Super Mario Run is based on Mario's famous world, with the protagonist running automatically and the player who has to touch the screen to make jumps and moves, with a partial control of the protagonist. The goal is to reach the end of the levels and collect coins.
Super Mario Run has been downloaded almost 80 million times on iOS devices, but with the release of the Android version, the Nintendo mobile game numbers have obviously grown: according to Japanese reporter Takashi Mochizuki, the 150 million download Approaching great steps. A great achievement for Mario's first smartphone and tablet adventure, although the 10% purchase target for the full 9.99 euro has not yet been reached.
One of the most unusual twists on the Mario formula is the verticality: compared with past Mario adventures, more levels build upwards for Mario to zig-zag across the screen. In Super Mario Run you hold your phone in portrait mode — allowing you to play the game one-handed — and it often feels more like you’re climbing a tower than skipping across the long, open spaces of classic 2D Mario games. The haunted house stages are a particular highlight, maze-like structures that send you up and down and up again in search of the exit.
Super Mario Run´s main mode, called “world tour,” features 24 levels spread across six worlds. I managed to get through the collection in under two hours, so don’t go in expecting a lengthy campaign comparable to Super Mario World and its ilk. Long-term enjoyment of Super Mario Run will hinge on a tolerance for playing through the same levels many, many times. Each stage is designed to be replayed, drawn with multiple paths to explore, and littered with “challenge coins” that get progressively trickier to find. A secondary “toad rush” mode has you compete with friends asynchronously — so don’t plan on realtime multiplayer sessions — to complete the same levels in pursuit of the highest possible score. All of these modes and features encourage different play styles.
Super Mario Run´s architecture is varied, from Super Mario Bros. 3-style airships to castles filled with fireballs and saw blades. And six different characters, each with a unique feel, can be unlocked. Still, there’s a lot of repetition here. As well-designed as the 24 stages are, I found myself wishing for new places to explore just a few hours after I started. The “toad rush” mode feels particularly unfulfilling when it comes to repetition. While it’s fine comparing scores with friends, I mostly played to grind for currency to use in the game’s kingdom building mode, a relatively simple city-building feature where you can place decorations and structures to create your own customized version of the Mushroom Kingdom.
At its best, Super Mario Run evokes feel of 2D Mario games, but it is not one of those games. It’s a one-button mobile game, an inescapable fact in the boss fights that are more tedious than fun, burdened by such limited controls. Meanwhile, tweaks like Mario’s automatic vaulting over enemies will take a lot of getting used to for Mario veterans. I still haven’t.
On a technical level, Super Mario Run is also saddled with some of the worst aspects of mobile gaming. Unlocking content like new characters is a slog — though not a costly one, as there are no in-app purchases aside from a one-time purchase fee of $9.99. And the “always-online” requirement means that if your data connection or Wi-Fi gets wonky, the game will pause and not let you continue until the signal is stronger, which makes the game all-but-unplayable in a lot of places like airplanes or subways.