It’s a relatively well-known fact that Super Mario 3D World created a lot of new gameplay elements that set the stage for Super Mario Odyssey’s success. So, when Nintendo re-released the game for the Switch, bundled with several hours’ worth of new content in Bowser’s Fury, there was sure to be a number of people speculating on the next Super Mario game.
Bowser’s Fury is the first Super Mario game to take place in an open, albeit small, world. In traditional 3D Mario games, there are levels which can be accessed in a variety of manners. In Super Mario 64 you enter levels through different paintings. The same mechanism is used in Super Mario Sunshine. In Bowser’s Fury, however, there are multiple different “levels” which take the form of islands that Mario can freely traverse between. The game also offers the ability to switch between power-ups, which solves the problem of having the wrong power-up at the wrong time.
This is eerily like how Game Freak tested out the idea of open-world Pokémon with a few hours of DLC before announcing a truly open-world Pokémon game months later.
Indeed, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the similarities in Bowser’s Fury and the Pokémon Sword and Shield DLC. Both games recognize that gaming has been moving toward open-worlds since Breath of the Wild proved it could be successful with the Zelda franchise. Super Mario Odyssey was a groundbreaking game, and one of the best for the system, but while bringing Mario into a new generation of mechanics, it lacked the open-world and seemingly endless gameplay that Breath of the Wild offered.
It seems likely that Bowser’s Fury is Nintendo’s proof-of-concept for open-world Mario, testing both the popularity and the implementation. While there are some obvious intervening variables like the Switch being much more popular than the Wii U, the Mario 3D World re-release has outsold the original game by nearly three times. The launch is the third highest performing Mario title for the Switch.
The biggest complaint with Bowser’s Fury is that it just isn’t very long. It takes just a few hours to beat and several more to 100%. But considering this is, hopefully, just a precursor to a fully-fledged open-world Mario game. The Pokémon Company announced the release of its first open-world game just eight months after dropping its own proof-of-concept in the form of DLC. If Nintendo follows a similar line of development we could hear news of a new Mario game by late 2021.
What do you think about Bowser’s Fury? How do you feel about the idea of open-world Mario? Do you agree that this is the future of the franchise?