Super Mario Run Review

Updated on December 20, 2016

By James

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Mario has been a fixture of the gaming community almost since its inception, and today his bubbly face is known around the world. Arguably the most classic character and series in gaming history, Mario has conquered just about everything, from platform games to RPGs to racing to golf. Until recently, there was only one platform our hero hadn’t jumped his way onto: mobile devices. That changed with the release of Super Mario Run.

Super Mario Run is the titular plumber’s debut on Apple’s wide range of iOS devices. It plays as well as we’d all hoped, and if Nintendo can keep it updated with new worlds to explore and secrets to unlock, it’ll be a game I will continue to return to for the foreseeable future.

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Gameplay - 9/10

Mario’s 2D platform games have always been a breeze to control; use a directional pad and one or two buttons to run, jump, and execute a few simple abilities on your way to the goal. Due to the lack of buttons on touch screen mobile devices, two major changes to the formula have been made. First, Mario never stops running. Second, there is only one command input: jump. These two changes showed Nintendo’s wisdom and development know-how. Playing games with touch screen “buttons” lacks the tactile and effective feel of playing with a real controller. Even recent mobile titles like Leo’s Fortune that have utilized a simple slide of the thumb to indicate direction have failed to create a system that does exactly what you want when you want it to. By ditching the inexactness of these hybrid styles and utilizing a “one touch” control scheme, Nintendo keeps the controls simple and effective and allows players to focus on the task at hand.

What exactly is the task at hand? Well, there’s three. Super Mario Run is split between three different modes: World Tour, Toad Rally, and Kingdom Builder.

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World Tour is your typical 2D Mario adventure – explore 24 levels, finding hidden coins along the way. This is the meat of the experience. Unfortunately, those expecting a robust world like the one in New Super Mario Bros. U will be disappointed. Each of the 24 levels take no more than a minute or two to beat, and they are essentially retreads of levels from past Mario games. That being said, there is a startling amount of challenge to be found in World Tour. Each level starts with five pink coins hidden through the map. Collect them all to unlock a new configuration in which you must find the five purple coins, all hidden in different places than their pink counterparts. After completing both pink and purple sets, you unlock a final black coin set to find. These coins present the greatest challenge in Super Mario Run. Finding and collecting them is a blast, and the ramp up in difficulty from pink to black feels natural. By the time you get to the final world’s black coins, you’ll be stringing together complex series of moves to reach impossible spots in the map – all by just tapping the screen.

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Toad Rally lets you challenge other random players to collect the most coins in a level. You run against their “ghost” rather than playing against them at the same time, so you essentially compete against someone else’s high score. Winning the match nets you Toads, which are necessary to upgrade your town in Kingdom Builder mode.

Kingdom Builder mode lets you rebuild the Mushroom Kingdom following Bowser’s latest destructive rampage. Using coins and Toads you earn in the two play modes, you gradually unlock and reconstruct familiar items and houses to place in your kingdom. A few of these buildings unlock the ability to play as other characters like Luigi or Yoshi, unfortunately the majority of them are simply cosmetic, making it a fun yet ultimately shallow addition to the main game.

Graphics - 7/10

The well-known sights of the Mushroom Kingdom are reconstructed here to a fault. The typical 2D Mario worlds are all present with grassy hills, dark castles, and windy airships making up the bulk of your visual journey. Unfortunately, some of the visual creativity of the last few Mario titles (like the levels inspired by van Gogh in New Super Mario Bros. U) didn’t make the jump to the new platform. As such, the game is more of the same, and while it’s rendered effectively for the smaller screen size, it’s nothing new.

It should be noted that Nintendo did make a wise decision regarding the bottom space of the screen. They leave it blank (though it’s filled in with thematically appropriate graphics), so your fingers never obscure the action.

Sound - 7/10

As with the graphics, the soundtrack and effects are either pulled directly from or are reminiscent of older Mario titles. There’s nothing here you haven’t heard before, though of course the sounds are iconic for a reason.

Story - N/A

There’s none to be had here, other than Peach somehow managing to fall into Bowser’s clutches for the umpteenth time.

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Replay - 7/10

Super Mario Run is banking on a certain amount of replayability, since the main mode’s goal is for you to return to each level to collect the three types of hidden coins. Once you begin collecting the black coins, you’ll be running through each level over a dozen times to get that coveted perfect run. For those who enjoy perfecting their skills through this challenge, there’s a good bit of play time to be had, whether sitting at home or on the go. As of this writing, Nintendo has already posted a small holiday themed update, adding Christmas trees and snow globes in Kingdom Builder. While this is nice, the true test of longevity hinges on whether Nintendo continues to support the title with quality content for World Tour and Toad Rally. As it stands right now, I’ve personally enjoyed replaying the levels in the search for all the coins. The three modes create an enjoyable loop, but once you reach the end of the content, that’s sadly all there is. Here’s hoping Nintendo communicates their intentions to add more playable content soon.

Final Score - 7.5/10

Super Mario Run is an easy game to love. Nintendo’s smart updates to gameplay fit the mobile platform remarkably well, though the lack of content means that most will complete the game shortly and move on to the next big thing. As for me and my household, we’ve greatly enjoyed playing together and comparing high scores and coin collections on the various levels. Super Mario Run can compete with the best mobile platformers out there, even if it’s light on content.

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