If you ask a group of gamers whether or not the New Super Mario Bros. games are worthy successors to the original 2D Mario titles, you’re practically guaranteed a number of different answers. Some like the colourful 2.5D graphics and modern Mario platforming condensed into a side-scrolling adventure while others abhor it for the stock music, easy difficulty and the fact that the games tend to have minimal differences between them. New Super Mario Bros. U released for the Wii U hopes to turn non-believers into believers and provide more of the same (albeit much higher quality) to fans of the series. Does it achieve these goals? Yes and no.

Predictably, New Super Mario Bros. U starts off with Bowser kidnapping Peach and Mario goes off to save her. New Super Mario Bros. U plays distinctly similar to previous games in the series with a familiar brand of 2D platforming. New additions include carrying baby Yoshis that have different abilities like lighting up dark areas and blowing up bubbles – a flying squirrel suit, and some old power-ups like the mini mushroom feature new abilities like granting the ability to run on walls.

The world map is reminiscent of Super Mario World in the sense that the levels are not confined to their own hub but are part of a larger world. The level design is the best in the series so far and the difficulty has been raised to the point that some of the later levels are quite difficult and finding all the coins and doing the special courses should have you playing for 15-20 hours.

Up to five players can play together, four controlling with Wiimotes and another using the Wii U’s signature gamepad to aid or hinder players by placing blocks and stunning enemies. Playing together with friends adds a new layer of intensity to the game and a good portion of the fun comes from using that gamepad to make life difficult for the other players.

There are two new modes, Challenge Play and Boost Rush to add some spice to the standard offerings. Challenge Play is a mode that adds specific challenges to each level like beating a level very fast. Boost Rush is a mode where the screen is scrolling automatically and your aim is to collect coins to make it scroll faster and ultimately finish the level as fast as possible. You are able to use your personal Mii avatars as characters in these modes and while I didn’t care for them, the arcade-style structure should appeal to completionists.

In terms of presentation, I find New Super Mario Bros. U rather inconsistent. While it looks great, its audio design is rather uninspired. The world map and some of the backgrounds are incredibly colourful and look gorgeous displayed in native 1080p. As expected, New Super Mario Bros. U runs at 60 frames per second which is absolutely necessary for a platformer like this one. But despite its appealing look, the art-style has become somewhat boring and dated at this point and I wish they would’ve changed it up for this iteration.

Simple and somewhat bland music has been a staple of this series since the first game’s release in 2005. The unadulterated platforming bliss contained herein deserves much better than tunes you’d probably hear in an elevator. The sound effects and background noises are typical Mario fare but classic sounds like coin sounds and the familiar sound of stomping on a goomba’s head are all here. Unfortunately, due to the Wii U’s nonexistent support for licensed forms of surround sound like Dolby TrueHD it’s tricky to make full use of the audio options available to hear all that New Super Mario Bros. U provides.

The Wii U’s signature tablet controller sees little use of its tablet-specific features in NSMBU but the ability for off-screen play is fantastic and I’m still amazed that I can play while someone else is using the TV. I hope more developers are considering making use of this currently underutilized feature with their titles in the future. It’s also worth noting that Nintendo is also planning to release DLC in the near future like new levels and the ability to play as Luigi.

New Super Mario Bros. U is a game that will not attract much of the “hardcore” gaming audience to the Wii U but it is a great launch title for the new system. If you dislike the New Super Mario Bros. games, chances are this one won’t persuade you to hop on the bandwagon but fans of both the series and great 2D platformers will be greeted with one of the most fun titles to emerge from the genre in recent memory and is quite possibly the best game in the series. But, as good as it is there are still some disappointing characteristics of the series that will likely continue to turn off those opposed to the series.

Nonetheless, fans of the series will definitely enjoy everything here even though it is just more of the same. Now that Nintendo has released two of these titles in the past six months, I can’t wait to see what they cook up for the next generation of 3D Mario games.

