Game Review

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Corbie Dillard

Is the third time the charm for the Mario & Luigi series?

After years of hearing Super Mario RPG fans clamor for a sequel, Nintendo put developer AlphaDream to work creating a new Mario-themed RPG for their Game Boy Advance system back in 2003. But instead of copying the same ideas used in the original Super Mario RPG, AlphaDream came up with the idea of making the player use the two Mario Bros. as a team in order to traverse the game's many areas and do battle with the various enemies along the way. This gameplay idea not only made the game extremely unique, but it also added a lot of strategy to the turn-based battles and even the exploration itself.

The game was quite popular among RPG fans and wound up spawning a sequel on Nintendo's DS system that was also quite well-received - so much so, in fact, that AlphaDream decided that a third game was in order. But instead of merely continuing the same gameplay ideas as those found in the previous games, they decided to give the game an overhaul in the gameplay department and not only add tons of new features to the combat system, but also to the exploration sections of the game as well. The end result is easily one of the most uniquely playable DS titles to date, and one of the most enjoyable.

While there are tons of new gameplay ideas in this third release, the main component of using the two Mario Bros. as a team remains intact. This time around you've got another character to make use of in the form of Bowser, and with that comes a whole host of new play control twists. After eating a strange mushroom, Bowser immediately inhales many of the inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom, including Mario, Luigi, and Princess Toadstool. This forces you to use Mario's nemesis to move around the various areas in the game while Mario & Luigi explore his insides in an attempt to locate the princess and keep Bowser progressing through the tricky parts of the game. While this might sound overly complicated, the game does a marvellous job of taking you through the various tasks you'll undertake while you're inside Bowser's guts.

The first thing you'll have to come to grips with is moving around inside the various body parts of Bowser. You'll soon find that in order to help your former enemy use of the various parts of his body, you too will have to perform specific tasks inside of him. If Bowser can't lift a heavy object, you'll have to move over to his arm and perform some unique mini-game-like task to pump up his strength. As you progress through the game, you'll find yourself moving to various parts of his body when he needs your help. While a big part of this teamwork will be used during your exploration in the game, it also plays a key role in battle as well.

As Mario and Luigi, you'll have to do battle with any enemies you encounter while inside of Bowser, and this is where the combat most closely resembles that of the previous Mario & Luigi titles. You'll still control both Mario Bros. separately using the "A" and "B" buttons, but the game does toss in a few new special moves to liven things up. While you'll still have the trademark jump and hammer moves, you'll soon acquire tiny puzzle pieces that, when collected, will net you new special moves to use. These range from Koopa shells you can kick back and forth between the two brothers, to the special fireball attack. You'll even gain the use of badges that will give Mario and Luigi special skills and abilities when their gauge is filled up while doing battle with enemies. And as much fun as the battles with Mario & Luigi are, you won't get the full experience of battle until you take control of Bowser.

While moving around the various areas of the game, you'll normally be in control of Bowser in this game. This means you can break certain items using his punch or burn through trees and brush using his Fire Breath. As you progress through the game, you'll even be able to power up these moves to make them even more effective. Much the same as Mario and Luigi, Bowser also has to face off with enemies in battle. This can range from a standard turn-based battle with enemies to combination battles that require Bowser to inhale certain enemies and then have Mario & Luigi help out from inside of him. There will even be times when Bowser will become huge in size and you'll be forced to hold your DS system vertically in order to take part in epic battles between huge foes using the stylus. Not only are these epic battles a lot of fun to take part in, but they're a nice diversion from the standard battles you'll generally be involved in.

The addition of the new battle styles is one of the best new features in Bowser's Inside Story, but there are a lot more new twists to be found as well. The platforming sections of the game that Mario and Luigi take part in bring a whole new edge to the game and make exploration a lot more fun and interesting. Likewise the huge variety of mini-games that you'll use to help Bowser out from inside also add even more playability to the mix. Not only will you be using the standard d-pad and button configuration, but the stylus will also be required for many of the mini-games you'll play, not to mention a few of the special combat moves. It's just one more way the game mixes things up along the way.

