Bowser’s Fury is the most chaotic Mario game I’ve ever played

The last Mario game to make my heart race the same way as Bowser’s Fury was Super Mario Sunshine, thanks to its notorious platforming levels. I was thrilled when this game brought back some of that blood-pumping panic.

Bowser’s Fury does something different than most Mario games with its structure, making every stage a part of an open world map, rather than having areas that you access from a hub. Instead of jumping into a painting or taking a ride on a ship to the next level, you’ll simply approach the area, and the area name will appear on your screen, along with a challenge to complete, like fighting a boss or collecting colorful coins. The named stages are not small, with some of them sprawling over mountains, and others being the usual grassy pads seen in other Mario games.

I have to complete challenges around the map to earn shiny objects, called Cat Shines. Each challenge is bite-sized, with none taking more than 10 minutes to complete.

Mario and Bowser Jr. celebrate getting a Cat Shine Image: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Polygon

Most Cat Shines aren’t particularly hard to get, but everything is cranked up to 11 when Fury Bowser, a black paint-soaked Kaiju-esque version of the Koopa King, randomly emerges from the sea, spewing fire and pillars of rock. Any Cat Shine that required me to carefully scale a cliff or jump from platform to platform would get placed on hold once it began to rain — a signal that Fury Bowser is on his way.

I caught myself screaming, “No, no, no, NO!” as he appeared during my platforming expedition to a Cat Shine over some lava. I ended up falling into the lava and dying, after being shot at countless times. While I was sheepishly relieved that my death meant that Fury Bowser would be gone and I could try again without his torment, he reappeared again within minutes, causing me to do the same thing again. I moved on to a different Cat Shine in a fit of sweaty-palmed frustration.

The horrifying thing about Fury Bowser is that he doesn’t seem to spawn on a set timer. There were times when there was as little as six minutes between his appearances and other times when he’d disappear for around 15 minutes. Any time I felt comfortable collecting Cat Shines, Fury Bowser would appear to ruin it.

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Of course, there are ways to get rid of Fury Bowser. You can try to wait him out, but he can stick around for a while. At various points, you can turn into Giga Cat Mario with a power-up and fight him yourself, slapping him back into the ocean. The most efficient way to get rid of him is to collect a Cat Shine, which causes him to immediately leave.

Despite the frustration that Fury Bowser gave me, I was thrilled when he appeared, excited for the challenge that shook up my otherwise peaceful Cat Shine collection. Bowser’s Fury is a perfect bite of adrenaline and panic that I needed between the calming and cute Super Mario 3D World levels.