Review: New Super Mario Bros. U

The New Super Mario Bros. series is now on its fourth instalment, on as many consoles, and fans are starting to question if the nostalgic offering is becoming less 'new'.  

Launching so close to New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the Nintendo 3DS doesn't help, and when you start playing New Super Mario Bros. U it does feel like you've been there (the grassy plains and hot deserts you've seen before) and done that (stomped on enemies' heads while collecting coins).

Underneath these familiar facade however, lies a fresh challenge and a unique approach, thanks to the Wii U GamePad.  The handheld and console New Super Mario Bros. games have similar gameplay but, thanks to the multiplayer found in the console versions they have felt like different titles (we're aware that you could play two player in New Super Mario Bros. 2, but it's not quite the same).

New Super Mario Bros. U is the kind of frenzied, friendship destroying fun that made New Super Mario Bros. Wii feel retro not only because it was a 2D scrolling platformer, but also because it revelled in having your friends gather in the same room to enjoy the experience.

Up to five people can now play, courtesy of the GamePad, and the multiplayer experience remains as enjoyable as ever.  In certain modes (noticeably not the main story mode) one player can take command of the GamePad and plant platforms using the touchscreen.  The interaction between player and controller is minimal, meaning you can give it to someone who hasn't had much experience with the Mario series, but the possibilities it offer are worth playing for.

The greatest of friends may play together with the intention of camaraderie, but as soon as the GamePad wielder accidentally puts a block down that traps, trips up or topples another player you realise just how much power you can wield.  It can inflate your ego the same way that 'God games', such as The Sims, do; you can help the characters across treacherous terrain, or trap them and laugh at their defeat.  While Nintendo may be playing catch up when it comes to online gaming, they certainly have local multiplayer down.

New Super Mario Bros UThis time around we have one new costume, that of a flying squirrel, and the return of baby Yoshis.  The costume allows you to glide, much like the raccoon costume (and hopefully PETA won't get worked up about this one), and with a simple button press you can elevate further, making it possible to get to previously out-of-reach locations.

Three different baby Yoshi colours exist, each with their own unique abilities.  The pink one can inflate itself to the size of the balloon, the yellow one can emit light and the blue one can blow bubbles.  These are rarely necessary to complete a level, but can be picked up from within the map and used, as long as you don't make the mistake of dropping them off a platform.  Yoshi himself, in all his rideable glory, returns as well.

Much like the classic Mario titles, you traverse the Mushroom Kingdom using a giant map that you can walk around.  Each area has a different look and feel to it and retro fans will feel right at home.  As well as the levels and Toad outlets, there are numerous interactive elements such as belly-sliding penguins and Boos to be avoided.  A kleptomaniac rabbit called Nabbit also pops up from time-to-time and hides in a level.  Once you go into that level you have to chase him down and recover the stolen items (think of the bunny in Super Mario 64, but less infuriating).

Nintendo has also incorporated the Miiverse, so that messages about other players' progress can be included on the map.  Whether you offer helpful hints, or just moan about that blasted Thwomp, is up to you, but it helps to breath some sense of community in the game.  

Aside from the story mode, you can also play in Challenge Mode, Boost Mode and Coin Rush.  Challenge mode provides you with a series of tasks to complete, grouped together in collections such as 'finish the level in x seconds' or 'jump on a series of Goombrats heads in succession'.  They provide a welcome break from the story mode and can be quite addictive if you have a naturally competitive personality.

New Super Mario Bros UBoost Mode, as the name suggests, encourages you to rush through a series of levels as quickly as you can.  The more coins you collect the faster the screen scrolls, which is controllable when playing alone but as soon as you have others join you it becomes a chaotic joyride.  The GamePad can be used in this mode, allowing help or hindrance depending on whoever has the power.

Coin Rush is similar to the mode found in New Super Mario Bros. 2; collect as many coins as quickly as possible.  Once again, if you are competitive by nature you will find yourself re-doing the levels many times in order to try and get the best possible score.

This is Mario's first foray into high definition and it is certainly is a visually striking game.  Much work has gone into making the textures and backgrounds rich and vibrant, with a world based on Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' the most beautiful on offer.  Music has always played a key role in the Mario series (I bet you're humming the classic Mario theme now) and Nintendo has once again made sure the background music has that retro feel by remastering a few well-known classics.

Nintendo had a tough battle with New Super Mario Bros. U.  Being a launch title, and being released so soon after New Super Mario Bros. 2, it had a lot of expectations to meet.  Some may moan that there are not enough new elements, and to a degree they would have a point, but if you're looking for an enjoyable Mario experience, particularly amongst friends, you are in the right place.

The last time I've enjoyed a multiplayer game so much was Kirby's Return to Dreamland on the Wii, and while New Super Mario Bros. U is less forgiving than Kirby, it offers the same amount of multiplayer fun.  It is still an enjoyable game if played alone, but it really shines in the company of friends.  After all, the Mushroom Kingdom is one of friendship and rivalries, as too should be your experience of it.   

N-Europe Final Verdict

The platforming series we all know and love is back with an enjoyable bang. Good to play alone, but grab some friends and you'll be laughing for a long time to come.

  • Gameplay5
  • Playability4
  • Visuals5
  • Audio5
  • Lifespan4
Final Score



Great multiplayer
Excellent backgrounds
Retro music
Challenging levels


Not much is new
GamePad multiplayer is limited to certain modes

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