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Super Mario Run (Mobile) Review

by Neal Ronaghan - December 18, 2016, 8:24 pm EST
Total comments: 13


Mario’s inaugural run onto mobile provides fun even in simplicity and brevity. UPDATE: Now with final score

Super Mario Run alternates between the novel, well-worn mechanics of a modern Mario platformer and the frantic, high-score-chasing just-one-more go nature of arcade (and mobile) games. The result is a tempered success that provides a grand dose of fun but ultimately feels like a muted side story in the Mario canon.

First off, the one-touch controls are subtly magnificent. With a focused, limited interaction, Nintendo managed to expertly replicate the joy of a Mario platformer in a whole new way. For example, the act of vaulting over enemies opens up a new dynamic where you often have to vault on enemies to get an extra boost to get to hard-to-reach areas. Mario feels precise and even if he can generally only run forward in one direction, it rarely feels limiting. One of the few issues is that, especially as you try to 100% it, levels require a lot of repetition and retries. For me, that problem went away as the levels in Mario Run started to feel more akin to rhythm game levels as I attempted to hit the jumps, enemies, and blocks at the perfect time. I’ve lost hours to trying to 100% this game and I’ve had a blast doing so.

The World Tour mode is what most closely resembles a Mario game, comprised of six worlds with four levels each. The worlds aren’t pinned down to represent specific elements, but throughout the 24 levels, classic Mario locales are shown off in the New Super Mario Bros. style. Exploration is a little lessened, especially since Mario always runs, but these levels shine in part due to the different colored coins you collect. In your first run, you’re after pink coins. Get all five of those, and you’ll unlock purple and then black coins. Each set encourages a different path through the level, and most level designs even feature a twist on the obstacles. A quick runthrough won’t take you long, but this mode has staying power because the purple and black coins become quite dastardly to snag.

World Tour doesn’t linger too long on one idea, and feels a lot like Nintendo’s original mobile vision of guiding players to play full-fledged Mario games come to life. It ends a little too quickly and the last world lacks the panache that has buoyed the finales of recent Mario platformers. The brilliant flair of this mode is found in the colored coin collection and the high-score-chasing component. The latter is heavily dependent on your friends list, which can be built up through your Twitter and Facebook friends as well as a shareable friend code. Unfortunately, despite comments from Nintendo saying otherwise, you can’t import your Miitomo friends into Mario Run.

The natural place to go after finishing World Tour is the Toad Rally mode, which might be the most important one in the game. It’s the focus of the more directly competitive element and the main method for earning Toads, which are tied to the unlockables and bonuses. You compete against the ghosts of other players to try to out-style them through modified levels pulled from select World Tour stages. Collecting coins, performing parkour, and stomping on enemies are the best method to proceed through each level. Toad Rally is fun in fleeting moments, made worse by the fact that it’s hard to judge if you or your opponent had a good run until the end. It makes it feel a little too random. Additionally, the punishment can be steep for a failed run and it’s surprisingly difficult to actually compete against your friends. Most of the time, you just get a random assortment of challengers.

Kingdom Builder is the third aspect of Mario Run and it doesn’t have too much going on. It’s a very passive experience that relies heavily on the charm of seeing random Toads rolling around the grass of your burgeoning castle grounds. The kingdom is expandable and can house a variety of pipes, buildings, and statues that add flair, secret characters, and more. As a bonus on top of World Tour and Toad Rally, Kingdom Builder is alright, but it’s very limited, mostly providing a nice interface to track unlockables.

Super Mario Run is fun and it seems to be perfectly representative of Nintendo’s mobile plans: provide a taste that potentially leads players to their consoles. This isn’t a grand, deep experience, but it has enough inventive twists on Mario platforming to remain fun for a few hours. The depth all depends on whether or not you can hardcore into colored coin collecting or deep into Toad Rally. For me, I didn’t get too into the latter. Mario Run is a fresh, novel take on the series for mobile devices, and even if it doesn’t totally stick the landing, it’s an engaging ride.


  • Controlling Mario with one hand is fun
  • Toads rolling around in fields
  • World Tour and its colored coins
  • Friends list woes
  • Toad Rally is disappointing
  • World Tour is very short


AdrockDecember 17, 2016

I wasn't particularly interested in Super Mario Run. Then, I remembered I'm hoarding My Nintendo coins for some reason and decided to try the game. Not bad for a mobile game. It gets the job done for what it's going for. Super Mario Run won't replace a traditional Mario platformer. Then again, it isn't trying to. It wants to be replaced by a traditional Mario platformer. This is the best kind of marketing for Nintendo, particularly a few short months before Switch launches. Recent rumors state Breath of the Wild won't make it for launch but that 3D Mario from the Switch teaser will. I wouldn't be surprised if that ends up coming to pass. There's no way that would be a coincidence.

Ian SaneDecember 17, 2016

Downloaded this today to try out the free-to-try portion.  I got an iPad Mini as a gift from my employer earlier this year.  Never been an Apple user before that so it's a nice bit of luck that I'm a position to try this.

