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Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story Is Still A Marvellous RPG Experience

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Originally released on the Nintendo DS 10 years ago, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story has yet to be rivalled by any other entry in the Mario & Luigi series, or any other handheld Mario RPG. And there have been a lot of titles that came out before and after this one.

What makes this particular game stand so tall alongside its brethren? Essentially everything. It’s got the best pacing, the cleverest dialogue, the biggest boss battles, the most satisfying combat, the cutest animations, and it co-stars Bowser. What’s not to love?

The storyline is delightfully weird—the hallmark of any memorable Mario RPG. An epidemic sweeps the Mushroom Kingdom, causing Toads to bloat into giant, blobby versions of themselves, which the townsfolk have named Blorps. Meanwhile Bowser crashes the kingdom and pulls a Kirby, sucking up Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach into his sinister belly. From this point forward we’re either in control of Bowser, as he stomps around trying to get his stolen castle back (yes, it was stolen again), or Mario and Luigi, who are forced to explore if they want to escape. The game also incorporates 2D side-scrolling to great effect during those moments in which Mario and Luigi make way through Bowser’s innerds.

If you played 2017’s Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga remake on the 3DS, you should know what your getting into here. Remastered visuals (no option for 3D, which is just fine for this reviewer) and tighter controls are no doubt appreciated, but overall this is just a great excuse to dive back into a game you haven’t played in a decade, or get sucked into, Bowser style, for the first time.

In addition to the beloved campaign, we’re also treated to an all-new side story called Bowser Jr.’s Journey. Again, if you played the Superstar Saga revamp, you’ll find this to be a lot like Bowser’s Minions, the companion quest to that game, which throws in real-time strategy elements paired with grid-like fight scenarios. The good news is Bowser Jr.’s Journey is far less disposable—in fact, the sharp writing and colourful characters nearly rival Bowser’s Inside Story. Definitely give it a go after you’re done with the main course.

I’ll admit it’s a little odd to dust off the ol’ 3DS when there’s a shiny new Switch to take on the go I want, but Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.s Journey shows there’s still plenty of life in this beloved handheld. This was one of the best exclusively handheld games of 2009, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it took the title 10 years later. Bowser’s Inside Story is a true blue classic and more than enough reason to keep your 3DS close by.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.s Journey is out now on Nintendo 3DS. Check out the latest trailer below: