Super Mario Run (Free) by Nintendo Co., Ltd. is the latest mobile craze to hit the App Store before the end of the year, and is the second major Nintendo franchise to officially have a mobile game, the other being Pokémon Go. If you’re a huge Nintendo and Mario fan, then it’s needless to say that this is a no-brainer.
As someone who grew up in the late ‘80s into the ‘90s, I have incredibly fond memories of having a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) back in the day, and playing whatever Super Mario Bros. games I had been given to me by my parents. No matter which game it was that I played, I would spend a good chunk of my carefree childhood days on it, trying to get as far as I could and beating my previous records. To me, there was nothing better than hearing the original Super Mario Bros. chiptune theme song and hearing Mario with his classic “It’s a me, Mario!” line. As I got older and earned my own money to buy video games, I’ve always had a soft spot for Nintendo, getting their consoles whenever I can (though I skipped out on the Wii U but eager to get a Switch). Heck, I even managed to snag an NES Classic Edition this year to fulfill my nostalgia needs. Like everyone else on the planet, I’ve been wanting Nintendo to release mobile versions of their classic games, like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, and many others. This year, so far we’ve gotten Miitomo (kind of dead at this point), Pokémon Go, and now Super Mario Run. If you were expecting a full-on port of Super Mario Bros., sorry to disappoint, but they won’t be doing that for certain reasons. Still, if you’ve been craving any kind of Mario game on mobile, then Super Mario Run will fulfill that yearning.
In terms of visuals, Super Mario Run is beautiful and truly feels like a Nintendo game. If you played Mario games before, then everything will feel right at home for you. The 3-D character models for Mario, Princess Peach, Bowser, the Goombas, Koopas, and everything else are delightful and bouncing with personality and charm, just as one would expect from Nintendo. The Mushroom Kingdom is as bright and colorful as ever, and the various environments that all of the stages take place in will bring back a sense of nostalgia for many, myself included. And if you could never get enough of the Mario font from more recent titles, then the typography here will delight you. While most of the graphics are incredibly sharp and crisp for Retina displays, I did notice that some parts of the levels, such as the green leaves on the ground, were a bit fuzzier than the rest, as if they were not optimized for Retina screens. Not a terribly big issue, but consistency would be nice. Still, it’s just a nitpicky detail. Animations in Super Mario Run are smooth and fluid, and I had no lag on my iPhone 7 while I was playing. The sound effects and music stay true to their roots and will bring a smile to all gamers.
There are two game modes in Super Mario Run: World Tour and Rally. The World Tour is essentially the story mode, and contains six worlds that have four stages each. You know how the story goes: everything is peachy in the Mushroom Kingdom until Princess Peach is taken away from Mario once again in the clutches of Bowser. You’ll have to help Mario navigate through all of the stages to eventually reach the goal pole at the end, while collecting coins (including pink and secret black coins) and avoiding or eliminating as many foes as you can along the way.
Rally mode is a battle mode that you need “Rally Tickets” for (not too hard to obtain) and you can compete with other players to impress Toads with style and flair as you run and jump to collect the most coins and squash more enemies. The more Toads that you impress, the more Toads you will gain for your kingdom that you’re trying to rebuild after Bowser’s wrath. When you want to customize your kingdom, just choose the “Build” option to purchase decorations, buildings, and special items. From there, you can customize the positions of each item in your collection or put them away if you don’t want to use them at the moment. I’m not too big of a fan of these kinds of building sims, so I don’t think I’m going to spend a lot of time with this aspect of Super Mario Run. However, a bonus to the Kingdom Builder is the fact that you can have buildings that provide extra bonus games, which are more opportunities to get Rally Tickets. The other method is by clearing worlds.
As I mentioned earlier, if you were wanting a Mario game that is like the originals, then you should stop reading. In Super Mario Run, Mario runs forward automatically, and the game even prevents him from running too far back too, so timing is everything in this game. Rather than have the players control the direction that Mario runs in, all players have to do is tap anywhere on the screen to have Mario jump. You can just do a light tap for a small jump, or hold your thumb down for a longer jump. He can also do a small jump automatically to avoid simple obstacles and enemies that are directly in front of him. Mario has different behaviors that occur depending on the timing of your jumps, so it’s important to learn what he does when and how, and take advantage of that during Rally trials especially, as it’s the best way to impress the Toads when you have some panache. Even though this is a Mario game that can technically be played with just one hand, there is actual skill involved if you want to be good at the game — I’m still trying to get the hang of it, honestly.
The only caveats to the Super Mario Run that I can think of right now is the fact that the game does require an always-on Internet connection to run, and the fact that you only get the first three levels in the free download. If you want to play stage 1–4 and beyond, then you’ll have to get the $9.99 in-app purchase. While I don’t have a problem with this (gamers pay $60 for most console games nowadays anyway), I can see why many others may have an issue with it. But to that I say — it’s a Mario game for mobile, what do you honestly expect?
I’ve been waiting a long time for a Mario game on iOS, and it still feels a bit weird that the day has finally arrived. Honestly though, it took me a bit of warming up to the fact that this is not the traditional Mario platformer where you have complete control over Mario, but the more I play it, the more I’m enjoying it for what it is: a one-handed Mario platformer for mobile. The modernized graphics are gorgeous on Retina screens (albeit have some minor flaws with textures), the sounds and music just make me smile, and the controls are intuitive and responsive. While this is not the classic Mario games that I remember growing up with, it’s not a problem — that’s what my NES Classic Edition is for.
I recommend giving Super Mario Run a try if you’re a Nintendo and Mario fan in any way, shape, or form. It’s not your traditional Mario game, but it’s a great option for getting your Mario fix on-the-go without a 3DS.
Super Mario Run is on the App Store as an initial free universal download for your iPhone and iPad. An in-app purchase of $9.99 unlocks all levels after the first three.