Super Mario Run Review – Run Away

I’m going to despise writing all of this.

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Format: iOS (reviewed)
Released: December 15, 2016
Full copy purchased

Whatever one may think of Super Mario Run (and let’s get this out of the way now – I’m not impressed), it’s a landmark title marking the Mario series’ debut on iOS devices. While not Nintendo’s first foray into the mobile gaming market, it represents the first time one of the company’s historic brands has appeared with what we could charitably call a full-fledged game.

Important it may be, but it’s not exactly great.

I’m a fan of the “endless runner” genre but Nintendo’s tepid take on the idea, focusing more on repetitive social challenges than engaging content, doesn’t do enough to keep me hooked. What’s more, it’s nowhere near worth the ten dollar asking price that it unveils after several stages of masquerading as a free-to-play game.

Like most “runner” games, chirping plumber Mario automatically moves through each stage and the player taps to make him jump. The longer a finger’s held down, the higher he jumps, and tapping again while in mid-air allows him to get a little boost from a spin-move.

Rather than directly take damage from enemies, Mario autonomously hops over them, but a quick tap of the screen lets him stomp them for extra coins. This doesn’t mean Koopa Troopers and Goombas aren’t dangerous – Mario only vaults them if he’s had a bit of time to start running, so badly timed jumps might land him in trouble.

Mushrooms negate damage as one might expect, though taking a hit without the obligatory power-up doesn’t mean instant death. Instead, Mario loses some collected coins and is shunted back a little ways, undoing progress and making each level’s strict timer more of a threat. When playing a course in Tour mode (the campaign, ostensibly), this can happen only twice before death is final and the level needs restarting.

Tour mode offers six worlds with four stages as Mario encounters the usual foes and works to save Princess Peach from Bowser once again. Courses themselves aren’t particularly lengthy or challenging, and you’ll pretty much have the “story” completed within the hour if you cared to blast through it in a single go.

Replay value is contrived with special colored coins that unlock extra courses, encouraging players to return to completed levels and grab anything they missed. There are also other characters to unlock, though many of them trade-off the ability to use mushrooms for some additional jumping ability – an ability that’s not good enough to make up for the loss of the mushroom’s advantages.

Anything discussed already is fluff because the real core of Super Mario Run is Toad Rally.

Everything in this game is built to support Toad Rally, a quasi-competitive game about collecting Toads and building things. This is where Nintendo put all its attention and it shows in just how brief the more traditional mode is.

Sadly, priorities were clearly misplaced.

By spending tickets – earned in bonus games and offered as login rewards – players can take on Toad Rally courses, which are randomized “remix” versions of the stages found in Tour mode. The big twist is that recorded gameplay of another player’s run will appear as a “ghost” in the stage while the game tallies up the amount of coins they’ve accrued.

The point of Toad Rally is to pick up more coins than the player you’ve been pitted against. There are no lives to be lost, but every time you take a hit you’ll lose coins and precious seconds of progress, giving your ghostly opponent the advantage.

If you can keep collecting coins without taking too many hits you’ll enter Coin Rush and be able to nab the many additional doubloons that spew out into the stage. Invincibility Stars are also hidden in Toad Rally stages, granting not just invulnerability but a free Coin Rush as well. Should you perform particularly well, Toads will cheer you on and may grant bonus coins at the end.

Honestly? I hate writing about this game.

Winners of a Toad Rally course will acquire Toads, growing a populous of fungus-faced friends that can be used to build a personalized Mushroom Kingdom. The more Toads acquired, the higher the Kingdom’s level grows and the more things players can put in it.

When players have the requisite number and color of Toads, they’ll be able to place buildings on a map. Some of these buildings are purely decorative, while others allow bonus games to be played for extra coins and tickets.

Seriously, describing this game is like torture. I hate writing about it, and I realize fully that my displeasure is accurately reflected in the quality of this review.

Anyway, onto the real kicker of this game – Toad Rally not only costs tickets, but potentially Toads. Losing a Toad Rally course will cause a number of previously collected Toads to be lost – only a handful, but enough to make the early goings of the game really annoying at times.

There’s no real way of knowing how well an opponent will perform in a stage ahead of time – Super Mario Run only shows their username and the amount of Toads they’ve earned overall. Additionally, you don’t get to choose the course – a list will be offered to you, and if only one of the stages on that list has the purple or green Toads you need, you’re at Nintendo’s random mercy.

Winning Toad Rally is satisfying enough, but losing is more than frustrating – it can feel like an active waste of time. If you’re trying to get a certain type of Toad to unlock a desirable building but have a run of bad luck, you’ll be made to sit and watch as you only slip further away from your goal.

More than that, however, the need to replay the same old levels in order to get more Toads turns into a boring grind at a rapid pace. I was over the whole process on the game’s launch day, and I’ve not felt particularly compelled to continue beyond that. I’ve dipped back in, but I’m doing so out of some grim sense of obligation rather than a genuine desire to play.

The idea of building a Mushroom Kingdom and unlocking inhabitants via gameplay is great, but I’d rather have seen it as its own full production. As a tacked-on way of extending Super Mario Run‘s lifespan, it’s ill-conceived and frankly offputting in its current incarnation.

Super Mario Run would have been better if it had committed to a single idea. Instead, we’ve got a lacking runner game melded to a half-baked city builder that relies on repetition and artificial setbacks in order to pad itself out. With a premium cost – as well as a data-hogging always-online requirement – this is a game that’s worth neither the time nor the money it’s demanding.

