Nintendo continues to dip their toes into the mobile gaming scene with the much awaited release of Super Mario Run, the first official Mario game to be released on mobile devices and one that hopes to deliver that classic Mario feeling to the masses. With that in hand Super Mario Run has been a success from its download numbers alone. Having now spent a good few hours with Super Mario Run I think it is time to weigh in on the debate and decide if Super Mario Run is a worthy addition to your mobile device even with such a steep asking price…
Firstly let me just start by clearing up the fact that Super Mario Run is by no means an endless runner, that is unless you play the Toad Rally mini game which even then, you’re limited by a time limit. This does not take away from the game however and in fact having levels made by the Nintendo team works in Mario’s favour. With that said, on with the review.
Your time within Super Mario Run will be split between the 24 World Tour stages and the Toad Rally. The World Tour stages are what you would expect from a Mario game; You need to save Princess Peach (the act of which unlocks her as a playable character), and defeat hordes of Koopa Troopa’s along the way. Each stage is crafted to ensure a challenging but enjoyable time is had with a number of nice gameplay mechanics thrown into the mix. What surprised me was how good Mario felt to be played on a mobile phone, with the placement of objects just right to ensure you had enough time to be prepared for what came next.
The Toad Rally on the other hand is a race against another player’s ghost in which you gamble up your Toad’s to get a higher score. The stages here are taken from the World Tour but loop around until the time limit is spent. Though this was one of the more enjoyable parts of Super Mario Run it is also the cause of most of my stress. It is very hard to guess how likely you will be to beat an opponent until it is already too late. As Toad’s are used to unlock new items for your kingdom it can be rather annoying watching them walk away as you lose.
That said though, the simple controls are easy to learn and also easy to master. They do bring you moments of annoyance as collisions and jumps can be off. Resulting in a double take as you question if Mario should’ve made that jump or not. But as a whole the controls within Super Mario Run do the job and make you feel like you are playing a Mario game which of course, is the goal here. Nintendo have shown that they understand the mobile platform with the goal of a one handed Mario game and it pays off. I did often wish I could stop Mario running to better time those jumps however but that is down to my poor performance.
Visually Super Mario Run holds up on mobile devices as you would expect. With a style similar to New Super Mario Bros with some elements of Paper Mario thrown in there as well. Load times are fast, the gameplay is smooth and the colourful nature of Mario really shines on mobile devices. The sounds that you are familiar with have come along for the ride as well and you can enjoy all those great Mario moments just as they were meant to be enjoyed. Picking up a Star will surely set you off in song as you rush through a level collecting coins and smiling as you do so. This also carries over to the Kingdom part of Super Mario Run where you spent your coins to buy buildings and place objects such as trees and flowers around to bring the Kingdom to life. Other than unlocking a few little extras though, the Kingdom stuff is kind of redundant at the moment.
Of course the elephant in the room is that £7.99 price tag attached to Super Mario Run. Nintendo have opted to go for a one time purchase method of monetising the game. You can download the game and start playing today but only on the first three levels of the World Tour. The remaining levels, 24 in total, are locked behind that pay wall. The Toad Rally is available but each play of that used up a token. Included in that £7.99 purchase are a number of tokens for the Toad Rally and a ton of coins but that is it. You won’t find microtransactions anywhere in Super Mario Run.
Linking a Nintendo account will let you earn some points to exchange for more coins or Toad Rally tokens but this feel more like an incentive to play then anything else. It helps to give you a reason to keep coming back even if just to get those daily points. That said though the process of unlocking characters can take some time as it is linked to the Toad Rally and how many colour Toad’s you have. Due to the process of gaining and losing Toad’s this is a long and drawn out thing. It is here that honestly I kind of wish I could just purchase the extra characters or that they were included in the £7.99 fee.
I think what counts here for Super Mario Run is that fact that I’m still playing it. I find myself picking up my phone whenever I have a few minutes free to play through a level or two. Though most of my time gets invested – and lost – in the Toad Rally mode I find replying the 24 World Tour stages fun and enjoyable for what they offer. That said though I won’t lie that the £7.99 price tag is a bit hard to sell to people who are not prepared to pay that for a mobile or Mario game. Then again those who are not prepared to spend that are not going to spend that. With Mario games always holding their value the price point is not really an issue as far as I’m concerned and shouldn’t be for you if you’re interesting in Super Mario Run.
The engaging gameplay of Super Mario Run is the main selling point here and Nintendo have nailed that feel of Mario on mobile devices. It’s fun, fluid and keeps your attention for many hours. Even once you finish the 24 World Tour stages you can then go back to try and earn the hidden coins and even battle against your friends for the highest score. How much fun you will find in Super Mario Run in a few months time is up for debate but if Nintendo deliver regular content updates then I think Super Mario Run will be one to keep installed on your phone.
This review is based on a copy of the product purchased by the reviewer on an iPhone SE.