Super Mario Run – The Saiko Review

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It was a Friday. A seemingly random Friday, I came home from Kindergarten to see my father sitting at the dining table grinning ear to ear. He had bought a five-year-old little me, a Game Boy.

Reminiscing about that blocky grey handheld brings back a rush of memories, fond memories, memories of a simpler more pure time. Those feelings that I had, the feelings of warmth when held by my parents while I played Super Mario Land have traveled with me as I grew.

They were there when I saved Yoshi in Super Mario World. Mario and FLUDD  saw me through my parents divorce with Super Mario Sunshine. They took me to another galaxy during University with Super Mario Galaxy. At each major milestone of my life, and I’m sure it’s the same for many others, was Nintendo and Mario was there, like a good friend offering casual and safe fun.

This nostalgia, I’m sure, is the same for many Nintendo fans around the world. Nostalgia pandering is what Nintendo does best. Nostalgia is what Nintendo’s banking on for Super Mario Run to succeed. And this brilliant mix of nostalgia and modernity is what makes SMR a game worth playing AND a game worthy of being a called a Mario Game.


Now, take yourself back. Back to a simpler time when games were two dimensional, when moving left to right was the only option. That’s literally what SMR does, and it does it so god damn well.

Taking the age old side scrolling formula it perfected decades ago, Nintendo translates it over to the endless runner model akin to Canabalt or Rayman Jungle Run and makes the experience a new and rewarding all at the same time. While Mario will literally jump/hop over Goomba’s and minor obstacles as he runs, players have time and help Mario jump across gaps and over bigger enemies. Whereas previously in these type of games, gameplay is heavily focused on precise timing for a jump, SMR takes all of this and refines it even further, making the running and action a lot “stickier”. There’s a strong visceral/physical feeling of watching the little plumber land a jump or perform a spin that’s oh so satisfying.

Introduced to add more to the experience are fast forward, reverse, stop and jump blocks that help the player propel Mario further in his quest. Each of these blocks add an additional “strategic” function, where players can utilize the special blocks to perfectly time and execute jumps that land Mario in hard to reach locations.

But great gameplay and controls aren’t all that Nintendo has added to the formula of the single button mobile runner. Whereas most games have mini games, SMR takes it all to a different level. Broken up between the World Tour main game is the Kingdom Builder and Toad Rally.

Playing the main World Tour takes player through a streamlined Super Mario Game replete with save the princess and defeat Bowser storyline. As players play through each of the 6 main worlds and battle Bowser and his various goons/children, they collect coins and Rally Tickets used in the additional two game modes.

With the golden coins, players get to rebuild the Mushroom Kingdom in their image in Kingdom Builder. However, Nintendo’s little building sim isn’t as simple as it seems. Instead of the old adage of “if you build it, they will come,” the residents of the Mushroom Kingdom require a lot more coaxing before they return to their tiny mushroom abodes. That’s where those frustratingly rare Rally Tickets come to play.

Used in the World Rally mode – the tickets turn SMR into a semi-multiplayer game, where players race against the ghosts of other players in a contest of who can perform the most tricks and gather most coins. The more cool jumps, death-defying actions, a player does, the more toads they accrue. At the end of a rally, the coins and Toads are tallied; the player with the higher score wins all the Toads, who then become the residents of their Mushroom Kingdom. As more of the little buggers are collected, the Kingdom grows bigger and new buildings and features are unlocked. Eventually, players will be able to unlock characters such as Mario’s brother in crime (and real brother) Luigi among a few others.


Remember finding the old Super Nintendo and dusting off Super Mario World to play World 1-1? That sudden rush of nostalgia and fun, that feels just right, at least for the next few hours or so, before you get tired and put the game away for years?

Super Mario Run does a perfectly good job of justifying it’s ridiculous for mobile price tag. It hits all the major targets; Fun – Check, Premium graphics – Check, Unique Experience – Check. It’s everything that a Super Mario game for the mobile world should be but in a mobile package.

That’s not to say that SMR isn’t without it’s faults. The game as a whole, while deserving of it’s $10 price tag – suffers from a lack of clarity. Users expecting a free-to-play experience akin to Pokemon Go and literally every other mobile game out there, were unhappy to see that after the first three levels of World 1, they were asked to pay to continue.

Cost clarity aside – Nintendo also seriously hampered SMR with an constant internet connection requirement. Literally having to authetnicate and verify the user through the internet at every corner limits bites at the patience of gamers. Sure the 90 seconds or so of SMR is totally fun, but the shaky always on connection makes it a nightmare and hampers millions that would normally be playing in places with shoddy connections, places such as the tube or subway.

With these few but major flaws, it’s a miracle that SMR is such a good game. As a Nintendo’s first real foray into mobile (Pokemon Go was Niantic/PKMN company more so than Big N), Super Mario Run does a good job of rekindling the magic found in Super Mario, and like any other mainstay Super Mario game – is a worthy addition to your collection even if you’re not playing it all the time or for long periods.

Bravo Nintendo. Bravo.

Super Mario Run is available on iOS. The first 3 levels are free to play. The whole game costs $10 to unlock.

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