managing with the utmost care, lest Mario winds up all Ecce Homo. People may indicate a few of the current 4K, 60fps fan-made remakes of Super Mario 64 that have actually been doing the rounds of late, with their redrawn characters and elaborate brand-new textures, to make severe contrasts, however I’ve put both side by side and I understand which I’d rather play. There’s something about Super Mario 64, with all its peculiarities undamaged, that feels perfect.
Not that there are too many flaws, of course. Super Mario 64 remains a staggering piece of work, as entertaining and bewitching as it was back in the day, and 3D All-Stars presents the first chance many will have to play the Shindou Edition – a gently tweaked version that launched in Japan back in 1997, adding force feedback that you’ll feel in the Switch’s HD rumble and making a handful of other fixes along the way (and with the telltale introduction of a new easter egg on the title screen). In essence, though, this is the Super Mario 64 that you’ll have played back in the day – perhaps like me, slack-jawed and leaning into a 14-inch CRT, marvelling at how Nintendo had mastered 3D gaming at the first attempt.
Super Mario 64 wasn’t the first 3D game, but it’s one of the first with such an innate understanding of the possibilities of that added dimension, not simply transposing the 2D Mario experience but reinventing it in the process. It’s about space, about exploration, and more often than not about nothing more than the thrill of movement – indeed, it’s arguably the first 3D game that offered the same fidelity of control as Nintendo’s 2D platformers, and good lord what they do with it. Even nearly a quarter of a century on, Super Mario 64 stands as one of Nintendo’s finest achievements.
Which is why it was so baffling how wayward the next mainline Mario ended up. Super Mario Sunshine isn’t a disaster – it’s of a quality that most other developers would dream of hitting – but when put in the direct company of 64 and Galaxy it comes up short. It’s a scrappy, chaotic thing, riddled with the kind of oversights you wouldn’t expect of Nintendo’s top-tier titles – the camera’s a jerk, objectives are often wooly or downright cruel and, even in this gently rejigged version, it lacks the polish of the very best Mario games.
None of which stops it still staking a claim to being one of the better 3D platformers. Mario’s FLUDD-enhanced moveset is sublime, with the man responsible for so much of the animation and character that made 64 special – Yoshiaki Koizumi – stepping up to the director’s role for the first time. Which might explain Super Mario Sunshine’s scrappiness, but also its exuberance – it’s a game that, despite the stumbles, has a spring in its step, and can put a spring in yours with its tropical resort and all that cool, cool water and the dancing guitar and ukulele of Delfino Plaza’s theme. It’s enough to forgive its many frustrations.
Super Mario 64-2 it was not – that would arguably come later with Odyssey – but we did get to see a sequel worthy of that legacy. Super Mario Galaxy might be Mario’s greatest adventure yet – it certainly is to my mind – and therefore one of Nintendo’s very best games. It’s deliriously inventive, taking Super Mario 64’s exploration of space quite literally as it takes to the stars. It’s a more linear thing, too, but its gravity is anything but – here’s Nintendo freestyling with physics in the most glorious way, tossing the player from planet to planet and making the rules up as it goes along.
It’s mad and magical, but it’s the melancholy that really elevates it. Super Mario Galaxy is a fairytale set in the far beyond, a hub of warmth found in the icy void of space, complete with its own devastating storybook that never fails to bring me to tears. All this delivered with a blockbuster panache – that soundtrack! – and a rarefied polish. It’s no wonder it looks so splendid in HD in 3D All-Stars, then, the exquisite art direction ensuring Super Mario Galaxy is still capable of taking your breath away all these years later.
It’s not a perfect fit for the Switch, though. Motion controls are embedded at the heart of Super Mario Galaxy – this was a result of the Wii era, after all – and that remains the case here, which is fine if you’re able to play with both Joy-Cons detached. If you’re playing handheld, though – or playing on a Switch Lite – you’ll have to make do with touchscreen controls to hoover up star-bits or partake in one of the numerous motion control-powered mini-games. It’s frequent enough that you’ll end up playing most of the time with one hand dancing between screen and controller, until you realise it’s not really worth the fuss and saving Super Mario Galaxy sessions for when you can play it properly.
Surely there was another option, though when it comes to any optional extras Super Mario 3D All-Stars falls seriously short. There’s a title menu where you can select games, play a song from any of their soundtracks and… That’s it. There’s not a single option for the emulators, no save states, no accompanying material such as manual reproductions, development insight or anything at all. Given it’s intended as a celebration of Mario’s 35th anniversary, there’s a complete lack of ceremony to the whole thing. Put it alongside compilations and re-releases from the likes of Digital Eclipse or M2 and it’s frankly pitiful. Standards have come a long way in recent years when it comes to collections like this, and Nintendo has stubbornly refused to keep up.
It’s such a shame as there’s so much to enjoy here. Perhaps all you need to know is that this is the best commercially available way to play two of the most magical, magnificent and downright essential video games in the medium’s history (and to play Super Mario Sunshine too, naturally). They’re works of fascinating detail, exquisite design and an abundance of ideas – which makes it all the more confusing that Nintendo could not duplicate any of that when bundling them entirely.