Review: Super Mario Run

Review: Super Mario Run

Super Mario Run proves that Nintendo has a place in the mobile market.

Super Mario Run is Nintendo's first full-fledged attempt at creating a mobile game, a statement no one thought they'd ever be saying. When Nintendo first announced plans to start creating original content for mobile devices, many fans were concerned, even upset, but fans may be signing a different tune now. Mario Run is refreshing, satisfying, and fun. It proves that the mobile market has room quality gaming experiences, despite its passive nature, and lack of traditional analog controls. 


Super Mario Run is for both casual and hardcore players alike. The game may seem short and simple at first, and it is if you want it to be that way, but Mario Run offers a lot more to those looking for a bigger challenge. The game can essentially be broken into three sections; World Tour, Toad Rally, and Kingdom Builder.

World Tour is the main attraction, where you'll play through six worlds consisting of three levels and a boss stage. This is where Mario Run feels most like Mario. In Toad Rally, players will race against ghost players to gain the most coins and style points. The winner attracts the most amount of Toads, that will them be used in the game's third mode. Kingdom Builder is the game's creative mode, where players can customized upgrade their kingdom to create the world they want. Invite, new characters, bring in new structures, and destroy the things you don't want. It's simple, and kind of half-baked, but it's there. 


Gameplay is smooth and fun. Mario runs on his own, and players control his jumps, spins, and vaults. Conventional Mario gameplay is bucked a little bit with the addition of new mechanics that allow Mario to interact differently with the world and enemies. It takes some getting used to, as Mario can simply hop over Goombas. Knowing which enemies can hurt you and which ones you are safe for helps mix up the gameplay. The constant on the move nature of the game, makes for an element of skill that has been absent from the series for quite some time. Certain challenges, such as collecting black coins can be quite grueling, but more on that later. 

While the game only offers 24 levels, there is a ton of replay ability. Each level can be completed simply by reaching the flag pole in time, like any Mario game, but the real challenge is going back and collecting all the coins. Each stage has a set number of special coins. First, you can go through the levels and collect the pink coins, afterwards, you can go back in and collect all the purple coins. The final tier is the black coins challenge. With each tier, the challenge increases, and by the time I made it to the black coins, I was struggling to complete my challenge of fulling collecting everything in the game. 

What makes the coin collecting, and perfecting your run through a level, especially challenging is the fact that you don't control Mario's running (obviously). However, the game has some cleaver work arounds for this. The first is that players can wall jump to back up a little bit. You can also jump back when the ground in covered in directional arrows pointing in reverse. This helps a little bit, should you run past something you were trying to collect. 

However, the really creative mechanic is the new usage from the bubble. Traditionally, in newer Mario games, when you die, you return in a bubble that you pop to continue back into the level. That feature is present in Super Mario Run, except now the bubble has an additional function. Players can opt to put Mario into the bubble by tapping the icon in the upper left corner of the screen. Doing so will send Mario floating backwards through the level, where you can just pop him out when you're where you want to be. The drawback is that you are only given two bubbles per level. After all the bubbles are used, the mission is failed. The bubble option is cleaver, but you can't rely on it. However, I did find it to be extremely useful when trying to collect the purple and black coins. 


After you're done in World Tour, take the game to Toad Rally for some online fun. This is the part of Super Mario Run I thought I wouldn't care for. Surprisingly, Toad Rally turned out to be where I spent the bulk of my time playing Super Mario Run

Selecting a partner to race against is easy. The game gives you four or five options, you pick the one that appears to be within your skill level by comparing the number of Toads they've gathered to yours. From there you select a partner, and race through the level of your choosing. Throughout each race, you'll try and collect as many coins as you can, and impress Toads with your style by moving fluidly through the level. The action is intense and is can be really satisfying to defeat an opponent by just a hair. If you have your Nintendo Network ID connected to the game, your friends will show up in Toad Rally as potential opponents, and the game will tease you by competing your scores to theirs. It's addictive, and the loop kept me coming back over and over again. 

The more you play Toad Rally, the more Toads you collect, allowing you to buy new items from the shop, and build new assets for your Kingdom. As much as I didn't care for Kingdom builder, I did find myself interested enough to play until I unlocked the characters I wanted, and brought every bonus stage. The bonus stages are short mini levels that allow players to unlock more coins and Toad Rally tickets. Each bonus stage can be played once a day. The system works in a way that is reminicent of most free-to-play game on mobile, but in Super Mario Run, you dont have to give the game any real money. 


Perhaps the most divisive part of Super Mario Run is the fact that you have to pay a full $10 to own it. The free download is a simple three level demo, but if you really want to experience the game you'll have to pay for it. I personally love this about Mario Run. It's good to see Nintendo try and pioneer full game experiences on mobile. The platform has been a mess since the early days, and the majority of experiences on mobile are cheap and shallow throw away experience. Nintendo's price tag that comes with Super Mario Run may be a big ask for some, but it is one I al glad to pay. Nintendo is trying to respect their brands by creating a genuine product, and in turn asking fora fair amount of money for the experience. $10 gets you a complete Mario game. No ads, no badgering players for money, no shallow gameplay experience. It's what mobile games should have always been. 

The conversation around Mario Run and its price is going to be controversial for a while, but I believe that $10 is a fair deal for the game players will receive. I've already poured over ten hours into the game, and had a new experience with one of my favorite game series, so I'm happy with the way Nintendo has gone about selling the product to consumers. 


There is only one true gripe I have with Super Mario Run, and that's the fact that the game only works when connected to the internet. The problem with this requirement is that it limits what's so great about Super Mario Run; it's a convenient full Mario game that can be played anywhere. I play portable games regularly on my train commute to work, and was quite disappointed that I couldn't enjoy this game, due to the lack of cellular connection on the train. 

I understand that Nintendo wants to protect their game, and guard the experience in the way they designed it, but requiring my phone to always be connected to the internet ultimately defeats the purpose of the game to an extent. This limitation didn't prevent me from enjoying the game, but I could've enjoyed it more, had I been able to play offline. Perhaps Nintendo can later update the game to allow it to play offline, then synch all offline data the next time you play the game online. 


Super Mario Run is Nintendo's first big product on the mobile market, and it's a blast. While it may not exactly be a classic SNES Mario ported to mobile, it is something better in reality. It is a new experience, built from the ground up, to cater to the mobile platform. What we see is Nintendo working with the benefits of mobile devices to bring a new experience that is fun and intuitive. Whether you're the biggest Mario fan of all time, or you just want something new to play in your free time, Super Mario Run is a blast, and caters to all audiences. Despite an always online feature that prevents the game from being played in all situations, Mario Run offers potentially the best on the go gaming experience for mobile users. 

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