Super Mario 3D All-Stars – A Mediocre Collection of Great Games

It’s finally time. In September of this year, Nintendo released a highly-rumored anniversary collection, Super Mario 3D All-Stars, which consists of Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy. We’ve taken a look at all three of these games, how they’ve held up over the years, and what playing them might be like in 2020. Now it’s time for our most negative article yet: a review of the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection. Not the games contained — the collection of those games.

On the whole, I think the collection is fine, but even then, I’m being a bit generous. We’re all well aware of the whole “limited-time release” controversy, and we’ll be talking about that later on. Super Mario 3D All-Stars is currently retailing for $60 – the norm for most Switch games – and we’re also going to talk about why I don’t think the price is entirely fair. We’ve got quite a bit of ground to cover, so let’s get started!

Introduction

If you’re a dedicated Super Mario fan, you’ll notice something interesting from the get-go. A startup jingle – more specifically, the “Power Star Get” theme from Super Mario Galaxy 2 – will play every time you boot up the game. This is ironic, because Super Mario Galaxy 2 isn’t even in the collection! But we’ll get to that. Let’s talk about what is in the collection.

So, as mentioned before, we have Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy. If you want to read about the actual games (and I promise those posts are much more positive than this one), you can do so via the highlighted links above. Additionally, the game includes the full soundtrack albums for 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy, so you can listen to their tracks anytime you want. And that’s about it! Once you play all three games, you’ve seen everything the collection has to offer. If you want to learn more about the changes Super Mario 3D All-Stars made to each title, I’d recommend reading those reviews I linked to a few sentences ago!

In our reviews, we usually have four sections. “Introduction”, “Presentation”, “Gameplay”, and “The Verdict”. This one’s going to look a little different. We’re going to use “Introduction”, “General Thoughts” (fancy!), and then “The Verdict”. Formatting is very important to me, so thanks for working with me on this one. Let’s continue!

General Thoughts

It’s well established that the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection is rather barebones. First up, let’s talk about its price. It’s almost reasonable. Super Mario 64 was sold for $10 on Wii U. Okay. Super Mario Galaxy was actually available to download on the Wii U eShop for $20. That’s okay too. Super Mario Sunshine has never been available to download, and its monetary value can’t exceed Super Mario Galaxy’s, because that game was released later. So if you value Sunshine at $20 and add Galaxy’s $20 and 64’s $10… you get $50, not $60. So there’s a $10 upcharge for some reason even though there’s nowhere close to $10 of additional content. Sure, ten bucks isn’t a big deal, but it’s something to consider regardless.

With all that being said, let’s talk more about what isn’t here. Given the title of “3D All-Stars”, you’d think some more of Mario’s greatest outings would be included, right? The obvious exclusion here is Super Mario Galaxy 2, which Nintendo seems to have forgotten all about (at the time of writing). And it’s not like Galaxy 2 went under the radar when it was first released. It was critically acclaimed and is considered one of the greatest Mario games of all time. Perhaps it’ll be available at a later date as an update (or paid DLC), but its exclusion is certainly confusing. While we’re at it, why not add Super Mario 64 DS or Super Mario 3D Land? I know that takes additional work, but there’s a lot of very strange exclusions. Super Mario All-Stars for the SNES featured every official 2D Mario up to that point. Why can’t this game?

Super Mario 3D All-Stars’ issues extend far beyond its game exclusions, though. This isn’t just any 35th anniversary collection. It’s the 35th anniversary collection for perhaps the most iconic character in existence. Mario has a lot of history, and would have been nice to maybe get a glimpse into what development was like for 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy. How about a concept art gallery? Scrapped designs for levels, characters, and items? Maybe even commercials that aired on TV when the games were new, but I suppose that’s a reach. Maybe they could’ve added a trophy gallery-esque feature, where character models would unlock when you achieve certain milestones in each game. Maybe they could have added amiibo support, where scanning certain amiibo unlocks costumes for certain games. My point is, there’s a lot of room for creativity here. It’s kind of sad – though I suppose understandable – that they took the easy way out.

And then there’s the whole limited-time release thing. At the time of its release, it was clarified that Super Mario 3D All-Stars would only be available until March 2021. Is there a good reason for this? Probably not. It’s almost certainly being done to convince people to buy the game. Fear of missing out is a powerful force, and so far it’s worked, because 3D All-Stars has sold a ton of copies so far. It’s a shame to see games taken offline for any reason. At least players who already purchased the game will be able to continue playing, but still. Kind of a scummy practice!

On a slightly more positive note, the actual games that Super Mario 3D All-Stars contains are (mostly) great. Again, we talk more about each individual game in its review (all three of which are listed above), but there was an effort made porting each title over. Each game has cleaned-up and newly-smooth textures, which is especially noticeable in 64 and Sunshine. Galaxy’s received a bunch of changes, too, including the ability to perform a Star Spin with the Y button in addition to shaking the controller. That’s handy! I believe 3D All-Stars is still the best way to play Super Mario Galaxy,  assuming you’re playing docked with a pro controller. It’s also the only way to legally play Super Mario Sunshine at the moment.

The Verdict

I have absolutely no idea how I just wrote 1,000 words on the collection aspect of a video game collection, but here we are! I heard something very true lately, so let me quote it here: “3D All-Stars isn’t a great collection of games, it’s a collection of great games”. I think this is a great way to sum up 3D All-Stars. The games on offer here are all well and good, but much more could’ve been done to make Mario’s 35th anniversary feel a bit more special. If you like the Super Mario series (or if you’ve played and enjoyed any of these games on their previous consoles), then you’ll like this collection and will enjoy its convenience. But if you’ve played every game in this collection, that’s the only reason to buy it: convenience. You could play each game on its original console and the experience will be nearly identical.

We’re still not sure what’s going to happen with Super Mario 3D All-Stars, but if something crazy happens – such as a new game being added – we’ll update this review to account for that.

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