Since the inception of gaming on smart phones and tablets players have been clamoring for a quality title centered around everyone’s favorite plumber and his Mushroom Kingdom crew. Clamor no more, friends. Super Mario Run is here.

It’s no secret that Nintendo has (finally) moved into the world of app gaming. Their last two offerings, Miitomo and Pokemon Go, were both well received and climbed to the top of the iOS and Android charts in mere hours. It’s not hard to see why the Big N would want to push out a game featuring their well-known mascot. Mario has arrived on iOS, but is his newest adventure worth playing?

Simple Controls and Sick Stunts

The humane approach

Super Mario Run can be played with one hand. The game is very invested in reminding you of this fact. Pet a dog, eat a PopTart, milk a cow - whatever you want to do with that other hand is up to you. The game is your average side scrolling Mario outing with a few twists. The biggest is that Mario, much like Jason Statham in the 2006 movie Crank, cannot stop moving.

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The mustachioed plumber will run from left to right until an obstacle gets in his way. At this point players have to make some quick decisions as to their next action. A tap will make Mario jump, while a longer tap will make him jump still higher. If the obstacle is an enemy Mario can stomp it or simply vault over it, sparing its life, but still managing to hurt its pride. All the while players are tasked with collecting as many coins as possible.

Mario is pretty agile for someone who appears to be a bit pudgy. We’ve always known he had the hops and bops necessary to take down baddies and reach new heights, but Super Mario Run gives Mario even more flair to work with. Players are rewarded by chaining together moves such as hurdling enemies, incorporating spins, and general parkour maneuvers from spot to spot. Mario’s goal is threefold - get coins, don’t die, and look good doing it.

Creative Level Design

It can be hard to keep things fresh when you’re working on a mobile title with such a simple concept. The levels found in Super Mario Run do a great job of conveying all the classic level set-ups and enemies from Mario games of yore while still offering some nice shortcuts and secrets here and there. Levels feature special coins to collect and alternate routes that can lead to a better overall score.

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It’s interesting to see how the creators approached settings like ghost houses, airships, and boss fights while sticking to the ever-moving motives put forth by the game. Every one of the 24 levels found in the game is worth a repeat visit, and in many cases you’ll want to come back over and over until you’ve found every coin and tricked off of every goomba.

Toad Rally

Purple Toad can’t deal

Toad’s trademark screeching is normally something players might avoid, but in Toad Rally the more screeching the better. In this mode Mario is pitted against another Mario’s ghost data. They must compete to see who can grab the most coins, while simultaneously attempting to impress bleachers full of hysterical Toads with their snazzy athletics. Those who snag the most gold and pull in the most fans are crowned the winner and take some of the loser’s fandom with them. It can be frustrating when things aren’t going right, but the thrilling high of victory outweighs any ill will towards Toad Rally. Well... besides the tickets, but we’ll talk more about those later.

Multiple Playable Characters

It’s not uncommon for Mario titles to feature a cast of dozens, but usually that’s only the case when it’s time to golf or race go-karts. This time around players are given the option of picking from six different characters, each with their own unique ability that can change the flow of gameplay. It’s a nice little touch that Nintendo certainly could have left out. The bad news? No Wario or Waluigi.

Pretty (But Recycled) Visuals and Audio

If you’re first thought when playing Super Mario Run was, “Haven’t I played this before?” you’re not alone. The visuals in the game are taken directly from Flappy Bird past New Super Mario Bros. titles. Not that they don’t look good on your Apple device, they’re just nothing new to be excited about. The songs follow suit, with classic Mario tunes and sound effects added in to bring the nostalgia factor up to ten.

Kingdom Builder

Mario fans are no slouch when it comes to building, Super Mario Maker for the Wii U and 3DS have proven this fact. So when a Mario game asks you to build a kingdom you might jump to the conclusion you’ll be cobbling together elements for an actual level. Not the case with Super Mario Run’s Kingdom Builder. You buy building and features for your kingdom with coins and by gaining more obnoxious Toad fans of different colors. It may entice some, but it’s pretty limited and plenty of players will be aggravated that have to amass a certain number of mushroom groupies just to construct a building in honor of our lord and savior Luigi.

Price Point

Super Mario Run is a “free” app. This means that you can download it for no cost and inspect all its bells and whistles. You’ll be able to play Toad Rally and the fist three levels of the Tour mode. If you want to play any further you’ll need to pony up $9.99. Most folks likely assumed that the game would cost a few bucks, but many seem to be having a hard time dropping a full Hamilton on it. When you do the game opens up the remaining 21 levels (though you have to progress through them in order) and gifts you a decent amount of coins and rally tickets. That’s roughly 48 cents per level, and they’re very short levels.

Is it worth it? To me it was, but I like the arcade aspect of trying to beat one’s score on a specific level and will no doubt return time and time again. Other may not find this is the case.

Online Only

For various reasons, some of which aren’t exactly apparent, Super Mario Run has to be connected to the net at all times. This is less than ideal for many players who may not have stable internet connections depending on their location. Why not let us at least play Tour mode while offline, Nintendo? I’m sure you have your reasons, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying.

Rally Tickets

Though I praised Toad Rally above for being a fun head-to-head competition mode, it does have one fatal downfall. Each time you pick an opponent you have to part with one rally ticket. You can earn said tickets from completing certain aspects of the tour mode, building specific items and from actually purchasing the full game. But that’s the disappointing part. Even after buying the game you can still run out of tickets, which seems silly. If you went so far as to spend your cold hard cash on what is essentially New Super Mario Bros. Lite you really shouldn’t be tasked with ever having to pay for rally tickets again.

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It’s not that they’re hard to come by, it just seems like an unnecessary headache for a paying customer.

If you own an iOS device, and have 205 MB to spare, there’s no reason to not give Super Mario Run a chance. It’s a very straightforward approach to one of gaming’s most prolific series, and many players will find plenty to do. It’s far from the best or the worst Mario title we’ve seen, but it’s a well made distraction until we get the next great Nintendo platformer.

Need another opinion on Super Mario Run? Check out JpSr388's Hot Take.


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