Super Mario 3D World: What’s Up With All the Cat Ears in Bowser’s Fury?

What does the overwhelming amount of cat ears in the Bowser's Fury trailer tell us about the Super Mario 3D World DLC?

Super Mario 3D World
Photo: Nintendo

Nintendo has finally showcased the Bowser’s Fury DLC that will be included with the long-awaited Super Mario 3D World remaster for Nintendo Switch. If you haven’t checked out the trailer yet, I highly recommend you do so now.

There’s quite a lot to break down in that trailer. Not only does Bowser’s Fury look far more substantial than some were previously anticipating (the design of the DLC’s world reminds people of the more open-ended levels featured in Super Mario Odyssey) but the brief teaser offers some tantalizing glimpses at compelling gameplay sequences that make buying Super Mario 3D World for Switch even more of a no brainer than we suspected it would be. You also apparently get to fight alongside Bowser Jr., which is arguably a selling point in and of itself.

However, there’s still one question we have about Bowser’s Fury that has to be answered before we go any further: “What’s up with all of the cat ears?”

While fans on Twitter and elsewhere were quick to pick up on the fact that most of the DLC’s enemies (and other supporting characters) seem to be sporting cat ears, it turns out that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Just take a look at some of these screenshots and see if you can spot all of the cat and cat ear visual references:

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Super Mario 3D World Boswser's Fury Cat Ears
Super Mario 3D World Boswser's Fury Cat Ears
Super Mario 3D World Boswser's Fury Cat Ears

While some of those designs are subtle, Nintendo eventually decides to treat subtlety with all of the respect afforded to the concept by a Zack Snyder script by ending the DLC’s trailer with a shot of Mario turning into a Super Saiyan cat in order to summon the power of a thousand felines batting a thousand balls of yarn.

Super Mario 3D World Boswser's Fury Cat Suit

That’s obviously awesome, but it sadly only raises more questions about the overwhelming amount of cat imagery featured in that trailer. The DLC may be called Bowser’s Fury, but the trailer suggests the real working name was Bowser’s Furry.

While Nintendo hasn’t formally explained the meaning of the cat imagery in Bowser’s Fury, it’s easy enough to make some reasonable guesses at what’s going on. After all, Super Mario 3D World‘s defining image was the game’s Cat Suit which granted Mario and friends the ability to pounce on enemies, swipe at foes, and sprint at high speeds (which we assume are enhanced when the player utilizes that ability at 3 A.M. when everyone is sleeping). The Cat Suit was even featured on the game’s cover.

It’s also very much worth noting that Super Mario 3D World is hardly the only time that the Cat Suit appears in the Mario universe. Cat Mario, Cat Peach, and other feline formatted versions of popular Mario characters appear in Super Mario Maker, Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8, Super Mario Maker 2, and more. Nintendo even released a video series called The Cat Mario Show which featured Cat Mario and Cat Peach sharing gameplay tips and random bits of Nintendo related information. In recent years, Nintendo has gotten a lot of mileage out of the Cat Suit.

Yet, the most interesting bit of cat imagery in the Bowser’s Fury trailer isn’t the Cat Suit, the cat ears, or even the bits of cat architecture. No, that honor belongs to the cat bell featured at the start of the trailer.

Super Mario 3D World Boswser's Fury Cat Bell

That bell resembles the Super Bell item that grants players access to the Cat Suit in Super Mario 3D World. According to that game’s plot, the Super Bells came into the Mushroom Kingdom via “Clear Pipes” that connect various worlds. In that instance, a Clear Pipe led Mario and crew to the Sprixie Kingdom.

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Put it all together, and it sounds like the world we see in the Bowser’s Fury DLC trailer is essentially the homeland of these cat bells and the place where the power of the Cat Suit is derived from. While there are some holes in that theory (the Super Bells and Lucky Bells in Super Mario 3D World weren’t shaped like cats), it’s certainly not unprecedented for Nintendo to base entire worlds around certain powerups. After all, the bells behave similarly to mushroom powerups, and Mushroom Kindom is the most famous corner of the Super Mario universe.

While that’s the most popular theory at the moment, we’re again still waiting for Nintendo to offer an official explanation for this fancy feast of feline foes. Failing that, you’ll just have to solve the mystery for yourself when Super Mario 3D World and Bowser’s Fury are released for Nintendo Switch on February 12.