Nintendo’s ‘Super Mario 3D World’ Gets Another Chance On The Switch

by Kaity Kline

Nintendo’s ill-fated Wii U just wasn’t a popular console — which means there are fantastic Wii U games that most people have never played. Luckily, some of those games are getting a second chance at life on the Nintendo Switch — which a lot more people own, thanks to the pandemic-driven Animal Crossing craze.

Super Mario 3D World is one of those games that didn’t get the attention it deserved when it was released in 2013. But it’s now out for the Nintendo Switch as Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, and it’s two games in one; Bowser’s Fury is a brand new, short, open world adventure for players who want something more challenging.

I had never played ‘Super Mario 3D World’ before last Friday, and now it’s one of my favorite Mario games — worth it even without ‘Bowser’s Fury’ tacked on.

I had never played Super Mario 3D World before last Friday, and now it’s one of my favorite Mario games — worth it even without Bowser’s Fury tacked on. It sucked me in so completely that I couldn’t tear myself away. Hours went by in minutes, and suddenly it was 3am and I was falling asleep with my Switch on top of me.

SM3DW has the same concept as past Super Mario games. You are dropped at the beginning of a linear world map and unlock new levels as you beat each challenge, eventually making it to World 8 to defeat Bowser and free the Sprixies, fairy-like creatures he rudely kidnapped and put into jars.

While level progression is linear, you can still wander around the world map to find secret levels and minigames that help Mario on his mission. The levels with Captain Toad that appear in every world are the most fun — you venture through an obstacle course filled with collectable stars, but without the ability to jump, so you need to strategize.

When you’re in the levels, you’re roaming freely in beautifully designed environments with up to four players as Mario, Princess Peach, Toad, or Luigi — Rosalina is unlockable later in the game. With the Switch version, you’re now able to do online multiplayer and get some help (or some sabotage) from your friends, though I played it alone and still had an amazing time.

Super Mario 3D World is an easy game. I finished it in about a day. If you get stuck, you have the option to skip feeling frustrated altogether, because you get handed a really overpowered powerup that deflects and destroys any monster or projectile in your path.

So If you want a challenge, the new game Bowser’s Fury will give you that. I was shocked at how difficult it was, especially in the endgame.

In Bowser’s Fury, Bowser is well … furious. You spend the game accompanied by his son Bowser Jr. in yet another beautiful open world, this one made up of different islands filled with challenges — and cats. I mean it. Everything in the game is a cat: the bushes, trees, monsters. It’s adorable. Instead of stars, you collect Cat Shines that light up lighthouses around the map.

What’s not adorable is the way Bowser terrorizes you for the entire game. Unlike other Mario games where Bowser is a threat located only in a castle you choose to go into, here he’s a threat that randomly appears at any time during your adventure. You’re able to roam the islands and complete challenges peacefully for only a few minutes at a time, then a gigantic Bowser will chase you and try to kill you with fireballs and flame breath. And unless Mario has enough Cat Shines to unlock a boss fight with Bowser, you need to hide behind structures to block a few of his targeted attacks and wait for him to go away again.

One big problem with the game is the camera angles in those boss fights. It sometimes felt like getting the camera in the right position to see Bowser’s attacks was a bigger battle than the actual fighting.

Unlike Super Mario 3D World, Bowser’s Fury is only for 1-2 players. One person plays as Mario and the other person supports them as Bowser Jr. It’s only available for local multiplayer, but I wouldn’t recommend playing that way unless the second person is fine with only doing really simple, boring tasks to support Mario — it’s a lot like the multiplayer in Mario Odyssey (which I also didn’t like, for the same reason).

This game will really have you on edge at the beginning. It was intimidating for me at first, because I crack under pressure! Then you relax and it becomes easier as you learn how to deal with Bowser. After that, he’s more of a constant nuisance than a threat because he pops up way too frequently.

But at the end of the game avoiding Bowser stops being easy, and it came with no warning. He gets extra mad that you’re close to beating him and turns into an omnipresent stalker, relentlessly attacking you as you’re scrambling to get the last few Cat Shines required to unlock the final fight.

There are a total of 100 Cat Shines in the game, so 100 different challenges, and it takes 50 to unlock the final battle. And despite a few hitches, I think Bowser’s Fury is a great game, packed with fun puzzles and islands to explore.

If you already have a Switch, Super Mario 3D World: Bowser’s Fury should definitely be added to your collection. You can’t go wrong with two great games in one.

