Release Date: January 11, 2019Platform: SwitchDeveloper: NintendoPublisher: NintendoGenre: Platformer
The latest Wii U game to get a second chance on the Switch is New Super Mario Bros. U, a well-regarded 2012 launch title that far too few people had the opportunity to play on Nintendo’s ill-fated tablet console. Luckily, the Switch has given the game a new lease on life and it’s to our delight.
New Super Mario Bros. U doesn’t stray far from the classic Mario formula. Levels, enemies, and even music are liberally borrowed from Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, but with a fresh coat of HD paint and the addition of simultaneous four-player co-op. That so much of what’s here is based on previous Mario games isn’t a bad thing. Spitting out shells while riding Yoshi and making your way through a tricky lava-filled castle to face a Koopaling never get old, but the level design and power-ups here never quite reach the same heights as the old 2D Mario games.
The original New Super Mario Bros. U and its expansion, New Super Luigi U, are here largely intact with two big additions: playable characters Toadette and Nabbit. Toadette is the game’s “easier” mode. She stops and turns on a dime, controls better on ice, and naturally swims like she’s wearing a penguin suit. She can also grab the game’s new Super Crown item, which turns her into Peachette, basically the super floaty version of Peach we all know and love from Super Mario Bros. 2.
Nabbit was previously playable in New Super Luigi U, but here he’s available throughout the entire game as the ridiculously easy mode. Nabbit can’t pick up power-ups, but he’s completely invincible to everything but pits. If you just want to breeze through the game in a couple hours (or play co-op with an extremely young child), Nabbit is the way to go.
While New Super Mario Bros. U does have some challenging levels, it’s not exactly Dark Souls when it comes to difficulty. It’s a game that’s easily beaten in a weekend with a little perseverance. Outside of letting inexperienced players join in with Toadette and Nabbit or grabbing a particularly difficult star coin, there’s little reason to spend much time with them. The real difficulty spike comes from New Super Luigi U, with its redesigned levels, 100-second time limits, and looser controls. It’s an expansion best saved for after the main game and more experienced players.
Still, New Super Luigi never quite lives up to its source material, filling an odd niche where it’s too similar to the base game to please those looking for a new experience, yet just different enough to turn off those who want more Mario. I wasn’t a huge fan of the expansion when it came out, and this port hasn’t really changed my mind.
Probably the best thing about New Super Mario Bros. U on the Switch is that at long last it’s finally playable anywhere, thanks to the console’s handheld capabilities. The Wii U always felt like it was on the cusp of portable greatness until you tried to take its tablet controller to the other room and realized just how limited it was. Now, I can finally play New Super Mario Bros. U on the train or while staying overnight at a hotel, and with its short levels and pick-up and play nature, this feels like the version of the game we should have had to begin with.
Chris Freiberg is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.