Final Score – 8/10

Original Upload Date: November 19, 2011

Nintendo’s 3DS did not have a very good start. Because of the high price and the lack of software and features, Nintendo’s newest handheld was not selling as expected, forcing them to lower the price in all regions and take heavy losses because of it. Gaming journalists and forum posters from around the internet were proclaiming Nintendo as a “doomed” company because of the low sales and the growing competition of the Vita and smartphones. However, 3DS sales have been rising in all regions and the system’s major titles are beginning to be released, starting with Super Mario 3D Land. Nintendo’s legendary mascot has finally arrived on the 3DS, and his game is the best 3DS game to date.

Super Mario 3D Land continues with the same formula that has made past Mario games great, but this time they fused both the 2D and 3D games together in one package. Although Mario still runs around in a semi-open world, many of the game mechanics from older games have replaced many of the mechanics from 3D Mario games. Instead of having a life bar, the original power-up system in the 2D games return. Also, the level selection screens from the original 2D games return as well as the time limits for each level. Classic power-ups like the fire flower and the Tanooki Suit return as well as some new suits like the boomerang suit and the propeller suit.

Nintendo did a great job in blending the 2D and 3D gameplay aspects of Mario games, but there are a few issues to take into consideration. In some levels, the camera will switch from a 3D perspective to the classic 2D landscape, however, the 3D movement is still in effect, meaning Mario can walk off platforms if the player nudges the circle pad either up or down. Also, unlike previous 3D Mario games, Mario cannot grab onto ledges. Although it is not an issue for most of the platforming in the game, there are a few moments where grabbing onto ledges would have helped in getting through the more difficult levels.

Like with most modern Nintendo games, there is a way for casual gamers to easily progress though the game. After dying five times in a level, the player is able to use a golden Tanooki Suit, which makes Mario invincible to everything except for lava and poisonous gas. After ten deaths, the player would be able to skip the level entirely and move on to the next stage. The game may appear extremely easy in the first few worlds, but it does get more difficult in the later levels, and these special power-ups are not available in later levels.

The graphics remain true to the Mario universe with its cartoon-ish art style and a vast array of colors. It looks similar to Super Mario Galaxy, but there are some flaws. Even in 2D mode, the lack of anti-aliasing is apparent with the abundance of jagged textures, but the game still looks as good as it’s console counterpart, making it one of the best-looking 3DS games to date.

I was excited to see how 3D would work for Mario, thinking it would be easier to calculate jumps by seeing depth. However, when I tried using the 3D, I was disappointed with what I saw. Although there are a few good effects, it really doesn’t add anything to the game. Because of the camera angles, the 3D only shows its potential when either climbing up platforms or falling down on them. It does not help when jumping onto even-leveled platforms since the camera angles in 3D Land are not similar to the ones in regular 3D Mario games.

3D Land features the same music and sound effects that we all know and loved for many years along with some new and remixed tracks. However, most of the music is reused in multiple levels to the point where it starts to become irritating. It’s a good nostalgia to hear the warp pipe theme from the first Super Mario Bros. game in a similar themed level, but once it keeps playing in multiple levels, it begins to get old and repetitive.

Even with these complaints, 3D Land still delivers with its gameplay and content. There are eight worlds to play (which has become standard in Mario games), each containing four to five levels as well as a boss stage. At first I thought that the game would be too short (a problem for a $40 handheld game), but 3D Land delivers with a ton of interesting levels to play. After completing the regular eight worlds, the “special” worlds are unlocked. Some are redesigns of their “regular” world counterparts while others are completely original. Some of the “special” levels add extra challenges, including racing against Shadow Mario and beating levels in 30 seconds, having to collect clocks or kill enemies in order to gain more time. Although the bosses are recycled, the amount of other content makes up for it, and there are still a ton of star coins to collect in each stage.

Overall, Super Mario 3D Land is a great Mario game and is one of the best games out for the 3DS. Even with the lackluster 3D and the repetition of bosses and music, the large amount of content contained in the game makes up for these faults. If you have a 3DS right now, you should definitely get this game.

Final Score – 9/10