Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a compilation package of three classic 3D-platforming games from the Super Mario franchise. As one of the biggest icons in video game history, the Super Mario franchise and the games included on this list barely need an introduction. That said, Super Mario 3D All-Stars provides a great variety in 3D Super Mario content, great for both newcomers and veterans. The compilation includes Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy, originally released on the Nintendo 64, Nintendo Gamecube, and Nintendo Wii respectively. As a package, Super Mario 3D All-Stars offers a great overview of the early entries in Mario’s 3D career. However, in a year packed with other fantastic remakes and remasters, does Super Mario 3D All-Stars justify its full-price cost? The quality of the included games is definite, but does that make this the definitive version of those games? Let’s see if Super Mario 3D All-Stars is worth firing up on the Switch, or if it’s smarter to dust off the old consoles and play the original versions.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars Review
Since Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a compilation pack, we’ll have a dedicated section for each game. Ultimately, the compilation will be scored as one game, but each game of the three games has seen various changes, whether involving the graphics, controls, or both. All of these games are also over 10 years old (the oldest being Super Mario 64, which debuted in 1996), so we’ll also be looking to see if these games stand up to the test of time. We’re looking for both general improvements and quality of play, so keep that in mind if you have a ton of nostalgia for any of these titles.
Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64 was the introduction of 3D gaming for many players, as it was one of the defining games in the launch line-up for the Nintendo 64. Over 20 years later, Super Mario 64 is still great fun to play, although there are a handful of annoyances. Like most of the older, 2D Mario games, Super Mario 64 is exceptionally light on story. After receiving an invitation from Princess Peach, our heroic plumber Mario travels to her castle in the Mushroom Kingdom. Upon arriving, Mario learns that Bowser has predictably taken over the castle and kidnapped Princess Peach. In order to save the Princess and restore the castle to its original glory, Mario must travel through over a dozen unique worlds, collecting various Power Stars by completing objectives and defeating bosses.
As a foundation, Super Mario 64 offers a large set of movement techniques that allow Mario to hop, flip, and slide around his surroundings, making narrows escapes and tricky jumps. Levels range from pleasant to rage-inducing, most likely depending on your general preferences in level designs. Most levels contain a unique mechanic to figure out, be it slippery platforms in the ice worlds, dangerous lava in the volcano world, or time-dilation inside a giant grandfather clock.
Each world offers six unique Power Stars to locate, each one tied to a specific objective or action. You might have to rescue a lost baby penguin, win a foot-race against a speedy Koopa, or collect eight hidden red coins. These objectives are varied and enjoyable, only marred by occasionally obtuse requirements or confusing level design. Regardless, the biggest problem with Super Mario 64 comes with its often clunky and annoying camera, which has a habit of swapping angles right as you’re making a precarious jump. I’ve lost more lives to shoddy camera-movement than I can count, resulting in several incredibly frustrating moments.
Changes and Improvements to Super Mario 64
Generally speaking, Super Mario 64 is the most “un-modified” game of the three, offering classic controls and levels without much change. The graphics are mostly as you remember them, offering sharp but clean 64-bit visuals. Unfortunately, the game is still displayed in its classic 4:3 ratio, with big black bars on either side of the screen.
In fact, apart from the obvious bump to high-definition resolution, Super Mario 64 doesn’t contain many visual upgrades. Luckily, the original graphics still hold up well, but when compared to some of the flashier and more stylish games included in this package, Super Mario 64 deserved at least a wide-screen option. It would’ve been really cool to see a proper remake of Super Mario 64 included in this package (similar to what Nintendo did with Super Mario All-Stars on the SNES), but the classic graphics are still serviceable and provide lots of nostalgia.
Final Thoughts on Super Mario 64
In terms of technical improvement, Super Mario 64 is a cleaner but mostly unchanged inclusion. The graphics are high-definition and there’s a rumble effect, marking the two major differences from the original N64 release. After spending around 15 hours grabbing all 120 Power Stars and beating the game 100%, I can safely say that Super Mario 64 is still a satisfying, cheerful, and surprisingly solid game.
When compared to other early pioneers of the 3D landscape, Super Mario 64 soars past the competition, offering an arguably timeless platforming experience. While its annoying camera and occasionally clunky movement might be too frustrating for 3D Mario-newcomers, Super Mario 64 is still an absolute treat for those who grew up playing it.
Super Mario Sunshine
Often considered the black sheep of the 3D Mario series, Super Mario Sunshine offers a unique mixture of classic platforming and water-based third-person shooting. Originally released on the Gamecube in 2002, Super Mario Sunshine sees Mario and his pals vacationing to the tropical Isle Delfino, but upon arrival, are quickly accused of a recent string of vandalisms. In an effort to clear his name of any wrongdoing, Mario sets out to clean up the island using his newly found water-jetpack called the FLUDD (or Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device).
