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Mario returns in an overlooked classic and a thrilling new adventure

Even series mainstays like warp pipes and ghost houses are rethought here, to great effect, and I love the frequent adorable details, like how Peach ties her hair into a ponytail when using the Fire Flower or Boomerang power-ups. Safety first!

It’s a breezy and hilarious romp through the core eight worlds; from a vertical climb up a mineshaft dramatically filling with Fuzzies to manic sequences where you need to manage multiple clones, and from new bosses like Hisstocrat to Bowser’s newfound and inexplicable penchant for exploding soccer balls. But in usual Nintendo style there’s serious challenge here for those who seek it; it’s no small feat to find the three green stars and stamp in every level, plus hit the tippy top of every flagpole and conquer the various unlockable special worlds.

3D World is a lot of fun on your own, but it’s even better with a few friends.

3D World is a lot of fun on your own, but it’s even better with a few friends.

On Switch 3D World’s an improved experience with a more vibrant look, better sound mix and even a full photo mode, but the most immediately noticeable change is the much faster character movement. It’s a positive alteration overall because in the Wii U original you needed to hold the run button constantly to avoid dawdling, although in this revision I did find Toad to be just too fast in some tricky areas.

Multiplayer has also seen a refinement, as the actions that used to be restricted to the one player holding the Wii U Gamepad — touching the environments to affect them, exploring puzzle levels as Captain Toad — can now be enjoyed by all four players simultaneously. And in addition to TV play you can now use multiple Switch consoles locally or online.

Fury Bowser is inescapable and puts on constant pressure to keep moving. You’ll need to collect a shine or give him a beatdown as Giga Cat Mario to send him packing.

Fury Bowser is inescapable and puts on constant pressure to keep moving. You’ll need to collect a shine or give him a beatdown as Giga Cat Mario to send him packing.

Totally separate from the remastered 3D World, Bowser’s Fury is a short but exciting new Mario adventure unlike any other. Marooned on an excessively feline-themed archipelago with reluctant ally Bowser Jr, Mario hops island to island exploring the open world to collect a power source called Cat Shines. If you thought Cat Mario and Cat Toad were cute, wait until you get a load of Cat Bob-ombs, Cat Piranha Plants, Cat Seagulls, and even Cat Bees!

Things seem simple at first, with some Shines hanging out in the open and others requiring you to complete a task or puzzle, but there’s a lot more going on under the surface. Islands change over time to add more enemies and obstacles, and more shines, encouraging you to ride your aquatic dino pal Plessie from place to place frequently. And then there’s the fact that an inky Godzilla-sized Bowser periodically explodes from the sea — accompanied by driving rain, fire, new platforms and melodic death metal — to totally alter the pace and atmosphere of the game.

Riding Plessie is a fun way to travel from island to island, and he always manages to surface at just the right spot for a speedy getaway.

Riding Plessie is a fun way to travel from island to island, and he always manages to surface at just the right spot for a speedy getaway.

Placing Mario in an open world like this, where the themed worlds are locations you can travel to seamlessly rather than arbitrary points on a map, is a profound shift and I loved every second of it despite it only taking a handful of hours to complete. The always-visible rise and fall of Bowser’s massive form, the mounted riding sections, the free camera control, the layers of secrets and the pretty vistas makes it feel something like a Zelda-inspired Super Mario Odyssey level created out of 3D World parts.

But when you’re actually on the islands it’s pure Mario, with the series’ trademark blend of creativity and control that seems so effortless yet is virtually without rival. One challenge might have you navigating up a clockwork tower with the help of a propeller block, while the next might have you sprinting over crumbling blocks to catch an inky Luigi double. Then there are Shines you can only get by hunting down five hidden shards across the island, luring Bowser to breathe fire on special blocks, or rescuing lost kittens.

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At several points in the game you can summon a Giga Bell and transform to an enormous size, instigating a ridiculous Kaiju battle with Bowser where mountains you previously spent ages scaling are mere stepping stones and huge meteoric blocks can be picked up and thrown as weapons. As with 3D World, most of the challenge (and half of the shines) is found after you initially defeat Bowser and roll the credits.

While the combination of these two games may not be as exciting as an entirely new full-scale adventure, the overall incredibly high quality of this bundle means there’s plenty to dig into for both newcomers and dedicated fans. It’s a stunning addition to Switch’s already bulging library of Mario classics.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is out on Switch on February 12.

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