While the Mario & Luigi titles have always had a very playable feel to them, AlphaDream really outdid themselves with this third release. There are so many amazing new gameplay additions that you'll wonder how they were able to squeeze so many new twists into one game. As familiar as it feels, it's so fresh at times that it feels like a completely new gaming experience altogether. The unique idea of working from the outside and the inside of Bowser not only makes for a wildly entertaining story line, but it also adds a whole new level to the combat system itself. And since you'll constantly be doing something different, the game never feels the least bit stale or repetitive at any given point. As enjoyable as previous Mario & Luigi titles were, they don't hold a candle to the fun and originality found in this third release.

As far as visual presentation goes, Bowser's Inside Story doesn't stray too far from the look of the previous titles in the series. All of the sugary-sweet Mario-style visuals are back and they're as vibrant and detailed as ever, but what makes this third game shine are the little visual touches it adds to the mix. For instance, the transition from the outside of Bowser to the inside is always a fun one to watch, as are the brand new transitions into battle that are unique to each character. The inside of Bowser and the many new enemies you'll do battle with throughout the game also make for some unique graphical elements. It's clear that the gameplay itself wasn't the only area of the game the developers wanted to improve upon and it ended up giving the game an increased level of visual polish that fans of the series will definitely appreciate.

The Mario & Luigi series has always featured solid audio experiences, and Bowser's Inside Story is no exception. Not only are there some absolutely outstanding musical tracks in the game, there is also some fantastic voiced character dialog as well. It doesn't go much beyond a few choice phrases here and there, but it really adds a nice level of charm to the game. The sound effects are equally impressive and round out what is easily the best audio presentations yet in the series, and one more reason to rave about this exceptional gaming package.


Alpha Dream created a fantastic take on the Super Mario RPG idea years ago with their original Game Boy Advance Mario & Luigi release, but they've taken the concept to new heights with this third title. While it would be easy to rave on and on about the game, the best way to sum everything up would be to say this: Bowser's Inside Story is the kind of game that will remind you why you love playing video games in the first place and is easily one of the best DS releases to date. If you only buy one game the rest of this year, make sure it's this one.

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User Comments (106)



Damo said:

Wow. I've got to get my hands on this! Fantastic review Corbie.



Jockolantern said:

This game is getting incredibly high marks everywhere I look. Once I play through the first two, I'm definitely snagging this one. Sounds fantastic.



SanderEvers said:

The first DS game kind of sucked, at least compared to this one. ITS AWESOME!
(Seen YT movies, waiting for the release in NL)



Turbo_Genesis_64 said:

Holy Cow!

I love anytime Corbie says "the kind of game that will remind you why you love playing video games in the first place."



JamieO said:

Wow, this must have really impressed, I wonder how many games have got a Nintendo Life 10/10 so far.
I was not even a little bit interested in this game before, it was simply not a priority, but Corbie's review has completely grabbed my attention, especially in the conclusion with the comment which @TurboGenesis64 quoted, above.
Thanks Corbie.



James said:

Great logic

I suppose I'll be getting this one as well, then. I absolutely adore the first Superstar Saga, so it's only right that I give this a fair shake!



ReZon said:

I suppose I'm too much of a Super Mario RPG snob as I never could get into the first or second M&L games. I am glad that so many people like the series though, and it looks like you've got yourselves a true gem to play.



bro2dragons said:

this and Scribblenauts will be the games that make me use my DS for something other than an alarm clock after over a year's hiatus from "gaming machine" status.



Bass_X0 said:

I like Mario. I like RPGs. I did not think much of the first two Mario & Luigi games (I preferred the first much more than the second though). I have no strong desire to pick the third game up... maybe in a few years when its half of its original price (like £15).



Sabrewing said:

I. Must. Have this. I've been clammoring for Bowser to have a good starring role for years. Though I still think he needs a strategy RPG or some such to really take off, this is a grade-A start.



Kirk said:

There's actually a lot of really good games on DS.

I wish I felt the same was true for Wii.



Mario_maniac said:

Ahhhhh... this review's making me want to play through the first two games again. Must... resist... I need to get through all my studying before I can do that.



Knux said:

I knew this game was going to get a 10. I love the Mario & Luigi series, and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy tomorrow or Wednesday.



Objection said:

Wow, I guess I'll be getting this now. Couldn't quite get into the original (GBA) game, but it sounds like its much improved.



Token_Girl said:

Just bought this from playasia. Can't argue with a 10/10 review and free shipping of a US cart to China .



