A surprising add-on to Nintendo’s Super Mario 3D World Switch port, Bowser’s Fury raises a lot of questions. A lot of attention is being drawn to the game’s open world-like structure, and I’ve read several articles positing it’s a taste of what’s to come.
Mario and Bowser’s Godzilla vs Kong kaiju showdowns are arguably a new element, but for the most part I don’t believe we’re looking at an experiment.
Instead, I think Bowser’s Fury is more of a ship in a bottle or a snowglobe, a massive virtual diorama celebrating the latest Super Mario anniversary milestone.
Bowser's Fury is a Super Mario Celebration
Coming in at the tail end of Nintendo’s Super Mario 35th content, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury follows a variety of strange and nostalgic Super Mario releases.
From the more grounded 3D All-Stars, to a novelty Game and Watch clock, we’ve seen different pieces of Super Mario spread out since the fall of 2020.
So if the other pieces before it could be considered individual homages or nods to history, Bowser’s Fury is an all in one affair. As you explore Lake Lapcat, you’ll encounter a curious cocktail of the old and new of Super Mario.
Obviously, there’s stuff that just comes with the territory, and the Super Mario 3D World framework as well. The hidden blocks, the controls, physics and of course Plessie who has adopted a sort of open world steed role here.
You can also consider 3D World itself part of the equation, as its entire structure is a callback to the “USA” version of Super Mario Bros. 2. But you’ll also see things you wouldn’t have encountered in the core game.
Just a few elements I noticed and interpreted as such:
- Power-up bar/storage (albeit modified) - Super Mario Bros. 3
- Area or “Stage” names, with Cat Shines having individual titles and the UI complementing that with empty silhouettes and some minor railroading - Super Mario 64
- The larger map with “open world” style markers that help navigate the space - Super Mario Odyssey
- The whole, you know, paintbrush thing - Super Mario Sunshine
- Evil Black Goo that corrupts and/or kills you - Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
You can also look at elements like the close encounter combat situations with Bowser drawing more “3D Mario” trappings.
There are also familiar challenges throughout the stages that really require you to physically explore your surroundings and solve puzzles or discover secrets through wall jumping (New Super Mario Bros.!).
This, despite the Mario 3D World framework being more of a 3D interpretation of classic Super Mario platforming.
I’m not just trying to make stuff up to be contrary here. I know there are tropes in Super Mario games that are practically fixtures, and many elements have been recycled and iterated upon over several games. But Bowser’s Fury has inspired such a curious reaction, in particular the speculating over it being a focus test for new ideas.
But none of the ideas are new! We’re really just looking at previously disparate functions across Super Mario, uh, subgenres coming together. In my mind, that’s provoking a feeling being mistaken for one thing when it’s actually another. It's that pang of unfamiliarity reverberating in your gut. No not that pang, the other one.
Bowser’s Fury does bring in exciting twists, such as Mario teaming up with Bowser Jr despite comically mistrusting him at every turn, Mario’s lion-like Super Saiyan transformation and Bowser’s recurring kaiju attacks as both a threat and additional discovery tool.
This stuff is all cool, and really gives Bowser’s Fury a distinct feel of its own! But that’s the point. Bowser’s Fursy is Bowser’s Fury. The next Super Mario game will be the Next Super Mario Game. I understand the excitement over this awesome bonus, but you have to consider the context.
It's the lack of distinct "Deluxe" branding, the timing, even the game Bowser's Fury is attached to. Will we see callbacks to Bowser's Fury in the future? Probably! Iteration on this framework? Nah.