Editor's note: I've played Super Mario Run on several devices, including the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPad Mini 4, and 12.9" iPad Pro. However, the majority of my experience has been on an iPhone 6S running iOS 10.2.
Earlier this year, Nintendo dipped its corporate toes into smartphone gaming with Miitomo, a social game derivative of products like 2013's Tomodachi Life on the 3DS. Miitomo managed to capture the world's attention for a small time, but ultimately proved to be a mile wide and an inch deep, and failed in retaining a mainstream audience. Just 9 months later, the Big N has followed up by bringing its biggest character to smartphones and tablets, but how does Mario fair on mobile?
Super Mario Run, to say the least, is a title worthy of gaming's favorite plumber. The auto-runner launched on December 15th on iOS devices, and will come to Android devices in 2017. Like Miitomo, Super Mario Run's development was led by some of Nintendo's most celebrated creatives, with Takashi Tezuka serving as Director and series' creator Shigeru Miyamoto returning as Producer and taking his most active role in the series since 2007's Super Mario Galaxy.
Despite borrowing an art style from the New Super Mario Bros. games, Mario Run employs an actively new set of gameplay mechanics. Mario (or other characters that can be unlocked over time) will begin a stage by continuously moving to the right side of the screen. Players tap the screen to make Mario jump, using longer or shorter presses to control the height of the jump, just as it's been since 1985. Techniques like wall-jumping and midair spins also make a return, but players will quickly learn to take advantage of new moves like vaulting and landing rolls to get through levels most efficiently.
Ostensibly, the game is played in 3 distinct modes that interconnect in a few keys ways. Tour Mode essentially follows the same progression as a classic Mario game, while Toad Rally pits players against both friends and strangers in a timed race to collect the most coins and perform the more impressive run. Kingdom Builder takes coins and citizens earned in the previously-mentioned modes and allows players to customize their own kingdom with various objects. Additionally, the game can access My Nintendo to complete missions with the game and unlock rewards (like Toad as a playable character just by linking your account!), and features a Friends List that can be linked to Facebook and Twitter to find your real-life friends easily.
Tour Mode is probably the most likely to entice buyers, and features 6 worlds with 4 levels each. Unlike my experience with other auto-running games, these levels feel meticulously designed for a fun, unique experience with every attempt. Several tropes of level design return, from airships to ghost houses, but feel fresh under the new gameplay style. Completing a world will unlock those levels for play in Toad Rally. Additionally, each level consists of 5 special coins to collect, and these come in 3 configurations of increasing difficulty. Personally, I've made it through each level already, but keep coming back to complete the the harder coin challenges.
Toad Rally uses Rally Tickets that can be collected in numerous ways, and allows the user to challenge another player head-to-head. With 60 seconds on the clock, you'll race your way through an infinitely-scrolling, collecting coins and completely trick-jumps to impress the most fans, in the form of Toads. As you earn more Toads (that come in 5 different colors), you'll unlock the ability to buy new items and structures for your kingdom. Surprisingly, I find myself playing this mode far more than I thought I would before purchase!
Kingdom Builder features some fun unlockables that have an effect on gameplay. While most decorations are purely visual, others feature minigames that can net prizes, and others unlock specific characters for use in the other two modes. This mode is alright, but ultimately feels like a means to pace progression.
Announced on stage at Apple's annual iPhone event in September, the game represents a willingness to bring Nintendo's biggest franchises to the most popular platforms around the world. In a lot of ways, Super Mario Run does things differently. I personally found the price point fair for the amount of content, but the $9.99 evaluation is higher than most games on the App Store, and will probably scare away potential buyers. That said, I would highly recommend Nintendo's latest in the mobile space, and eagerly await both Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing in the coming months! Enjoy!