The_Indigo_Effect said:

Dang, I wasn't expecting such a high score; the metacritic scores are also very high. Looks like a great year for gaming, but I think this year could very well be outdone by the next.

@Token Girl: Had you just waited a couple of days you could have bought the game in your own country and in your own language for less money.



pixelman said:

Oh yeah! The DS's first 10/10 score from NintendoLife.

Great review, Corbie. I'm getting this ASAP.



Giggsy said:

I didn't expect anything less than a 9, it's a brilliant series, will pick this up straight away.




Fracking dell! I'm not into RPGs but even I may get this one. Wow. It even got a 9.5 from the IGN lot too.



Red_Yoshi said:

Great Review. I love the game. Play it at the gamescom. That's a great third part of a M&L-Game.



snarsson said:

You've made me more enthousiastic about the release.

unsure about the psp avatar though...why ??



Corbs said:

I love the PSP and the PSPgo launches on October 1st so I'm using the avatar until I get my hands on one.



Bring_Back_Pluto said:

I agree with corbie. Wow 10s are rare. Maybe we should start joking about the number 10 from now on.....looks up OK I WON'T JUST DON'T BAN ME!

But I agree completely with this review it's hard to find comedy in games and this games nails it like ...a hammer....shape thing.



OldBoy said:

Not played one of these before and this game wasn't even on my radar...BUT IT IS NOW ..WOW gotta give this a try.Great review Corbmeister.



Spaceman_Spiff said:

I didn't really like the second one as much as the first one, but I'll have to try this one out for sure.



Twilight_Crow said:

Awesome review. I really liked M&L;Partners in Time, so I've had this one on my radar for a while, and is as great as I expected ; also you read my mind Corbie, I can only get one game for the rest of the year and is gonna be this one .



MetalMario said:

"this game nails it like....a hammer...shaped thing."

HAHAHAHAHA! That should be in the game!



Kid_A said:

I'm usually not a big RPG fan but I've always loved the Mario RPG's--especially Mario & Luigi. There's something about the combat that just makes all other turn-based RPG's feel wrong in comparison (and it doesn't hurt that the battles aren't random). The writing is always fantastic as well. Although I've pledged my allegiance to Scribblenauts tomorrow, I'll be getting this for sure when I get the money.

Between this, Scribble, and Professor Layton, my DSi will be getting a ton of play time!



AVahne said:

my little bro will get a DS Lite for xmas and he really wants this game, i want it too lol



TKOWL said:

im surprised that Corbie didn't extend it and give it a 11
im gettin it in an hour and its totally worth it



WolfRamHeart said:

Spectacular review Corbie! I'm glad to see that you really enjoyed this game and that it exceeded your expectations! This sounds like a must-buy for anyone who owns a DS! I have been looking forward to this game for a long time and I am glad to see that it was definitely worth the wait!



odd69 said:

That's generous.Partners in Time was horrible in my opinion,Superstar saga will always have a place in my heart. I'm definitely going to pick this up though.



Mabbit said:

i will get this along with scribblenauts. i may just cry if i dont get both



Dazran303 said:

Wow, a perfect score! I loved Partners in time, and every game in there series has been an improvement on the last so I can see why this would get a 10. Nice review



Xandecs said:

| 44. ryanknight717 United States 14 Sep 2009, 22:17 GMT
| im surprised that Corbie didn't extend it and give it a 11
| im gettin it in an hour and its totally worth it

What you say

It really is worth more then a ten! I played for over 12 hours and I have not found one con..



Philip_J_Reed said:

Finally got a chance to read this. I can't wait to play it; in fact, the review just reminds me of how much fun I had with Partners in Time, and I can't wait to dive into a similar adventure.

Great job, Corbs.



Digiki said:

I picked it up last night and have gotten 4 hours in, tis pretty sweet.
I've just collected the 4 blitties that I can without progressing, so I'll go back to progressing now...

(although there are much better DS games)



Curt said:

The GBA one was great, and the first DS one was kind of disappointing, so I'm glad to see this one get such a good mark. Now to choose between this game, or scribblenauts.....




