(Wii U)

Game Review

New Super Mario Bros. U Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Damien McFerran

High definition hijinks

New Super Mario Bros. U marks the first time that a brand new Mario game has accompanied a Nintendo hardware launch since the days of the N64, and consequently places an inordinate amount of pressure and expectation on its high-definition shoulders. It’s perhaps not what hardcore fans wanted; following so closely on the heels of New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 3DS, there’s an understandable reluctance from some sectors of Nintendo fandom to enter a 2D world again - especially when the Wii U provides the perfect platform for something that can be as technically stunning as Super Mario Galaxy was on the Wii.

For now though, New Super Mario Bros. U is what we’ve been given, and only the most cold-hearted player could feel short-changed by what is on offer here. Yes, it’s a continuation of the New Super Mario Bros. series and as such gives very little room for grand experimentation or truly innovative ideas, but that’s not really the point; Nintendo has taken the genre which it arguably popularised - the 2D platformer - and refined it almost to breaking point. What we’re left with is arguably the cream of the Wii U launch crop.

Moving past such supplementary concerns such as storyline and characterisation - surely you know the drill by now, Mario fans - the first thing which hits you in New Super Mario Bros. U is the long-overdue resurrection of the famous world map system, made famous by the seminal Super Mario World. Featuring branching levels, multiple exits and optional secret zones, this arrangement adds immeasurably to the overall experience, making you wonder why it has taken Nintendo so long to reinstate it.

The world map itself is impressively proportioned, offering several distinct zones which permit Nintendo’s talented artists and designers to truly run riot. You’ll dash across gorgeous plains, swim into underwater caverns, venture through poison-filled jungles and negotiate dessert-filled deserts (yes, you read that right). By mixing together such an extravagant number of thematic concepts the developers could have quite easily unbalanced the game and made it appear disjointed, jarring even - but this is, after all, Nintendo. While the levels all boast a unique atmosphere, they nevertheless form together in a cohesive whole, complementing rather than clashing with one another.

While the level designs may appear fresh and engaging, there’s less progress being made elsewhere. The only new power-up is the Super Acorn, which grants the Flying Squirrel costume - handy for arresting your fall and performing last-minute leaps onto high platforms. A powered-up variant is also on offer which bestows the power of unlimited flight for a single stage; this is obtained by chasing down a dumpy little thief called Nabbit, who occasionally pops up to raid the nearest Toad house before dashing to a previously completed level. Entering that level and capturing Nabbit will not only restore Toad's treasures, but also earn you that desirable P-Acorn to use whenever you see fit. Other power-ups make a return from previous New Super Mario Bros. games, including the Ice Flower, Mini-Mushroom and Penguin Suit - and the fact that you never really crave any further additions to the repertoire indicates that Mario’s arsenal is as developed and robust as it needs to be - at least in the 2D realm.

Where New Super Mario Bros. U really experiments is in its use of the Wii U’s unique capabilities. When you’re playing solo, the potential may pass you by; all that the GamePad does in single-player is act as a mirrored screen, meaning you can play the game even when someone else is using the television. The sheer convenience of this can’t and shouldn't be understated - several times during our review we marvelled at the fact that we could move into the adjacent room and continue the game - but it’s not the controller’s greatest trick by any means. That is reserved for multiplayer.

When playing with more than one person, control is restricted to the Wii Remotes, held horizontally in true New Super Mario Bros. Wii fashion. As such, the four-player antics are just as chaotic and blissfully entertaining as they were on Wii; while additional players can make it easier to get past certain tricky levels (when someone dies, they revive as long as people are still playing, which avoids having to restart the stage), they can also prove to be a hindrance - especially when you’ve got four characters on-screen, bumping into one another and generally scrabbling for power-ups and coinage. Veterans of the Wii version will be familiar with this delicious sense of anarchy, but the Wii U edition adds another layer in the form of Boost Mode.

Boost Mode is how the GamePad manifests itself in the New Super Mario Bros. U multiplayer experience. The four Wii Remote-based players (assuming the roles of Mario, Luigi or two Toads) continue to fight their merry way through each stage, but the player with the GamePad has no on-screen avatar to speak of; instead, they play some kind of platform gaming deity, capable of hurling out blocks and interfering with enemies. The potential of this component should be immediately obvious to seasoned players; you can literally make or break the game, helping out your friends with well-placed blocks and walling up incoming threats.

However, while there’s a benevolent side to your personality, the twisted, spiteful side is given ample opportunity to spring forth. Just as light-hearted co-op games between the four main players can quickly degenerate into competitive slug-fests when special items or extra lives are up for grabs, it’s striking how swiftly your attitude can turn when the power of the GamePad goes to your head. You can perform some genuinely nasty tricks on the other players using the touch screen, all of which makes social play with New Super Mario Bros. U even more appealing. Retro fans will no doubt recall the landmark moment in Sega’s Golden Axe when they became aware that they could harm their fellow player - that spark of realisation is even more dramatic here.

Given New Super Mario Bros. U’s saccharine appearance - which is accentuated by the gorgeous HD visuals - it’s perhaps unsurprising that many new Wii U owners will take one look at the cute cover art and opt for something a little more mature, like Call of Duty: Black Ops II or ZombiU. However, under the cuddly exterior lies one of the most challenging games we’ve witnessed all year; in this particular adventure, Mario’s gloves are well and truly off.