I was really excited about Super Mario Run before it launched, but it’s just not got enough going on to earn its keep. Like Miitomo, this is yet another promising mobile effort from Nintendo that gets old fast and just can’t justify any investment on the part of the audience.

I despised writing all of this.

5/10
Mediocre

Polishfury5000
Guest
Polishfury5000

Mediocre? Sounds more like Mariocre!

I’ll see myself out…

09philj
Guest
09philj

Super Mario Run’s core mechanic is good. If it was a little cheaper and had more conventional platforming challenges, it would be an excellent mobile runner. As is, it’s an overpriced mess.

Qui-mono
Guest
Qui-mono

There is a better version of this game. It’s called rayman adventures or rayman party. It also run automatically but you are able to control the character in any direction and there is a lot stuff to do in each level. There is more content. And you can spend more days playing it until you are sick of. It suprise me that Nintendo delivered a very shallow game about Mario. Rayman mobile may not be the best but at least it’s more fun.

SilentPony
Guest
SilentPony

$10?! Fuck me! That’s a Fallout 4 expansion! Fuck that!

Lewis w
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Lewis w

I assumed there would be some boiling piss in the comments section, but obviously not. Not yet, at least.

greyXstar
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greyXstar

With the way Nintendo has handled amiibo, the NES Classic and their mobile games this year, I’m a ton less hopeful for the Switch. They needed new people in charge years ago.

Ron Baron
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Ron Baron

This sounds like about what I expected. Too bad.

Scott John Harrison
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Scott John Harrison

When this game was announced I was excited because I really liked Rayman Jungle Run/Rayman Feasta Run – but actually playing it – It is frustrating like you said – The Coin challenges in Tour mode (And there are three sets of 5 coins to collect, Pink, Purple, Black.) is a task of “I missed the coin – intentionally die. repeat. retry”. The fact objects in the Kingdom builder are locked behind Toads makes getting them – including Limited time Objects added today makes me annoyed. They want me to play hours of the game a day and not five… Read more »

InShortSight
Guest
InShortSight

“you’ll pretty much have the “story” completed within the hour if you cared to blast through it in a single go” This bit though, it’s a 2D mario game, a cheaply made one at that, and those are already cheap for Nintendo. Even the proper 2D mario games have relatively short main campaigns, but the long term draw to them is completion, like champions road in 3D world, and here this fat lovely man doesn’t even sound like he collected all of the easy level pink coins! “You can beat it in an hour” ignores the fact that the levels… Read more »

BAH!
Guest
BAH!

It’s funny you should score it a 5, because that’s exactly what I felt would be a good price. Though apparently plenty of people disagree, what with the $5M the game’s supposedly made.

Snatch Gaming
Guest
Snatch Gaming

You have to be a completionist or be big into high scores to like this one I think (aside from the obvious: being a huge Nintendo fan). I didn’t feel the need to spend the $10 given I’d probably play each course once and never again.

The leveling of your castle made me groan. “Your castle has reached level 3!”. What the hell does that even mean and why should I care? Seems like this was padded out with things like that in order to justify a high price tag.

Iftekhar Ahmed
Guest
Iftekhar Ahmed

You should review Kingdom Hearts Unchained X if you’re willing to go into the foray of mobile gaming!

Killer Gnomestar
Guest
Killer Gnomestar

another great review by #1 Boglin boy

Watchmedance
Guest
Watchmedance

I have to admit, besides not actually being able to play this since I will never own an Apple device again, I still likely won’t be playing it since it costs $10. Combine that with the limited controls and the online connection requirement, and you have the recipe for what sounds like a waste of time to me.

Anton
Guest
Anton

What a shill review… for the clicks…. bet you don’t even like videogames, you SJW…. ah fuck it I don’t have the energy.

Brad Fang
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Brad Fang

The success of this, Pokemon Go, the NES Classic, and amiibo worries me. I wonder how Nintendo will be informed by little effort, high return game design. I hope they hold back from artificially inflating demand (and prices) with short-stocking. I dunno. The Switch sounds fine, but if Nintendo takes the wrong lesson from their recent successes, it will be gimped out of the gate.

goodbyejojo
Guest
goodbyejojo

more like super mediocre run so far for nintendo, amrite?

CaitSeith
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CaitSeith

No MTs?

steve2911
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steve2911

I feel like I’ve disagreed with Jim in a major on the majority of games I’ve played this year. So I’ll definitely be giving this a look.

Jumwa
Guest

Rarely do I find myself disagreeing with Jim, but I love and still play Miitomo, getting a kick out of my friends and I’s antics. And this one sounds great too. I love runners that don’t bog themselves down in too many antics.

Common Sense
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Common Sense

Think they should have went the freemium way.. of course they can always add on, but as I write this the game is very underwhelming.

Pax
Guest
Pax

Clearly you’re not a fan of the game, but I don’t understand what it is about writing the review in particular that you despised so much. Bad frame of mind during the writing? So little to talk about there wasn’t room for creativity? I’m honestly curious.

Zejgar
Guest
Zejgar

Very intriguing reading this review and Jim’s Sonic Runners review back-to-back.

bartimaeuso
Guest
bartimaeuso

So it is just as good as Dishonored 2.

Bionichute
Guest
Bionichute

mediocre fucking mario!!!

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