During his adventure, Mario must learn the true identity of the vandal and recover dozens of missing Shine Sprites to fully restore Isle Delfino. There are eight different worlds to explore, ranging from the relaxing hotel Sirena Beach to the action-packed theme park, Pinna Park. Packed with colorful beach vibes, a surprisingly layered story, and plenty of challenges to discover and complete, Super Mario Sunshine is a platforming paradise with only a couple of flaws.
There’s a big emphasis placed on the FLUDD in Super Mario Sunshine, as you use it for both combat, traversal, and puzzle-solving. There are a handful of nozzles you can unlock and use, which change the function of the FLUDD. At the beginning of the game, you’ll be able to shoot water with power and hover using the FLUDD’s hover nozzle, but after a bit of progress, you’ll be rocketing into the air, speeding over water, and more. Fans of Yoshi will also be pleased with his focal inclusion, as this cheery fan-favorite character plays a big part in Sunshine. Yoshi can pick up fruits and spit out their juice, use his signature air hover, and more. Despite the slew of new mechanics, there are still a handful of challenge levels that will test your platforming skill, with no water-pack or dinosaur pal to help you out.
Changes and Improvements to Super Mario Sunshine
When compared to the original, Super Mario Sunshine looks vivid and crisp, transferring very well from the Gamecube to the Switch. The textures look great, the lighting is bright and cheery, and the atmosphere is significantly colorful. Generally speaking, I have very few complaints when it comes to the visuals. Apart from the annoying “heatwave” effect that plagues scenery and buildings in the distance, Sunshine‘s graphics are continuously great to look at. I also encountered a handful of areas that caused the frame-rate to slow down, which I don’t recall happening in the original game, but these instances were few and far between.
The biggest change comes in the form of small adjustments to the controls. For example, spraying water out of your FLUDD is done using two different triggers, one for spraying while walking and another for accurate aiming. Additionally, in the original Gamecube version of Sunshine, the y-axis of your camera and FLUDD aiming was inverted by default. Nintendo has decided to switch that for the Super Mario 3D All-Stars version, swapping the aiming back to non-inverted. Since this is most players’ preferred aiming setting, the change will be welcomed by most. However, if you’re one of the many gamers who enjoy inverted controls (like me), you’re out of luck. There’s no way to customize your inversion setting, so you’ll have to adapt to the standard controls.
Admittedly, getting used to the swapped controls wasn’t too tough for me, but it’s mind-blowing that Nintendo would leave out such a simple option. This baffling oversight also pops up in Luigi’s Mansion 3, leading me to believe that Nintendo is trying to start a trend. It’s not a good one, Nintendo. Please give players the option to customize their control schemes.
Final Thoughts on Super Mario Sunshine
Super Mario Sunshine gives players an entertaining adventure that’s both relaxing and absolutely infuriating at times. Even more than Super Mario 64, Sunshine has its fair share of obtuse star objectives, weird level layouts, and frustrating courses. However, the constant tropical charm that Sunshine elicits is remarkably enjoyable, making it one of the most visually identifiable and pleasing Mario games in the series.
Flaws and all, Super Mario Sunshine is easily one of my favorite games in the entire 3D Mario franchise, but that might be the nostalgia speaking. Apart from the weird control changes and occasional frame-rate drop, Sunshine feels great to play on the Switch. Even then, those are minor annoyances that are easily forgivable. Super Mario Sunshine offers anywhere from 15 to 40 hours of fun in the sun, full of slippery water-blaster antics. If you’ve never taken a dive into Mario’s destination vacation, I highly recommend it.
Super Mario Galaxy
Super Mario Galaxy takes players to where no Italian plumber has gone before… space. Originally released on the Nintendo Wii in 2007, Super Mario Galaxy took the 3D Mario series to all new heights, with immensely well-designed levels, new and interesting characters, and undeniably fun gameplay. In this entry in the franchise, Mario once again travels to the Mushroom Kingdom to meet up with Princess Peach, this time to celebrate the Star festival. Upon arriving, Bowser swoops in and decimates the tiny Toad with his army of airships, ultimately kidnapping Princess Peach’s entire castle (with her in it) and escaping into the cosmos. After being blasted into space by one of Bowser’s goons, Mario is saved by the captain of the Comet Observatory ship, the star-queen Rosalina. To stop Bowser and rescue Princess Peach, Mario must travel across various galaxies and recover over 100 Power Stars, restoring the Observatory ship to its maximum power.
More than any other 3D Super Mario title before it, Super Mario Galaxy offers an impressive amount of refined gameplay mechanics. The levels are often more straightforward and smaller than the levels in Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine, propelling players through an ultra-polished set of creative levels. Galaxy is exceptionally eclectic in both its level design and atmosphere, with each level providing surprises along the way. One second you’ll be ice-skating in the Freezeflame Galaxy, the next you’ll be racing on top of a manta ray in the Loopdeeloop Galaxy. There’s a great mixture of classic platforming level design and surprising new mechanics. Super Mario Galaxy doesn’t rest on its laurels either, as unique mechanics pop up from time to time and rarely overstay their welcome.
