Ten Hardest Stars and Shines in Super Mario 3D All Stars
#10: Star Bunnies in the Snow (Super Mario Galaxy )
Found in the secret Snow Cap Galaxy, this mission requires you wonder about this snow-filled planet and catch three bunnies before the timer runs out. As if running around frantically while dealing with upside-down physics and controls weren’t frustrating enough, you have only a certain amount of time to do so. In order to even stand a chance with this mission, you have to start out by finding and activating five panels hidden in the snow. Doing so will open up two pits on opposite ends that you can use to lure the bunnies to make catching them much simpler, but at the price of spending precious time. Not only that, but even the bunnies themselves are hidden and need to be found. That’s asking a lot for a game and I’m gonna need it to relax just a bit.
This mission will surely require a number of retries in order to get the locations of everything down, but even then, the game teases you with the bunnies always being just out of reach. Success is so tantalizingly close and the game knows it. Opening up those pits is a must, so plan on spending some time and do everything in order. Regardless of how well versed you are, I guarantee you will have only seconds to spare if you manage to pull this one off. Personally, I had more trouble than I’d like to admit because my stubborn, time-trial-hating ass tried to cut corners and do things my way. Trust me, don’t be like me.
#9 BattleStations Purple Coins (Super Mario Galaxy)
The purple coin missions in Super Mario Galaxy are the equivalent of 64 and Sunshine’s 100 coin missions, except they have to be unlocked near the end of the game. Most purple coin missions are leisurely strolls around the level, and some of them are timed, but this rare mission simply requires you to be perfection. You begin the mission on a moving platform and need to stay on it at all times while it navigates you through a course of purple coins. While staying on this platform, you’ll have to jump, skip, and backflip over obstacles, again dealing with upside-down physics, all while making sure you collect every purple coin. There are only 100 coins total, and you need them all, so missing even just one requires a restart.
Now for some reason, Galaxy gives you the opportunity to cancel a mission and exit the galaxy at any time, so failing a mission doesn’t necessarily mean losing a life. So, because you can retry this frustrating mission as many times as you want inconsequentially, this is only #9. Had the retry option not existed, this could have been much higher on the list, because near the end of the course, you are literally upside down and your controls are reversed. That final stretch, although very minimal, was just frustrating enough to be the main cause of death and retries. Nothing is more irritating than realizing how close you get to the light at the end of the tunnel only to have it taken away from you.
#8 The Watermelon Festival (Super Mario Sunshine)
Okay, now that I’ve gotten two Galaxy missions on the list, I felt obligated to include this so the creators didn’t feel bad about making a game too lenient and easy in comparison. It’s time to get irritated for real, because the rest of these missions are a true test of patience and sanity, and I am not one to have a whole lot of both to begin with. Starting at #8 is The Watermelon Festival in Gelato Beach. The world itself is very relaxing and not extremely big, but to say this particular mission is a migraine inducing troll is a severe understatement. The objective is actually quite simple: bring the biggest watermelon to the contest to win your shine.
The only catch is that biggest one required is always at the very top of the world and you have to gently guide it down a steep hill, through a maze of enemies, and across a dock. Now normally, watermelons are dense, heavy fruits. But in the world of Mario, these bouncy bastards are overly sensitive and hitting it against something too hard will burst it, causing you to start all over. It’s like navigating a balloon blown up slightly too much around a maze of the sharpest needles. Not to mention the beach is riddled with these enemies that catapult you into the air if you get too close. This also applies to your watermelon, where the same fate applies. Again, this mission doesn’t cost you any lives, so it’s pretty high on the list. However, the frustration that comes from navigating through literally everything trying to ruin your day only having to redo it all again when something eventually succeeds, is sure to threaten to make your head explode from anger.
#7 The Big Penguin Race (Super Mario 64)
In a completionist’s world, consider this early mission the first true speedbump in Super Mario 64. As one of the earlier levels in Cool, Cool Mountain, this frustrating race is an unfortunate foreshadowing of how truly infuriating this game really gets, with its abysmal camera angles and choice controls. From the moment you start sliding down the icy slope, this big blue sack of lard comes roaring down, passing you instantaneously and forcing you to act fast as you involuntarily stare down its cloaca. If you take any shortcuts whatsoever, Mr. Penguin will disqualify you and you won’t get the star.
There are plenty of sharp turns and steep slopes that will require you to slow down and speed up respectively, so you don’t fall to your death and accidentally make your run invalid. If at any time you pass him, make sure you keep on your toes, because road rage kicks in and he tries to run your ass off course. For a mission so early into the game, the perfection it expects from you is unremarkably ludicrous. Bring extra lives and an hour to spare, because unless you get good, you’re going to be dealing with this jerk for a very long time.