I thought it was fun.  I don't think I'll buy it though.  I don't know if it's $14 Canadian good, particularly since I can go to the cheap bin at Wal-Mart and find meatier games for around the same price.  They're not portable of course but for me this isn't either.  Super Mario Run requires an internet connection and I don't have a data plan for my phone so the main appeal that this would have for me - being a phone game that doesn't suck that I can use as a good time waster when stuck waiting around for things - is gone.  I understood why Pokemon Go needed a data plan but this really shouldn't.

I figure though that any Mario fan with a device that can play this should give the trial a go.  Then you can decide if you feel the price is reasonable and aren't put off the always-online requirement.  I feel like Nintendo has really made a good effort to make a fun videogame within the restrictions of the mobile format.

I also got the demo downloaded and tried out the few levels.  I didn't particularly enjoy what I played.  I think the auto jump over ground enemies makes it too easy, and I don't feel compelled to try and collect all the special coins of each level.  I understand that's how Nintendo's providing the challenge, but collection based challenges aren't particularly fun to me.  Beyond that, most times I want to play phone games are on an airplane, which makes the $10 asking price a non-starter to me, personally.

That said, this is probably the best that 2D Mario has ever looked in a game.

MythtendoDecember 19, 2016

I am surprised that one of your Cons isn't the fact that apparently you have to have an Internet connection while playing it. I am interested in the game, but needing to have an Internet connection means I won't get it.

Quote from: Mythtendo

I am surprised that one of your Cons isn't the fact that apparently you have to have an Internet connection while playing it. I am interested in the game, but needing to have an Internet connection means I won't get it.

Reading his review, it's pretty clear he focused primarily on the gameplay experience itself, and less about some of the now pretty well known unsavory parts of the game ($10 unlock, internet access required for single player game).

Those things are less about the quality of a game, and more about exterior factors that may impact your personal purchase decision of a game.  I'm guessing Neal wanted to focus on the gameplay itself and let readers decide if always online of a $10 ask price is too much given his game impressions.

nickmitchDecember 19, 2016

I think the always online does impact the gameplay, seeing as it effects when and where you can play the game.  For instance, I like to use my phone riding the DC Metro.  I can't play this game when the train is underground.  For a mobile game, lacking that level of mobility is a pretty relevant factor for a review.  Contrast that to when a console game is "always online" because your console is meant to be stationary.

Quote from: nickmitch

I think the always online does impact the gameplay, seeing as it effects when and where you can play the game.  For instance, I like to use my phone riding the DC Metro.  I can't play this game when the train is underground.  For a mobile game, lacking that level of mobility is a pretty relevant factor for a review.  Contrast that to when a console game is "always online" because your console is meant to be stationary.

In the context of how Nintendo made the game, the always online stipulation is akin to requiring a battery to play the game.  They're being rightfully vilified for forcing that as a requirement to play the game, but it is impactful to your ability to play the game the same way running out of battery charge would.

nickmitchDecember 19, 2016

Not quite.  Needing electricity to power a game is a foregone conclusion.  This is more akin to needing sunlight to play Boktai.  I know it's not an absolute requirement in that case, but it does affect where and when you'll play the game.

MythtendoDecember 19, 2016

If a game doesn't NEED constant online play, then requiring it to be online is a big factor. There are plenty of situations where you might want to play the game but can't because of no internet connection (like nickmitch pointed out) or where you might not want to use up your data. So it's a valid complaint in a review (and one i've seen plenty of people point out). Long term it is also bad because it will render the game unplayable when the servers are shut down, which is unacceptable for a single player game.

I didn't say it's not a valid complaint to have, just simply that the reviewer in this case made a decision to focus on the gameplay solely.

I've mentioned this before, the always online connection requirement makes the game a non-starter for me.  It is a factor in the purchasing decision for me.  That said, the even bigger problem to me is that if I were to give the gameplay alone a review score, i'd be veering towards a 4 or 5.  Based on the gameplay of the first 3 levels you can try for free, it's just BORING.

What lolmonade said. I put like 10ish hours into Mario Run and the constant need for access only was a minor issue once. I totally get it being a non-starter for others. It wasn't for me.

rygarDecember 26, 2016

It's things like Mario Run's online requirement that make me somewhat incredulous about the amount of loyalty the company seems to inspire. I don't mean fans - they put out amazing products so it's easy to understand that - but brand loyalists who defend anti-consumer moves by Nintendo. The fact that Nintendo realeased a mobile game that costs $10 and can't be used in a subway, plane, or a building with cell interference, and built in a gratuitous self-destruct mechanism via a server shut down (whatever their reasons for requiring constant connectivity - it certainly wasn't in service to the consumer), but will still continue to push a line about the need to maintain value in games, demonstrates how ruthless they can be towards consumer interests. Nintendo's customers should be just as self-interested.

BlackNMild2k1December 26, 2016

so when does this release on Andriod?

I've got like $40 in Google Play money to spend, and nothing to spend it on. (Thanks Google Opinion Rewards.)

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Game Profile

Genre Action
Developer Nintendo

Worldwide Releases

na: Super Mario Run
Release Dec 15, 2016
jpn: Super Mario Run
Release Dec 15, 2016
RatingAll Ages
eu: Super Mario Run
Release Dec 15, 2016
aus: Super Mario Run
Release Dec 15, 2016

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