Game Review: Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr's Journey (3DS) | NintendoSoup
Game Review: Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr’s Journey (3DS)

Game Review: Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr’s Journey (3DS)

Nintendo has kicked-off 2019 with a 3DS remake of one of the most critically acclaimed Mario RPG adventures ever created for a Nintendo console. Following the success of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga remake, Nintendo has given the decade-old Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story the same top-notch treatment.

First released on the Nintendo DS in 2009, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story follows the usual misadventures of Mario and Luigi but with Bowser added as the third playable character. While the plot and core gameplay remains intact, the remake’s visuals has obviously been largely revamped.

In terms of visuals, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story remake received a major graphical overhaul on the 3DS. While still featuring a colorful and stylized cartoonish art, the overhaul resulted in a much more detailed graphics, animations and sprites included. This, in turn, gave it more visual depth even though, sadly, it lacks the stereoscopic 3D. Players will be taken across the entire Mushroom Kingdom, over and under, oozing with vibrant colors, with somewhat of a more realistic feel to it.

As for the narrative, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story isn’t entirely deep at all, but the plot is surely full of hilarious twists until the very end, as one would expect from a Mario RPG. As it turns out, the story takes place at a time when the Mushroom Kingdom has been caught up in a crisis, courtesy of the trickster and mad scientist Fawful. Apparently, a mysterious malady called the “Blorbs” has caused the Toads’ bodies to bloat up to an enormous size, putting them in unwanted suffering. Princess Peach called for a conference to discuss the matter but was soon interrupted by Bowser. Succeeding events unfolded and the Fawful-conned Bowser ended up inadvertently and unknowingly inhaling everything and everyone in his path, including the Mario Bros. and Peach.

While things further go awry at this side of the Kingdom, Fawful managed to take possession of Bowser’s Castle; setting off the first of his evil plans into motion to ultimately take over the entire Mushroom Kingdom. Bowser then heads out to take his castle back. From here on out, the unique gameplay setup comes into play where Bowser, interestingly, gets a starring role.

In this game, players will be able to control both the Mario Bros., which have been sucked up inside Bowser’s body, and Bowser, himself. While Bowser sets off to reclaim his castle and roams around the top-down Mushroom Kingdom overworld, Mario and Luigi, in search of Peach, will then have to explore Bowser’s body from a 2D sidescrolling perspective, Metroidvania-style. For the entire game, players will be switching seamlessly back-and-forth between controlling Bowser on the 3DS’s top screen and controlling Mario and Luigi on the bottom screen, whenever they’re inside Bowser. Both sides will encounter a good deal of puzzles, obstacles, and mini-games which will mostly require assistance from the other.

This gives a unique gameplay twist as Bowser and the Mario Bros. will need to cooperate to progress in the story, but of course, Bowser doesn’t know he’s getting help from a microscopic level. But that’s not all, once Mario and Luigi have been given the freedom to enter and exit Bowser’s body, you may do a second visit at the overworld and explore the areas previously inaccessible to Bowser. With the help of specific field actions such as Bowser being able to punch through boulders and spew fire to burn trees or the Mario Bros. having the ability to Jump and drill through the ground, new areas open up for players to explore.

As for the battle system, if you’ve played any of the past Mario RPG’s, the game’s combat employs basically the same turn-based mechanics where timed button presses boost your attacks. Well-timed button presses also allows players to counterattack or entirely avoid damage. The ‘A’ and ‘B’ buttons enables Mario and Luigi to act while ‘X’ allows Bowser to use actions. The combat mechanics also includes the special attacks called the Bros. Attacks and Brawl Attacks. Bros. Attacks require both Mario and Luigi to work together while Bowser uses Brawl Attacks. These special attacks are a bit more complicated to execute as they aren’t as basic as simply selecting them on the battle menu and pressing a button.

Each of these special moves requires a unique set of inputs and some of them makes use of the touch screen. Ultimately, they pretty much depend on the player’s hand-eye coordination skill as well as on how fast the player’s reactions are. Execute them perfectly and you can deal a massive amount of damage to the enemy, even to the bosses. Fortunately, if you seem to be having a hard time, you can always choose the “Easy” difficulty mode for special attacks. These can be toggled on or off whenever you are in or out of combat.

One more surprising combat feature, and one that is totally unique to this Mario RPG, is when Bowser gets massively enormous in size, kind of like Pokemon’s new Dynamax mechanic, to take on similarly gigantic enemies. Once in giant form, the game prompts the player to turn the 3DS sideways and the combat that ensues largely relies on touch controls.

While it’s spectacular to see Bowser in this form, these fights do not happen very often as they are tied within the story. These are placed far apart across the entirety of the game and are triggered by special events. Players do not get to choose when to take out Giant-Bowser.

All in all, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story remake has all the satisfying RPG elements all the while bringing up a dynamic gameplay thanks to its interactive combat mechanics. There’s the typical level-up system where Mario, Luigi, and Bowser get stat increases for each level up. What’s more, you are given bonus points to boost one specific stat per level up and you are free to allocate these points on whichever stat you choose.

A bunch of gears and items are also present, and you can get these both in and out of Bowser’s body. A lot of collectibles and secrets locations are also spread out throughout the Mushroom Kingdom and will make travelling out your way all the more rewarding. If you’re aiming for 100% completion, you can view your progress in the Records section. The game keeps track of your collected items as well as unlocked Music and completed Challenges in the Records section in the Star Menu.

As for the additional content, aside from the Challenge Node featuring “The Gauntlet” where you are to take on mighty monsters and get special rewards if you succeed, there’s also the added brand new side-story called Bowser Jr’s Journey. Players may readily select the side-story upon booting game even without playing the main game. Its campaign is a lot shorter the main game and features somewhat of a real-time strategy gameplay mechanic.

As Bowser Jr, you organize a group of eight which you can take for each skirmish. Your squad may comprise three different kinds of units and you arrange them on a 3×5 grid. The formation you come up with will have a great effect in battle so you have to consider each unit’s position on the grid.

Once in battle, the squad you formed will automatically be controlled by the AI and you basically just have to watch and wait. If you win, you proceed on the next level and progress in the story. If you lose, you just have to reorganize your squad and attempt to have another go at it until you win. If there’s any intervention needed for the player, it would be when the units’ special moves are about to be performed. At this point, the player will be required to press the button at just the right time, similar to the main game’s combat mechanic.


Overall, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey brings out the best from the original with a very well-polished, charming, and enjoyable remake. The visual upgrade is absolutely a major treat for the eyes and the added contents and quality of life improvements are very much welcome.

It is definitely a perfect addition to your 3DS library and I mean it. If you’ve missed it on the DS a decade ago, you surely don’t ever want to miss it the second time around. If you haven’t owned it yet, please run to your nearest game retailer and grab it now or, well, just purchase it digitally via eShop. I assure you the 45 hours or so playtime you’ll spend on it will undeniably be one of the best times you’ll be spending with your 3DS.


  • Solid RPG experience
  • Dynamic and interactive gameplay
  • Fun and satisfying combat
  • Witty, engaging, and carefully designed puzzles
  • Graphics, animations, and sprites are sharper and more detailed
  • Delightful soundtrack
  • Story is full of humor


  • Stereoscopic 3D is absent
  • Controlling the Mario Bros. simultaneously can be a bit annoying
  • Low replayability



Soup Temperature: 9/10


A review copy was provided by Nintendo for this review