Super Mario Run is Nintendo’s first officially licensed mobile game using their beloved character, Mario. It is an auto-runner that is touted as having the ability to be played with a single hand. Although the concept seems like it should work for this genre of sidescrolling platformer, it certainly didn’t impress me because it was lacking several key things that I felt were important to the Mario franchise.
First, let’s start with what the game does well. As most Nintendo games are, Super Mario Run was very polished and provided gameplay with no issues of usability. Some people have described having connection issues (because it needs to be connected to a network to play), but I never experienced these problems. The one-handed playability definitely holds true and it is easy to play as you either press quickly to jump short or hold to jump higher. Timing is everything and it takes some getting used to (having classic Mario so ingrained in my brain), but the game is smooth and easy to understand. Super Mario Run is free to download, but provides a very limited demo beyond the first few levels and some building. It costs $9.99 to unlock all of the content the game offers. The game consists of 6 worlds with 4 levels within each world. Each world ends with a castle where you have to “fight” Bowser or another enemy; all of which are timed. The Bowser boss levels are similar to Super Mario 1 (NES) in that you have to jump over Bowser to drop the bridge so he falls into a pit of lava. Other levels include boss enemies similar to Super Mario 3 (NES) where you have to jump on their heads three times to progress. I recognized many of the levels as they appeared to be upgraded versions of levels that we’ve seen across many of the classic games seen on the NES or SNES. Players can replay each of the 24 levels to collect special colored coins which start with pink, then purple, then gray. Each set of new coins unlocks after you’ve collected all of the previous colored coins. Collecting of the coins of a single color across all of the levels will give you the ability to unlock additional playable levels. Another section of the game is called “Rally” wherein you face off against another player to complete jump tricks, score points, and collect coins. You are given a short list of other players to compete against, but these players are not playing live. I’m guessing it aggregates runs that the player has done in the past. The winner of the event gets different colored Toadstools based on the level that was played which are used to unlock different purchasable items for your kingdom including new characters, bonus levels, and vanity items. The final section of the game is your kingdom, which you can build, upgrade, and decorate how you like it. Collecting coins in the levels helps you to pay for items and collecting toadstools in Rally helps you to unlock additional items for purchase. Collecting toadstools also upgrades your castle and eventually allows you to buy a rainbow bridge so that you can expand your kingdom.
Now on to the things that truly disappointed me about Super Mario Run. First of all, the game is much too short. Even after you purchase the entire game it will take you approximately 1-2 hours to beat the 24 main levels. The only added replay value is going back to collect coins or upgrade yourself in Rally, but even then the game becomes extremely repetitive. There is variation between levels, but it doesn’t provide me enough to make me want to keep playing. I understand that it is a mobile game and many mobile games are repetitive in nature, but the levels are just too short and there aren’t enough of them. The Rally section of the game is bit of a mystery to me as well. As you beat levels, you unlock new ones to play in Rally, but again it is all just so repetitive. I also wish that there was more user connectivity in the game. You can connect with your friends from social media, but apart from comparing scores and kingdoms there is not much else that you can do. Nintendo struggles with this regularly with these types of games as I found Miitomo to be missing a lot when it came to user interaction. The biggest downfall for me though is that Mario games have always had a foundation in exploration and finding secrets, but that has completely been lost in Super Mario Run. I could play Super Mario 3 on NES an infinite number of times and still feel like I find new secret bean stalks, portal pipes, or secret rooms. In Super Mario Run, what you see is all you get. There are no secrets to find and that truly makes it lose its luster for me.
Overall, I would say that Super Mario Run was a bit of a disappointment. Does it accomplish being a playable mobile game? Yes, but I think that Nintendo missed the mark in the sense that incorporating Mario (one of their keystone characters) should have also incorporated more elements from the series rather than just basic mobile gameplay. There is nothing that truly sets it apart. Do I think that Super Mario Run is worth spending $9.99? No, probably not. If you are a die-hard Mario fan then you might enjoy some of the throwbacks, but otherwise I think that there are plenty of other mobile games available that will keep you interested for longer and won’t cost you a dime.
6 / 10
Super Mario Run is currently available on iOS with a scheduled release on Android in early 2017.