Super Mario 3D All-Stars: remasters, emulation – or a mixture of both?

Decades after the release of Super Mario All-Stars on Super NES, Nintendo revisits the concept with Super Mario 3D All-Stars – a compilation featuring Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy. Each of the three games has received several enhancements in their Switch debut but is it enough? Is this time-limited release actually worthy of the All-Stars name?

There’s a proud legacy here. When Nintendo released Super Mario All-Stars for Super NES back in the early 90s, it made a huge impact with the development team completely reworking the 8-bit Mario games at 16-bit quality, with new art, sound and features – an ambitious but amazing project. It may not have been the first remake to hit the market, but it was a shining example of how modernising prior generation titles could deliver a massive pay-off.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars, however, is different – rather than remaking these games, Nintendo has instead opted to update them in a more subtle fashion to better mesh with modern displays running at higher resolutions, but using emulation as the basis. Any enhanced assets you might see, such as new textures or improved video playback, are essentially injected into each game. The emulation was apparently developed by Nintendo’s European Research and Development group and, curiously, seems to rely on the Vulkan API – not NVN, Nintendo’s own low-level API. Even more unexpected, according to Twitter user OatmealDome, Super Mario Galaxy was recompiled to run natively on the Switch’s ARM processor but most other tasks, such as graphics rendering, are handled via emulation – a hybrid approach. In theory, we’re looking at a solution here that could be applied to future Nintendo GameCube and Wii titles, which is cool.

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