“The feeling never changes.” Nintendo has a clear message for Super Mario Run, which, when not positioning their auto-running platformer as a game that you can play with one hand, is that this frantic Mushroom Kingdom romp holds true to what you expect from a Mario experience.
The portly Italian plumber may have spent the last 31 years leaping over obstacles, hopping on Goombas, and bashing Question Blocks as he ran through the Mushroom Kingdom, but never before has he felt so energetic and agile. Nostalgic pangs aside, Run welcomes a new era for Mario’s adventures that sees the challenge of developing for a new platform once again deliver an innovative and exciting way to play, this time on mobile.
Run’s creative magic comes in its simplicity, removing any worries about Mario’s movement with the game instead challenging you to leap your way through each course with pinpoint precision. This makes the entire experience immediately accessible to newcomers and quick to grasp, being layered with increasingly tricky elements to heighten the difficulty for seasoned platforming pros.
Beneath the bold red branding, what’s most important is that, at Run’s very core, it still retains that distinct Nintendo feeling. The fear, perhaps even at Nintendo, was that bringing their iconic mascot to a non-Nintendo platform would risk dampening the timeless ingenuity that has been present in his escapades over the past three decades. Thankfully, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The World Tour mode will help to ground you in this new way to play, which sees Mario jump to differing heights depending on whether you tap or hold longer presses on the touchscreen. Wall jumping, bouncing up from an enemy’s head, and spinning in mid-air to slow your descent soon become important moves for Mario to perform, and Run soon exhilirates in making you feel like a speedrunner.
It all starts calmly, but, as you progress through the 24 courses spread across six Worlds, you will soon be leaping through the clouds, dodging menacing buzzsaws, and bopping enemies that are more determined to stop you in your tracks.
World Tour can be conquered fairly quickly, but Mushroom Kingdom veterans will enjoy the considerable challenge presented by collecting coloured Coins. Worth more than your ordinary Coin, players must collect all five Pink Coins within a single run through a course to unlock the next colour, and, with each, the course is remixed in a way that introduces new obstacles that heighten how much your quick thinking is put to the test. With the timer ticking down, that can really make Run an incredible thrill.
It soon becomes apparent that World Tour isn’t the main event, with Nintendo really looking to have you spend the bulk of your time in the Toad Rally mode. This more social aspect sees you compete against the style of other players and requires a Rally Ticket to play, which is a frequent reward that you receive when completing World Tour courses.
This is by far the most challenging mode that Run presents you with, where grabbing as many Coins as you can in as stylish a way as possible is the route to success. In a similar way to Splatoon‘s Judd the Cat (but with far more enthusiasm), Toadette judges who the winner is based on how many coins were collected and how many Toads appeared to cheer each player on.
You can really turn a run in your favour if you can fill the Coin Rush gauge, which fills and automatically activates by performing skillful moves. When Coin Rush begins, Coins pour out of Warp Pipes, Question Blocks, and enemies, and this soon started to remind me of the Coin-riddled New Super Mario Bros. 2.
The Toads that cheer you on will then decide to join your kingdom, which is an integral part in Kingdom Builder mode. Most of the Toads ran away when Bowser attacked, with King Koopa wrecking everything in the process. It is down to you to rally Toads to your side, using Coins to buy decorations, buildings, and special items, and levelling up Peach’s Castle to rebuild your kingdom. There is an ‘A Kingdom Past’ image that you the game seemingly wants you to copy, but it will take plenty of time before anyone is unable to do so. I wonder if it hides any secrets once everything matches up?
The best part is that you can freely try Super Mario Run before making a purchase. The free download will let you play courses 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, and an early part of the first Boss stage in World Tour, compete on the same courses in Toad Rally, and let you start constructing in Kingdom Builder. That’s more than enough to give you a good idea as to whether you will enjoy the full game, which can then be unlocked for £7.99 ($9.99). Nintendo throws in a decorative Question Block for Kingdom Builder, 3000 Coins, and 20 Rally Tickets to help sway your decision, but their price point is certainly justified.
It is Nintendo’s unrivalled level design that allows Super Mario Run to succeed, replayable courses that repeatedly thrill in their innate sense of speed and discovery. Ranking within the best 2D Mario courses ever created, Run is packed with stylish flair that will keep you coming back for more.