Super Mario 3D All-Stars (Parent Review): A surprising history lesson

Nintendo /
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Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a trip down memory lane but does it appeal to kids these days?

Yesterday, I excitedly got to pick up my copy of Super Mario 3D All-Stars. Now, my goal was to play them in the chronological order they were released and not play the next one until I beat the prior. But if you’re a parent you know that there’s no such thing as a solid plan.

See, Super Mario 3D All-Stars features three Mario games that my two children (ages 5 and 6) had never seen before: 1996’s Super Mario 64, 2002’s Super Mario Sunshine and 2007’s Super Mario Galaxy.

The moment my children saw the box and learned Mario had an adventure in space they couldn’t care less how he got there, they just wanted to go there. Truth be told, I did too. But I figured I’d start at the beginning and at least play a bit of each. Here’s how that went.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars - Super Mario 64 - Super Mario Collection
Nintendo /

Super Mario 64 (1996, Originally for Nintendo 64)

Each of these games showcases Nintendo’s first foray into new technology and the three games chosen here seem to mostly exist as Nintendo’s way of saying “we warned you about nostalgia goggles”. Super Mario 64 really does this more than any.

I’ve said this many many times since this collection was announced but I am stunned by the fact Nintendo remastered this version and not Super Mario 64 DS. They had a version where you could play as four different characters (including Wario) and you could play Blackjack against Luigi in a tuxedo and they still stick with the original? Boi.

Anyways, the game starts and Peach reads a letter promising cake. Then the camera pans through a 3D landscape.

I remember when I was younger being blown away with this display of three dimensions after years of Atari, Colecovision and NES but now it looked like a video showcasing sharp objects. My kids were nonplussed as well as they’ve personally ran Mario through the beautifully detailed streets of New Donk City. Eventually, the camera showcases a pipe coming out of the ground and Mario hops out. The first thing my kids ask, almost in unison, “What’s wrong with Mario?” As they asked, Mario stared into the middle distance, cross-eyed and blocky.

Then the game played. I had fond memories of this game but it was really hard to come back to it.

I know people still speed run this game on the regular but let me be real, these controls suck. I live for platformers. Rayman Legends, Crash Bandicoot, I got it, throw it at me.

I’ve even beaten Mario Lost Levels. But that first stage where you can get a Star by stomping the Chain Chomp stomp three times? I couldn’t hit the stump. I died three times as the Chain Chomp chewed me to death while I looked like I was trying to bury Mario’s behind into the ground.

The depth perception most 3D games offer is not here and I found myself missing platforms thinking I was right there.

Plus the fact that this is Mario’s first dip into a 3D game, the camera is a nightmare. Inversed or otherwise, it is rough. So many times I would manually adjust the camera only to have it go “Nah, let’s run TOWARDS the camera.” It made it incredibly tough for my kids to track where they were going.

It’s interesting to see where Mario came from but ultimately, for my kids who’ve sat in virtual universes and witnessed things young me couldn’t even dream of, this history lesson may as well have been me teaching them the history of Vermont.

Though, as with all humans, they did tend to get REALLY hyped at the parts where Mario could slide on his denim protected buttocks. But even that wasn’t enough to help them get past the difficult controls, the fact that the signs and NPCs are ridiculously difficult to interact with, and that the camera is very unintuitive to people who didn’t grow up with our learning curve in-game advancements.

Plus, if your kid has a hard time reading, there is a lot of written dialogue in this game that you will be lost without knowing so if your kid can’t read yet, be there to read along.

All in all, the remaster could have been a lot better with a more modern camera system in place ala Odyssey. It is definitely a nostalgia trip but while it’s fun to visit, if you stay long enough where you need a hotel you’ll find the rooms suck.