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When it was released on the Wii U in 2012, New Super Mario Bros U challenged what I’d thought of Mario’s 2 outings. Super Mario Bros 3 remains one of my favourite games, though I admit that it’s really only nostalgia that puts it ahead of Super Mario World on the SNES in my own list of favourites. However, even then, calling it “New” was a bit a misnomer. As the fourth game to fall under the “New Super Mario Bros.” label, calling it “new” is an affront to good sense. Despite that, it’s the best damned 2D Mario since the 16-bit era’s Super Mario World. It’s arguably better – and could be my favourite 2D Mario game.

It’s unfortunate that the Wii U’s lack of success meant that many didn’t have the opportunity to play it. Even then, many gave it a skip as the “New Super Mario Bros” aesthetic is a little too whimsical. Now it’s on Nintendo’s Switch as a Deluxe re-release, that seems like a simple cash-in. that it may be, but it’s also a new opportunity to play one4 of the best 2D Marios.

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On the surface, it doesn’t seem to shake up the established formula. Yes, Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach for the millionth time, and it’s up to you, as the moustachioed plumber and it’s up to you to save her, mostly by running to the right and jumping the heads of things that get in your way. You’ll jump on flagpoles, dispense with Bowser’s Koopalings and do all those other things you’ve been doing in Mario games for the last 30 or so years. For this one though, Nintendo seems to have looked back at the long history of Mario games, and cherry-picked the very best thing about each of them, layering new concepts and quirky ideas on top of entrenched doctrines.

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It was actually the first 2D Mario to launch alongside Nintendo hardware since the super Nintendo’s Super Mario World, and it’s fitting; the game seems more like a spiritual successor of that game than the easier, more casual focused, watered-down New Super Mario titles that graced nintendo’s handhelds. That becomes immediately apparent when you first start that game, and see the return of the atlas-like overworld, instead of the set linear progressions of levels. It’s opened up the game again, and allowed the game’s designers to throw in all sorts of new secret exits to go along with each level’s ridiculously clever design. And it’s just gorgeous on Nintendo’s Switch, the newly afforded visual fidelity giving depth and breathing life in to the Mushroom Kingdom.

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The lengthy story mode, of course spanning eight worlds distinct worlds and over 90 levels, starts off a little slow. I’ll admit that halfway through the second world – naturally, a desert – I straddled the line on the brink of boredom. Sullen, I was convinced I’d be playing through another collection of rehashed uninspired and unchallenging levels, burdened by Mario fatigue – but then something happened. The game ramped up both in difficulty and creativity, with levels that begged, no, screamed for exploration as it went on and I was taken aback with that wide-eyed awe and wonder given by games that shaped me when I was just beginning to fall in love with videogames. The levels are inventive , delightful and frankly genius – but it’s a shame it takes two whole worlds before any of that comes into play.

NSMBU’s new regular power-up, is not just welcome, but necessary. Collecting an Acorn gives Mario (or his cohorts) a squirrel suit that, much like the Raccoon from Super Mario Bros 3 or the cape from Super Mario World grant the ability to gain extra airtime, drift through the air and hold on to walls, making some of the game’s especially tricky jumps a little easier. Yoshi, and more crucially Baby Yoshis return, with each type adding a new, fun ability.

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As I did on the Wii U’s of-screen Gamepad, I played Mario on the couch while the kids were watching the rubbish rubbish on Netflix. As it did on the Wii U, the game supports four player co-op, with you and your friends jumping in to the bouncy shoes of Mario, Luigi and Toad, who’re the regular difficulty characters. There are new playable characters in Toadette, who’s a little easier to play with and Nabbit, who’s designated as the “very easy” character. Toadette is the only one able to use the new Super Crown power up, which turns her into Princess Peach, able to do double jumps and float in the air. There’s no real extra content, though the excellent New Super Luigi U DLC from the original has been added in, and is available from the beginning. It remixes levels from the game but imposes a stricter time limit, making for some challenging platforming.

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If you’re a Mario veteran and don’t find the challenge up to snuff, Nintendo’s created a few supplementary game modes that’ll push even the most hardened platform junkie to his limits. The consummate professional can tackle the game’s challenge modes, which set specific goals for levels carefully crafted to make achieving those goals as difficult as possible. It’s joined by a repurposed, more intense Coin Rush from NSMB2. It puts a spin on forced scrolling levels. It ranks you on not just how quickly you complete level, but also by how many coins you manage to pick up; the trick here is that picking coins up also increases the speed, and when played in multiplayer it’s the most deliciously frantic fun.

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Very little has been added, but some of its best features have been taking away by necessity. The Miiverse integration that let you see hand-drawn posts from users all over the world, detailing their trials and tribulations are no longer there, and it’s a genuine pity. Another mode on the Wii U that let a tablet-using player add and remove platforms like an otherworldly god, to help and to hinder has also been yanked. It’s a mode I adored playing with my 5-person strong family, but the game now only lets 4 players join in the fun.

Last Updated: January 12, 2019

New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe
Despite the cut content, New Super Mario Bros Deluxe remains the most feature-packed, and dare I say fun 2D Mario game in decades. If you missed it on Wii U, own a Switch and love Mario, platformers, fun and just plain good games, there’s no reason not to get New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe. There's just no real reason for those who've played it already to get it again.
New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe was reviewed on Nintendo Switch
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