The Super Mario Run is full game features 24 levels spread out over 6 worlds in World Tour mode. The level designs are full of nostalgic elements which long-time Mario fans are sure to appreciate, but the difficulty level is way too low. That makes this a great game for kids, but any competent gamer should be able to beat the main game comfortably in a single afternoon. Each level also features three tiers of Challenge Coins to collect, which do ramp up in difficulty. But ultimately it’s just another way the game gets you to replay the same levels over and over (and over) again.
Control-wise, Super Mario Run was designed to be played with one hand, inspired by the idea of making it comfortable to play in crowded Japanese subway trains. As such, your controls are limited and dead simple: tap to jump. Meanwhile Mario will run across the screen automatically, vault over enemies and low obstacles until he runs into a wall or falls into a pit. This essentially renders most ground enemies harmless — another knock against the overall game difficulty.
On the positive side, the controls are easy to learn but tough to master right away, and things get slightly more interesting once you’ve unlocked new characters such as Yoshi and Princess Peach. Their special jump abilities certainly add a wrinkle to the standard gameplay along with some much-needed variety when playing Toad Rally.
Play, collect coins, repeat
The ‘multiplayer’ mode for Super Mario Run is where you’re likely to spend most of your play time. You race against ghost versions of other players, with the goal of impressing Toads and luring them to your kingdom. To win a Toad Rally, you must collect more coins than your opponent, while simultaneously completing skillful jumps to win over the Toad audience for bonus points.
Whether you love or hate the Toad Rally mode, you will need to play constantly it to collect different color Toads, which in turn allow you to level up and unlock new characters, mini-games, and decorations for your kingdom. Unfortunately, this means you’re also stuck replaying looped versions of the same levels over and over again, but for a different purpose this time.
It makes the ‘multiplayer’ mode feel more like an afterthought, and it’s akin to racing against a ghost car in Forza; Sure, there are two cars on the track, but there’s no interaction with your opponent whatsoever. Hell, there’s no way to even be certain the ghost character is even a recording of the player you’re supposedly racing against even. Considering the great way Nintendo added simultaneous multiplayer in the New Super Mario Bros. games for Wii, it’s more than a bit of a letdown.
To play Toad Rally, you also need to collect Toad Tickets — but you quickly learn that running out of tickets is never really an issue. It’s too easy to collect them throughout the game, whether you’re going back and collecting Challenge Coins in World Tour or winning them in mini-game huts in your kingdom. Once you’ve maxed out your Toad Ticket collection at 99, you really begin to question the point of including them at all.
In fact, it sort of feels like they were included in the game simply because Nintendo figured mobile games always have two types of in-game currency for players to collect. They’re common enough to be essentially valueless. Besides, I really don’t think there ought to be any limitations on gameplay in a $10 paid game.
For a company that’s known for innovating and taking risks, Nintendo played things really safe with Super Mario Run. Too safe. The game is only challenging when you’re specifically going after a challenge coin goal but otherwise it plays like a nerfed version of the Super Mario platforming fun we all grew up with. Boss Battles, which we’ve seen Nintendo showcase some great variety from in past Super Mario titles, are a huge letdown in Super Mario Run. Minor spoiler alert, but once you’ve played through the first two bosses you’ve essentially played them all. I imagine it’s mostly due to the controls limiting the developer’s options. Classic Super Mario games were always about skillfully controlling Mario; Super Mario Run is more about timing your jumps and little else.
This pains me to say, but I would almost be more inclined to recommend Super Mario Run if it were a free-to-play game that pressured you into in-app purchases. And I guess, in a way, it is just that. But there’s just no way, in my mind, that this game is worth spending $10 to play the same levels over and over (and over) again.
Should you check it out? Absolutely. You can download the app for free, play through the first few levels, check out Toad Rally mode, and add some decorations for your kingdom. And if you really fall in love with the gameplay and kingdom building aspects, you’ll enjoy everything else included in the full game. Otherwise, you’re bound to become bored due to the lack of variety and repetitive gameplay.
1. When in doubt, there is a tips page
Perhaps most incredibly of all, there’s actually a tips page with Super Mario Run itself. It’s totally buried and never mentioned, so many players will likely miss it completely. But if you tap the menu button in the bottom left, then enter your “notebook,” there’s a section called “tips and tricks” that has several useful hints that the game won’t otherwise tell you.
2. Expand the Mushroom Kingdom
The Mushroom Kingdom starts out small, but it’s actually possible to expand your Toad empire. Once you have enough red, green and blue Toads from progressing through the levels and winning in Toad Rally, you can use coins to buy the “Rainbow Bridge” item in the special section of the Build menu shop. These add screens to your Mushroom Kingdom, creating room for expansion.
3. Hammer the Thwomps
As you progress through Super Mario Run’s levels you’ll be given “hammers” but never told what to do with them. As it turns out, the hammers are a building tool, which you can use to remove the large stone Thwomp enemies crowding your Mushroom Kingdom. To use them, open the Build menu and tap the hammer icon in the bottom right.
4. Redeem mission rewards
Super Mario Run’s interface can be a muddled, making it hard to navigate when you’re not actually in a level. The game will occasionally show pop-ups saying you’ve accomplished certain objectives, but it never tells you where to redeem your rewards. Thankfully it’s easy once you know: Hit the “My Nintendo” button on the main menu, then the “Missions” tab along the top. You’re welcome.
5. Unlock more characters
You can unlock several extra characters to use in Super Mario Run, some of whom even have extra abilities (like Luigi’s higher jump or Yoshi’s flutter jump). The easiest to unlock is Toad; all you have to do is link your My Nintendo account within the app, then redeem the character from the game’s My Nintendo menu. Other characters will be unlocked as you play Toad Rally and build up your Mushroom Kingdom. Switch characters by tapping the character portrait icon in the bottom right after you select a level.
6. If you’re stuck, keep going
If you’re beating your head against a level trying to find a rare purple or black coin and you feel stuck, try something else. Super Mario Run’s levels are dense and well-designed; progressing through the levels or replaying an older one might reveal something new about the level you’re stuck on if you pay attention.
7. Bubble up
When Mario gets hit by an enemy or falls down a gap he floats backward in a bubble until you tap the screen to drop him back on land. Getting hurt generally isn’t a good thing, but sometimes it can be a boon, since you can use the bubble to your advantage: At any point in a level tap the bubble icon near the top of the screen to float backward and replay parts of the level without having to reset completely, correcting your path or grabbing coins you missed the first time. It feels like cheating, but it’s not.
8. Use red “pause” blocks
The red blocks on the ground in each level pause the timer and stop Mario in his tracks. Sometimes you want to avoid these by jumping over them to maintain momentum, but at other times you can use them to your advantage. In early levels they often let you stop just before the path splits so you can catch a glimpse of what’s ahead, while later levels let you use them to adjust your timing and avoid obstacles or hit moving platforms in just the right spot. Whether you choose to take your time or pass right by, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out when you see one.
9. Don’t always jump
Super Mario Run is the jazz of mobile runner games: sometimes it’s about the jumps you don’t jump. If you keep missing coins or falling into gaps and losing progress, try not jumping where you otherwise would and more paths will open up to you.
10. Use the “midair spin”
The most important move that Super Mario Run doesn’t tell you about is the “midair spin,” or helicopter jump. When you’re mid-jump you can tap the screen again to spin and gain just a tiny bit of extra air, which is often exactly what you need to reach a high-up coin or area, avoid a pesky enemy or grab that extra coin or two.