Review: New Super Mario Bros.

Developer: Nintendo EAD | Year: 2006 | List Price: ~$25 | Buy from Amazon

nsmbUp until very recently, I’d never beaten a Mario game. Shocking, right? It’s not that I never played them; in fact, I have lots of the NES games on Virtual Console, as well as all of the Super Mario Advance games. It’s just that the NES Mario games are really hard, and I just don’t have the platforming prowess to best them just yet. New Super Mario Bros. is actually the first Mario game I ever owned, though I hadn’t played it for a while. I read that it was a lot easier than other Mario games, so I decided to give it a revisit and beat it in only two days!

Upon its release in 2006, New Super Mario Bros. was the first 2D Mario in 14 years. Consequently, the game is as old as it is ‘new’. The game doesn’t introduce very much in the way of gameplay mechanics, but it reiterates upon mechanics seen in Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Mario World in a way that’s refreshing and fun.

The overall formula is the same as the Mario games of yesteryear. Princess Peach has been kidnapped once again by Bowser and it’s up to Mario and his brother Luigi to fight through eight worlds of platforming levels to get to her. Of course, the wonderful level design is back as well, and veterans won’t be disappointed with the numerous secret paths and exits to find. In fact, though there are eight worlds, I beat the game without figuring out how to access Worlds 4 and 7!

If you’ve played any other Mario game, you know how to play New Super Mario Bros. All the familiar jumping and collecting of power-ups is back. The standard Super Mushroom, Fire Flower, and Starman are back, and this installment introduces three new power-ups to the mix. The Blue Koopa Shell allows Mario to become a Koopa shell and ram himself into enemies, the Mega Mushroom makes Mario really big and invincible, and the Mini Mushroom allows Mario to enter small spaces, run on water, and jump higher.

Visually, this was the introduction of the 2.5D aesthetic that Mario games have continued to use to the present day with New Super Mario Bros. U. Instead of pixel art, everything is rendered in colourful polygons. Looking back nine years after the fact, it looks a little aged given the DS’ relative lack of processing power, but New Super Mario Bros. was a landmark in Mario history, bridging the gap between Mario’s 3D design and 2D gameplay.

The game’s soundtrack isn’t composed by the legendary Koji Kondo, but that’s not to say it’s bad. Rather, it’s a wonderful blend of new tracks and familiar tunes (do you sense a trend?). The themes are just as cheerful as Mario themes have always been, and the overworld theme in particular is an instant classic. I wouldn’t say this is the best Mario soundtrack of all time, but you’ll definitely want to play the game with the DS’ speakers turned right up.

Overall, New Super Mario Bros. is an excellent revival of classic Super Mario mechanics that had been largely unseen in the decade before its release. In recent times, the formula has started to become stale again, but New Super Mario Bros. will always be a landmark title in introducing the franchise to a new generation. The game is quite meaty for a Mario game (I beat it in just under 7 hours) and it’s quite easy to beat (you have unlimited continues, though I never once Game Over screen, since there are so many 1-UPs to find), so it’s an excellent entry to try if you’re looking to play a Mario game from start to finish.

Design: 9/10 The reintroduction of the classic Mario formula is an excellent experience. Though there aren’t a whole lot of new ideas, New Super Mario Bros. takes the player on a wonderful trip down platforming memory lane by revisiting old Mario mechanics.

Visuals: 9/10 The 2.5D aesthetic looks and feels great, and the overall colourful art style is pleasing. Flaws such as jagged edges and the like come from the DS’ underpowered hardware more than from the game itself. The fact that the art style introduced in this game is still used today is a testament to how well it works.

Sound: 10/10 The music definitely meets the high standard set by classic Mario games, and the large amount of tracks means it never feels repetitive. The tunes are catchy and will get stuck in your head for hours after you stop playing the game. Themes such as the Overworld and Castle themes already invoke a sense of nostalgia, and the game isn’t even a decade old yet!

Gameplay: 9/10 There’s a new physics system in this game, but it doesn’t change so much that Mario’s jumps don’t feel utterly intuitive. The levels are well-made, if a little on the easy side, at least until World 8 comes along. There are plenty of secrets to find and completionists will have a great time trying to find and complete all the optional and alternate levels.

Value: 9/10 Being a roughly 7+ hour adventure, New Super Mario Bros. is already lengthier than most of the classic Mario games. Add to that the replay value of finding all the collectibles and alternate levels, and the game is easily worth the 25 or so dollars you’d find it for used nowadays.

Total: 46/50 (B+)

List Price: ~$25 | Buy from Amazon

Have you played New Super Mario Bros.? How did you enjoy it? Tell us in the comments!

I’ve been going through a Mario craze for the first time in my life (better late then never!), and am currently slowly working my way through the GBA port of Super Mario World on the weekends when I’m not at camp. Because of basic training, gaming is slow going, but you’ll still be seeing content coming up in the weeks ahead.

Until next time, check out the rest of our video-game related articles and reviews!

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