#6 The Blue Coins of Corona Mountain (Super Mario Sunshine)
Now, this is purely coincidental, but writing this in 2020, it’s only fitting that one of the more agonizing missions to complete in this entire collection has the word “Corona” in it. This is technically the last thing you should be doing in Super Mario Sunshine, as it is the stage leading into the final boss against Bowser. Depending on how many Shines you’ve collected in the other stages, you can unlock it even before some final worlds, but finishing the game prematurely is just stupid and you should feel bad for even thinking about doing so. The main catch about Corona Mountain is that the entire level is surrounded by lava, and not the kind that you’re familiar with in Super Mario 64. No, instead of comically burning your ass off for partial health damage, this fiery inferno appropriately instakills you.
The first half of Corona Mountain has you performing timed jumps onto platforms that alternate between safe landings and spiky deaths. It’s simple enough to get through without much trouble unless you are careless, and you are rewarded with an extra life every time you are successful. It’s a common theme for Mario games to pity you with free lives before taking it right away with some unfairly absurd task. The second half of Covid… I mean Corona (cough) Mountain is no exception. There are 8 blue coins spread out the map of lava and you need to collect them all if you want that eventual 100% completion rating.
The only way to get them, however, is using your FLUUD’s water-spray to move yourself on a boat, making sure to avoid touching literally anything but blue coins, as the absolute slightest touch will cause your boat to capsize. How is a boat able to navigate through lava, but not withstand being partially nudged against the wall? You know what, nevermind.
The real headache comes from the fact that because of physics, you have to be facing the opposite direction in order to use your water mechanics to push the boat forward. This means that you have to use reverse controls to steer. There is so much going on this level, the best method to is to spray in short bursts so you have a better chance of having composure and better reaction times. Go too fast and hard and you’re surely going to panic and crash. Thankfully, if at any point you die, the blue coins you’ve already collected are collected for good.
Also, because you are rewarded with a free life beforehand, it’s another mission you can technically pick at until it’s done. It’s just really really hard to make any kind of progress when touching literally everything in the map kills you and you are dealing with reversed controls. This easily could have been top three had you not had those previously mentioned benefits. Don’t be fooled though, it’s #6 out of 360 for a very good reason.
*Disclaimer: The back half of this list pales in comparison to the absolute nightmare I’m about to write about.
#5 The 100 Coins of Tick Tock Clock (Super Mario 64)
The world of Tick Tock Clock is a pain in the ass to deal with it, regardless of which star you are going for. Designed to make the player to climb up the innards of a clock, falling off at any point is almost guaranteed death, if not surely having to start at the very beginning. How the clock hands are positioned when you enter the stage will determine the speed and randomness of the platform’s movements.
Now, you may think that stopping the stage completely, which is possible, would make things easier, but certain levels require some movement so the player doesn’t have to make very high risk maneuvers in order to continue through some parts of the stage. That being said, collecting 100 coins in Tick Tock Clock proved to be the most frustrating. I believe there are only a few more than 100 possible coins to collect in the stage, so there’s no real room for error. You have to kill every possible enemy and open every box that inappropriately scatters coins everywhere. You must locate the blue coin switch and activate it, then hurry over and not miss a single one before the very short timer expires. Any mistake and you have to waste a life and start all the way over.
This world is the epitome of stress. There is so much pressure on you not to screw up and sometimes the design of this level results in issues with depth perception. I cannot tell you how many times I thought I was going to land on a certain platform, only to have been lied to, completely whiffing it, falling to my death and contemplating calling it for a week. Not to mention that the camera angles and controls in this game are some of the absolute worst and have not been improved upon in this re-release, so this mission is a complete disaster and test of one’s well-being.
#4 Wing Mario Over the Rainbow (Super Mario 64)
Whoever thought making a player unwilllingly backtrack all the way back to a certain level, just because they failed a mission, should be dragged out to the street and beaten mercilessly and dismembered. I hate the flying mechanic in Super Mario 64 and this mission is the coup de grâce of my patience and tolerance of it. You have to fly and canon yourself through the air, collecting eight red coins on multiple cloud platforms of many different altitudes. Some of the red coins are placed in awkward places that require more precision, so be prepared. Your cap usage is timed, so you constantly have to be aware of getting another cap before you completely screw yourself over. If you try and skip clouds, you run out of momentum and you’ll go crashing to the depths of below. Thankfully, you don’t lose a life, but there is a catch. A very dirty, sneaky, scumbag-like catch.
Every time you fail, you are sent to the very beginning of the game, outside Peach’s castle, and you have to backtrack all the way back to the very end of the game where this secret mission is located. I’d rather take a wasted life over a waste of my time any day. I don’t care that the game was going for realism points, that because you are falling from the sky that it’s only appropriate to place your outside the castle where the sky is. So, what about the pipe I entered in the castle to get to the stage in the first place? Why the hell does that make sense? It doesn’t, so stop trying to get real with me and wasting my time by making me backtrack every time this hard-as-nails mission gets the best of me.