I loved Superstar Saga, yet I wasnt a fan of the babies in PiT, but this looks amazing. 2d sidescrolling makes the game for me. The polis is great. I wish I had money



Ricardo91 said:

Wow! Really that good huh? Screw waiting for my birthday, I'm getting this this weekend!



primeris said:

Must have. @Indigo_Effect RE TokenGirl,
Sometimes you're stuck somewhere where videogames are not in your language, and online retailers like Playasia are our salvation. I'm in Burkina Faso, and I don't want stuff in French, and I have not seen any Nintendo products in stores other than old old gray Gameboy stuff.



luigiman2 said:

I already got the game but I can't get past the part where bowser has to eat all the carrots in 1 minute. Otherwise, it's a good game.



JayArr said:

This is the first game I've played that I thought, "It would be worth buyina DS just for this game." Absoluty amazing. A well deserved 10/10.



Metafish said:

I kinda got stuck in the 2nd, but I will complete it now so I can be ready for this one!



Veritas said:

Wow that's surprising. I honestly thought this would be an okay game when I first saw it, but this is making me reconsider..



jorenmartijn said:

Great review! Personally I loved Partners in Time, but I also got Superstar Saga which was a great game too, but this one is absolutely the best!
And best of all, it was available in shops two days before release.



rhythmheavenfan said:

Great, great, game. I loved Partners in Time so much and I think this one is even better because of its amazing creativity! 10/10!



smithers43 said:

was a pretty big fan of partners in time but not sure if ill be able to pick this up till christmas....i just bought 2 phoenix CD's and gonna spend 10 bucks on DSiWare but.........i just might be able to scrape it together



sonic_brawler95 said:

10/10 is exactly what I would rate this game. I could never get into playing rpg games (not even the first two M&L games), but I loved this games humor, music, story, gameplay so much. I recently beat this about a week or two ago, and I'm letting my friend borrow it now.



TKOWL said:

just beat all the challenge node levels and i can say this is my favorite DS game of all time



g-silent007 said:

This is just about I would rate this game, by the way this is in the top 5 DS games along with, New Super Mario Bros, TWEWY, Chrono Trigger, and Mario Kart DS.



Crazed said:

10/10 is the score that this game deserves. The story is brilliant, the gameplay is a ton of fun, and I agree with everything that Corbie said about the game. I just beat it a few days ago, and I was entertained the whole game. This is a fantastic game for anyone that is a Nintendo fan.

@Corbie- Excellent review! You made me like the game even more than what I already did. However, I'm surprised you didn't mention Fawful. Fawful is absolutely hilarious in this game, and he didn't even get mentioned as the reason why Mario, Luigi, and Bowser are together in the first place. He has really grown as a character, and I would be extremely surprised if he didn't end up in the next Super Smash Bros. game (whenever that is.)



TKOWL said:

if this game doesnt win Best Portable Game i'll eat my hat. And all my hats



Deviant_Mugen said:

I got this for my birthday back in October and I couldn't agree more with the score you've given it, Corbie. Now I need to hunt down the two previous entries in this trilogy so that I can pass them as well...

Also, Bowser's dialogue in this game is pure gold--great review, too...




A 10!!!!!! must be a great game lucky im getting 2 games soon! well if it is not too pricey its on my list for sure!
Great review corbie



ds_lover59440 said:

@ Corbie: Yes, my brother got the game and I played it at night when he was sleeping, so I love it!
It`s a great game, for any Mario fans.



pikku said:

my favorite DS game
1: this
2: metroid prime hunters
3:zelda spirit tracks



Dodger said:

Wow... With the fact that you are inhaled by Bowser, I really was not thinking this would be good but I guess I was wrong! Maybe I will look into it.



FinalFantisiac said:

This is curently my most favourite RPG, and my most favourite DS game that I own. Highly recommended to all alike. (This review did not lie.)



TKOWL said:

I heard someone say the music in this game was awful. I object. It has one of the best soundtracks in the history of gaming.



motang said:

This game is pretty good, but I hate those rhythm pattern parts where you have to hit the glowing balls with Mario & Luigi, as I suck at rhythm games.



Nintenzo said:

Bought this the day it came out, and still haven't completed it.
SUCH A LONG GAME! But that's a good thing. Easily the best game on the DS. One of the best games ever made, if you ask me...



SunnySnivy said:

Just bought this game on a whim today, glad it has a perfect score on here. I have high hopes for it!

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