Due to this smaller, shorter level design, Super Mario Galaxy is a game that’s incredibly hard to put down. It’s easy to say “just one more level” for multiple levels at a time, as proficient Super Mario players should be able to finish most levels in under 10 minutes. Galaxy also introduces a few new power-ups that are exceptionally fun to use, including the buzzing Bee Mario, the slick Ice Mario, the spectral Boo Mario, and more. There’s a certain feeling of novelty that lasts through Super Mario Galaxy, as you advance from one cool idea to the next. Like the best Nintendo games, Super Mario Galaxy is endlessly charming and perfectly exemplifies the upbeat and joyous nature of the 3D Super Mario series.
Changes and Improvements to Super Mario Galaxy
Graphically speaking, Super Mario Galaxy looks great running in high-definition, just like every other game in the compilation. At a passing glance, it’s easy to mistake Super Mario Galaxy for a newer title, mostly due to Nintendo’s timeless artistic style. Apart from some texture touch-ups and clearer text, Galaxy isn’t the most impressive graphical upgrade. However, Galaxy has definitely received the most changes to controls at gameplay out of the three included games, mostly for the better.
In the original release of Super Mario Galaxy, players used their Wii Remote controller to aim at the screen, firing off collectible “star-bits” to stun enemies. Additionally, players would have to shake their controller to execute Mario’s spin attack, which is one of your primary moves in the game. Since there’s no Wii Remote on the Switch, Nintendo has altered the controls to provide a more streamlined experience. First and foremost, the spin move has been mapped to the Y button, allowing you to attack with a simple button press. There are no more forced motion controls, which is a big win, in my opinion. You can still shake your controller to engage the spin, if you prefer the original method.
When it comes to aiming and shooting star-bits in this new version of Galaxy, it couldn’t be easier. Since there’s no need for a sensor bar to track movement, players can aim their Joy-Con or Pro controllers ahead of them and press the right shoulder button to center the on-screen cursor. You don’t even have to point your controller at the television and you won’t have to worry about losing proper tracking. This makes collecting and firing star-bits with the cursor simple as can be. Unfortunately, when you’re playing in handheld mode, the cursor is controlled using the touch-screen. You will have to physically take your dominant hand off of the attached Joy-cons and tap the screen. Since your hands aren’t on the controller, you’ll be severely limiting your movement whenever you use the cursor. Generally speaking, I found it functional but annoying and rarely played Super Mario Galaxy while in handheld mode.
Final Thoughts on Super Mario Galaxy
Simply put, Super Mario Galaxy is one of my favorite 3D Super Mario games of the entire bunch. While Super Mario Sunshine forever holds a special nostalgic piece of my heart, Super Mario Galaxy consistently wins me over with its expertly-crafted gameplay, level design, and atmosphere. Whether it’s the dozens of unique galaxies to explore, the half-dozen new power-up suits, or the inclusion of an actual narrative, Super Mario Galaxy is truly a special game.
Unless you’re playing in handheld mode, you should find Super Mario Galaxy to be a fast-paced, addictive, and colorful adventure through the stars. Depending on how deep you want to dive into the various secret stars and unlockable goodies, Galaxy will take you anywhere from 12 – 45 hours to complete. Like the other games in this compilation, there are plenty of reasons to return to Super Mario Galaxy after the credits have rolled. Completing Super Mario Galaxy in its entirety is a challenging task, but one that any fan of the franchise should find immensely satisfying.
The Bottom Line on Super Mario 3D All-Stars
Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a good collection of fantastic games. Judged on their own merits, each of the three included games are well worth your time and money. Whether you’re diving through the classic Super Mario 64, spraying down Isle Delfino in Super Mario Sunshine, or blasting through space in Super Mario Galaxy, each game offers hours of joyous platforming fun. It’s only slightly disappointing then, that Super Mario 3D All-Stars feels less of a celebration and more of a cash-grab.
Realistically speaking, unless you own all three original consoles (N64, Gamecube, and Wii), buying Super Mario 3D All-Stars is the cheapest option you have for experiencing all three of these amazing games. That said, when compared to other remasters/remakes like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 or the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Mario 3D All-Stars is especially light on improvements or upgrades. Even when compared to Nintendo’s Super Mario All-Stars on the Super Nintendo, 3D All-Stars leaves something to be desired. Luckily, the three included games stand up on their own, making up for the lack of extra features or visual improvements.
Overall, Super Mario 3D All-Stars is worth picking up. Whether you’re a longtime fan of the franchise and want to experience some nostalgia, or you’re completely new to the wild world of 3D Mario platforming, we recommend grabbing a copy of Super Mario 3D All-Stars. If you keep your expectations in check, you’ll likely be satisfied. While the lack of bells and whistles makes this collection feel slapdash and hurried, it’s hard to deny the pure joyous gaming that it provides.