(Pocket-lint) - Super Mario Bros. is one of the most famous – if not the most famous – of gaming exports. Mario, the mustachioed Italian plumber, is a much-loved household name. He's also now almost 40 years old – having first appeared in Donkey Kong in 1981 – but it's the Super Mario Bros. series that's getting its 35th birthday celebration in 2020.

And quite the birthday celebration it is. Nintendo has wrapped together three classic Mario titles – Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy – into a buy-one-get-all-three Nintendo Switch time-limited package. Those games span from 1997 through to 2007, so can each of them hold up so many years later in their remastered form?

Super Mario 64

  • Original release: 1997
  • Original format: Nintendo 64

When the Nintendo 64 console burst onto the scene in 1997 it delivered games unlike anything anyone had seen before. The waves in Wave Race. The awe of Goldeneye 64. The mist in Turok (ok, not so much that). And, but of course, Nintendo's own mascot in his very own Super Mario 64 – seeing Mario rendered in three-dimensional form for the first time.

Many people still think of Mario 64 as a quintissential Mario classic. There are speed-runners who continue to play the game and post on YouTube. But it was a steep step-change – the switch from two-dimensional side-scrolling to a full 3D world laid some of the foundations for third-person open-world games today.

Only what was cutting edge back in 1997 is, in 2020, somewhat dated: the way the camera handles, the lack of intricate controls, the difficulty of depth perception. A modern day player – and we're talking about someone who was probably born after 1997 – might struggle to appreciate; even more seasoned players who played the first time around may need to don those rose-tinted nostalgia glasses.

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There are, of course, moments that marvel. Jumping through those rippling paintings. The cute penguins. The sheer difficulty level at times. And the classic sound effects. There are all the hallmarks of Mario here and it's a trip down memory lane that's worth revisiting.

Super Mario Sunshine

  • Original release: 2002
  • Original format: Nintendo Gamecube

Five years after Super Mario 64, and a console generation on, Super Mario Sunshine arrived in 2002. But Nintendo's Gamecube – in the face of Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox – was considered a relative flop. Although a lot of people played the game at the time, we're talking roughly half the number who experienced Mario 64.

That might not be the only reason though: Sunshine is largely regarded as "the Marmite of Mario", dividing fans who adore and abhor it in equal measure.

Either way, if you're new to this game then you're in for an eye-opener, as it feels quite unlike any other Mario game before or since. The peculiar characters and dialogue might leave you scratching your head for starters. Not to mention that the opening scene is trippy.

Coming back to play Sunshine brings its moments of revelation. Out of the three 3D All-Stars titles it's this game that's likely to bring among the most value. It looks sharp, it shows how far Nintendo progressed every five years.

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Crucially it's built upon new mechanics: the need to spray water – using your trusty back-mounted companion, F.L.U.D.D. – to douse bad guys and temporarily fly through the world gave the game a whole new kind of fluidity.

It's Mario, it's just different – and this, we think, is why Sunshine will still divide opinion today.

Super Mario Galaxy

  • Original release: 2007
  • Original format: Nintendo Wii

While the Gamecube lulled, Nintendo's next console, the Wii, absolutely flew off the shelves. As did Mario's 2007 arrival in Super Mario Galaxy – which is the best-selling title of the trio featured on 3D All-Stars. Not that volume is always indicative of success – but Galaxy is, without a doubt, a stomping classic which, in its reworked form on the Switch, looks sublime.

The jump in complexity, in ideas, in deftness of movement, of new controller techniques – that integrate beautifully by the way, even if you'll wonder why the household is staring at your strangely as you shake that right Joy-Con controller – goes to show how far Nintendo progressed over the decade between Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy.

Galaxy's depiction of small three-dimensional worlds and the turning of gravity on its head – sometimes literally in more side-scrolling puzzle sections within the game – make for dizzying yet addictive play.

What's wonderful about Galaxy is that you could play it for several hours or, really, just several minutes to grab that one extra star. That's the short-term goal of the game: find more gold stars, hidden at the end point of various far-away planets (if they can be called that), which you can gain access to by using said stars to power the observatory's telescope. Space travel has never been so much fun.

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Games are meant to be fun. And Super Mario Galaxy might well be one of the most fun games ever derived by Nintendo. Our only sadness is that the sequel, 2010's Super Mario Galaxy 2, isn't part of the 3D All-Stars package (only its soundtrack is!).

Verdict

It's not the first time Nintendo has released an All-Stars package: back in 1993 the company released Super Mario All-Stars for the SNES (Super Famicom for our US friends). That didn't only include three classic Mario titles – Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3 – but also a rarity in Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, adding yet further value. 

Not that Super Mario 3D All-Stars for the Nintendo Switch lacks value. It picks the three classic 3D Mario titles, from 1997 to 2007, that will serve as a trip down memory lane for older players, and an eye-opening trip through some of Nintendo's history for those players exploring these games for the first time.

The remastering is wonderful, each of the three games has its moments that marvel, and while undoubtedly the older titles feel somewhat dated – which, really, they should – there's plenty to glean from this triple-title package.

Really, though, the shining star is Super Mario Galaxy, which shows how Nintendo's learning of the games before it compounded with fresh new ideas created one of the most fun games out there – even by today's standards. If only Super Mario Galaxy 2 was also included, that'd make an even more complete 3D All-Stars package for the Switch.

Writing by Mike Lowe.