Review: Super Mario Run

Mushroom Kingdom comes to Mobile

Super Mario Run finally made its way to Android last Thursday. As Nintendo’s first mobile game, Super Mario Run was created to test the waters for Nintendo games on mobile platforms. Although the game saw some early success on Apple devices in December, it has since failed to hit Nintendo’s target sales numbers.

Super Mario Run is designed as a game that you can play with one hand. It plays in the style of the newer 2D Mario games, with a few changes for the mobile platform. Mario will run automatically and vault over small ledges and enemies without having to do anything, while tapping the screen will make Mario jump from the ground or from walls. 

Mario will usually only run from left to right, but certain blocks will allow him to jump backwards, and other blocks and platforms will stop him so that you can properly time the next segment. Falling from the edge or being hit while small will use one of your consumable “bubbles”, which will float Mario harmlessly back through the level until you tap the screen.

"Super Mario Run places a lot more focus on collecting coins."

Run keeps the familiar “get to the end of the level” goal, but places a lot more focus on collecting coins. Each level has three sets of special coins, and each set of five must be collected in a single run before unlocking the next set. Often the levels will split into an upper and lower path, so having to replay a level a few times for each set of coins is common. Thankfully all levels can be replayed endlessly, with no stamina system to wait on (just your phone’s battery).

Besides the level-based Tour mode, Run also has the Toad Rally mode. Toad Rally is Run’s competitive mode, and players can challenge friends and stranger worldwide. Players earn coins and toads by playing through timed, endless versions of levels from Tour mode. Toads are can be impressed when the player performs “daring moves” like jumping out of a roll or leaping off an enemy.

Tickets are needed to play Toad Rally, and are earned by collecting all of the pink coins in a level, from completing bonus games, or occasionally from completing Toad Rally races. During my playtime, the tickets seemed plentiful, although I did receive an extra 20 by purchasing the game.

"Tickets are needed to play Toad Rally, Run’s competitive mode, and must be earned."

Coins earned from both Tour and Toad Rally can be used in the player’s own version of Mushroom Kingdom. They can decorate the kingdom with houses and other buildings, some of which provide benefits like coin earning mini-games. Only a few buildings can be bought while playing the free version, as different colored Toads required to unlock buildings and other playable characters aren’t available.

Super Mario Run is interesting in that it has a pay-once model, with a four level demo. This model works well in making sure players know what they are paying for before making the purchase. The full game includes 6 worlds with 4 levels each, and three sets of coins in each provides a fair amount of replayability for $9.99.

Super Mario Run's free to play, pay once model saves gamers the headache of microtransactions.

The levels are short, with starting timers of ninety seconds. Each level feels unique in its own way, and familiar stage tropes are presented with new twists on the Mario formula. A dedicated player can beat all levels in a few hours or days, but the special coins add some extra playtime for completionists. The levels each feature the catchy tunes the series is known for.

The only powerups featured in Run are the super mushroom and super star. Because of the limited control scheme, fan favorites like the fire flower couldn't be used without complicating the game a bit. The super star also triggers a coin rush in addition to making Mario invincible for a time. 

"So far, Nintendo is sticking to their pay once model."

At time of writing, Nintendo seems to have no further plans for Super Mario Run. A daily login event coinciding with the Android release gave players a few goodies, but Nintendo has not announced further content such as levels or characters. So far, Nintendo is sticking to their pay once model.

Super Mario Run is a Nintendo game through and through. There is attention in even the smallest details, like the delay after unpausing to get your bearings or placing coins so that the player jumps perfectly on an enemy’s head. Enemies move so that even if you’ve been delayed by a pitfall, you can still perfectly time the next part of the level. The game is a great value for $9.99, but do remember that this is not a traditional Mario game.