Kaity Kline is a columnist for NPR’s Join the Game and a producer on 1A. She is a native of New Jersey, a lifelong gamer, and a former gaming YouTuber. She tweets at @kaitykline

Can Riot Games Make ‘Valorant’ An Esports Success? Signs Point To Yes

By Kaity Kline

In Valorant, you mostly won’t be jumping into direct confrontations — instead, you’ll creep around corners to try landing a sneaky shot.
Courtesy of Riot Games

As long as Riot Games has been around, they’ve been the League of Legends studio. They didn’t really need to do anything else — League is one of the most popular esports in the world. Tens of millions of people play every month, and millions also watch tournaments on the Twitch streaming service, and in stadiums, to see professional players compete against each other for millions of dollars in prizes.

Riot has released a few League spin-off games,but now they’re venturing into completely new territory. Valorant, officially out this summer, is Riot’s first non-League game, and its first first-person shooter.

It’s a Frankenstein-y mashup of other popular games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch, mixing the tactical, strategic nature of Counter-Strike with Overwatch’s characters and unique special abilities.

With ‘Valorant,’ Riot is stepping up to compete with other top players in PC gaming, like Activision-Blizzard and Valve

Activision-Blizzard’s Overwatch has seen a decline in engagement, so it seems like the perfect time for Riot to cut in on that audience with a game that offers similar features.

So far, it’s working. There’s been an overwhelming amount of early interest in Valorant — it’s already broken Twitch streaming records, and as of now, it’s the most-watched game on the service. (As I’m writing this, Twitch has over 613,000 people watching Valorant streams. The next most popular category is “Just Chatting,” with over 337,000 viewers.)

And here’s the thing: Valorant is in what’s called a closed beta test, so you have to follow very specific steps to have a chance at playing. Which makes those numbers even more striking.

That being said, it’s not too hard to get access to the closed beta. You just need a Twitch account and a Riot account, and then you link those accounts together. Then, you have to watch a minimum of two hours of streams to be eligible for a key. Riot says access isn’t guaranteed, but for most people, it seems to take a few hours.

This mandatory viewing definitely helps add to the streaming numbers. (And it didn’t hurt that Riot Games partnered with gaming influencers to give them early access and help provide feedback.) But it’s still an impressive amount of interest in an unreleased game, even one that’s been out for almost a month in closed beta.

Once you get access, Counter-Strike players in particular will adapt to Valorant’s gameplay more quickly than others. Both games have the same main goal: One team tries to plant a bomb in a designated area, and one team tries to stop them or diffuse the bomb.

Like many successful esports, ‘Valorant’ is easy to pick up and play with your friends, but difficult to master.

Just like Counter-Strike, it requires a lot of precise shooting and strategic planning. It’s a game of patience. You won’t be jumping into direct confrontations unless it’s absolutely necessary. Instead, you’ll creep around corners to try landing a sneaky shot. (And the random people in the voice chat will be sure to express how unhappy they are with you if you don’t follow the norms and rules. Voice chat can be turned off, thankfully, but in-game communication is a huge part of teamwork.)

Counter-Strike is all about pure skill — there’s no element of luck. You won’t see the best players in the world lose to a lousy shot like me just because I got lucky. And this is where Valorant goes beyond being just a Counter-Strike clone.

Like in Overwatch and Riot’s own League of LegendsValorant has unique characters (called agents) who have different ultimate abilities and special powers you can use during the game. But you need more skill to play Valorant than Overwatch.

Valorant‘s playable characters, called agents, all have unique abilities. Among other things, Jett can cloud enemies’ vision with fog.
Courtesy of Riot Games

Right now there are nine agents, including one who throws blinding flash bangs around corners, and another, an archer whose arrows can bounce off walls and reveal the location of opponents. The different powers mix up the gameplay and make things more visually interesting to watch, but still easy for viewers to keep up with.

My own experience playing Valorant improved a lot after Riot created a competitive mode, which ranks players based on their performance in placement games and matches them against similarly ranked players. Before competitive mode, there was no way to get matched with people around your own skill level. So as a complete noob, I found myself playing with people who’d been in over 100 matches. Then I got yelled at for not doing the right things.

Now, people who want to play competitively have a place to live, far away from me, which helps a little with managing toxicity. (But of course, Valorant is still an esport, which means I still avoid talking on the mic when I play by myself, because being a woman on voice chat inevitably brings sexist harassment that I am not in the mood to deal with.)

There are a few things I hope Riot addresses before Valorant officially hits the shelves. It needs more options for fast, casual play, the kind offered by Counter-Strike and Overwatch. Right now you’re only able to play long rounds that typically last 30 minutes or longer.