#3 The 100 Coins of Rainbow Ride (Super Mario 64)
A nightmare to the restless, Rainbow Ride requires you to stay put while you sloggishly ride a magic carpet on the rainbow road as you slowly but surely get to your destination. If you stay off the carpet too long, it’ll disappear and you’ll have to backtrack and start over or kill yourself depending on your location. Each star in the world requires you to branch off to a specific part, each of them requiring your patience as you ride that godforsaken carpet. Not to mention the urge to kill yourself in reality when the slightest mistake means starting the slow dragging process all over again.
Now, imagine having to go to literally every branch this nightmare fuel of a world has to offer in order to collect 100 coins. Thankfully, there is one section not impossible to get to that has the 8 red coins, counting for 16 coins and a handful of blue coins for 5 a piece. However, the blue coins require you to perform a handful of pitch-perfect wall jumps in a fast manner in order to collect them in the short time limit, providing you with no wiggle room for do-overs. You fail this and I’m almost 100% certain you’ll have to start over. It’s just not simply worth scavenging this map desperately looking for coins to make up what you’ve missed; the punishment outweighs the rewards. This world is a dumpster fire, every mission in it is torturous, and the idea of having to literally go everywhere is an insult to the mental health of the average human being just trying to enjoy a video game.
#2 Lily Pad Ride (Super Mario Sunshine)
What first looks like a simple short journey down a river is actually a complicated, frustrating death trap from hell, designed to torment and cause you nothing but anguish. Your main objective is to hop on the lily pad and, like Corona Mountain, use the FLUUD’s water spray mechanics to journey down the flowing waters and collect the 8 red coins. Now, while you can swim in Super Mario Sunshine, for some reason this level’s water is apparently poisoned for whatever ass backwards logic, so you can’t even graze the surface of the water. So no, you can’t just swim around and collect the red coins. To make things worse, this lily pad you ride on starts to deteriorate the moment you start and you’ll fall in the water if you option to just let the water carry you downstream. So yeah, you are forced to use your FLUUD. But wait, there’s more! If you use your FLUUD too much, you’ll surely overshoot one of the red coins.
And did I mention the pain in a ass it is to get to this level? Yeah, you have to ride a Yoshi across two slowly moving boats, making sure you don’t fall in the water as Yoshi is apparently made of paint (yeah I don’t know). It’s a good five to seven minute ordeal just to get to this level. So why am I bringing this up? Because if you do in fact miss any red coins, your first reaction would be to take the pipe at the end of the trail, hoping it will take you back to the start so you can continuing collecting what you missed. But oh no, Super Mario Sunshine is a hateful game that doesn’t play fair.
Instead, this pipe takes you all the way to the beginning on the main world, forcing you to go through all that trouble just to get to the stage! And when you get back, all the red coins are back and your progress was for nothing. It’s like finding your way to the middle of the street to pick up a dollar, getting hit by a car so hard you end up back on the sidewalk, getting up, dusting yourself off, looking at the street and saying “Hey look a dollar!” It’s meant to make you feel really stupid. The only way, and I mean ONLY way to continue your progress is performing the greatest tightrope act Barnum and Bailey has ever seen and walk all the way back across the narrow pathway provided by the sides. This mission is a true test of ones patience and undoubtedly creates the most intense, nerve wracking amount of pressure to not screw something up. The run where I finally completed this catastrophe, I had to walk back three times and I was on the verge of a complete meltdown. It’s an absolute mean spirited minigame and unless you are a completionist, skip it; it’s not worth the expense of your well-being.
#1 Pachinko (Super Mario Sunshine)
So, you’ve had your fair share of time to get comfortable with Super Mario Sunshine’s controls. You’ve had time to get comfortable with the newly introduced FLUUD mechanics and it’s different types of water nozzles. Meet the Pachinko board, where are your progress and knowledge of how to play the game becomes irrelevant and everything you thought you knew about the game was a lie. I feel like the game developers had a mental lapse when it came to testing this mission for bugs and errors, because it’s nearly an unplayable nightmare. Your objective is to launch yourself on this giant spring into this gigantic Pachinko board and pray you land in one of the little Pachinko slots, collecting a red coin in the process. Failing to do so is instant death, so perfection is required.
The main problem with this mess is from the initial launch. The moment you launch into the board your movement feels severely off and tampered with. You have to be perfect with the amount of water you use and when you use it in order to somehow land into one of those slots. I feel like it is muscle memory and anything but expected is unacceptable. Its one of those missions where you so encapsulated by your lack of control that you find yourself talking out loud in disbelief, not realizing what nonsense just came out your mouth.
Not to mention, once you collect all 8 red coins, the Shine appears in the middle most slot of the board and you have to make one, final jump into despair. And for some odd reason, if you so even squirt even a droplet of water on one of those final three pegs guarding the Shine, Mario somehow glitches into a seizure and slides out of the slot and into death, leaving the player to simply exclaim, “WHAT HAPPENED”? It’s unforgivable filth and considered by many to be the true PTSD nightmare in all of Mario. It’s surely mine, by far.