We consider ourselves to be fairly seasoned Mario veterans here at Nintendo Life; we cut our teeth on the NES instalments, found all the exits in Super Mario World and played Super Mario 64 to death. However, New Super Mario Bros. U takes the challenge to an entirely new level, ramping up the difficulty early on and maintaining intense pressure on the player. Many levels require absolute accuracy and total concentration, forcing you to time each jump to perfection, memorise patterns and display lightning-fast reflexes. Newcomers will find it hard going, but thankfully the Super Guide system makes a welcome return, offering the chance to watch a computer-controlled Luigi complete the level on your behalf. You can interrupt and assume control at any time, however.

Once you do manage to complete the story campaign then the fun isn't entirely over - additional modes have been included to keep you coming back for repeat visits. The Challenge mode - which allows you to play as your Mii - contains a selection of goal-based tasks such as participating in time attack level runs, collecting a number of coins, stomping on the heads of several enemies without landing on the floor and dodging incoming fireballs for a certain amount of time. There’s also Coin Battle to consider, which is a competitive spin on New Super Mario Bros. 2’s Coin Rush.

Before we finish up here, we really should mention those lush visuals. Seeing Mario in HD for the first time is a rather humbling experience, and one which fans have perhaps been made to wait too long for. A universe which was already beautiful in standard definition is now given fresh scope and complexity; it’s possible to ascertain subtle details such as textures on parts of the landscape, and the majestic vistas which accompany some of the stages are so impressive that you almost wish you were playing with a 3DS-style autostereoscopic display, to lend them even more depth.

Other incidental effects - such as the glow of lava and the subtle shimmer of the underwater stages - round off what is a particularly assured debut for Mario on the Wii U. Predictably, the game is slightly less impressive when viewed on the GamePad’s screen; the lower resolution robs the graphics of some of their detail, and you have to contend with jaggy edges whenever the colour red is used - an unfortunate side-effect of the compression used when wirelessly streaming the image from console to controller.


If you load up New Super Mario Bros. U with the expectation of playing another genre-defying escapade like Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy, then you’re likely to be disappointed. Mario’s first game for the Wii U plays it safe when it comes to theme and concept; like previous titles in the ‘New’ series, this is essentially a rehash of the blueprint laid down by the very first Super Mario Bros. back in 1985. The mechanics remain the same, but they have been gilded by decades of subtle refinements and enhancements, leading us to what has to be one of the most accomplished 2D platformers ever created. New Super Mario Bros. U may not offer the cataclysmic genre shift that many badly crave, but it’s the gem of the Wii U launch lineup and a must-have purchase.

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User Comments (80)



Chunky_Droid said:

I always knew it'd be really 'Old' Super Mario Bros. U. But I have to say that's not a bad thing in my books.

I don't see Halo, COD or Elder Scrolls really changing the genre either



fullyilly said:

There is nothing wrong with refining what's great. Football has been football since forever, be it with a tin can or a premium ball. Car racing has been car racing whether it be banger racing or F1. So console games don't need to change the mould every time to still entertain and be loved.



fullyilly said:

And may I just add that this review 'may' have just tipped the balance on me buying a WiiU tomorrow...damn you McFerran!



Ferethor said:

It was either this or Assassins Creed 3 for me, but Mari is a lot more fun, will be getting this asap ^_^



timp29 said:

As great as this sounds, I feel like I've hit mario saturation point.



MAB said:

I'm going the ZombiU for single player and BLOPS2 for multiplayer route



Mollutje said:

Throwin' me a Wii U party next week (if everything goes according to plan), so I bet this and Nintendo Land should be enough to keep me and my pals entertained. I'm curious about the difficulty level though. They had some serious trouble with the later stages of NSMBWii, so I wonder if we'll even get through this one in multiplayer.



hiptanaka said:

I'm getting this. I just hope the level design gets more complex later in the game (compared to the screenshots above).



StarDust4Ever said:

Great review. I am so glad they went back to an expansive overworld universe like Super Mario World. Can't wait to tear into this game come Christmas time!



Taceus said:

Haven't played a 2D Mario since SMW so I'll be getting this no hesitation. Can't wait.



Fuzzy said:

Playing through NSMB2 at the moment, and I think I'm over 2D Mario for the moment.



koopa_Trooper79 said:

Finally Nintendo going HD....its a long time comming, the last Nintendo product I bought was the Gamecube and was quite disapointed with it. I never bought a Wii as the graphics were shocking and put me off from buying......I love Nintendo and what they come up with, I cant wait to play Super Mario Bros U and return to my childhood......added bonus of finally being able to play Mario Galaxy and its sequal...............Come on TNT Hurry up with my Wii U



SammyOfMobius said:

New Super Mario Bros. Wii: 10/10
New Super Mario Bros. U: 9/10
Oh well good review anyways, but I think you guys need to go back and change NMBW's score because it innovated even less than this game did.



NintyMan said:

Good review here. New Super Mario Bros. U is not only my favorite NSMB game, but one of my favorite Mario games now. Not only are the HD visuals pretty, but the classic Mario platform gameplay is top-notch and the levels are designed very well. The boss fights are more creative and fun, and the Challenge Mode is a nice, hard way to keep on playing. It's a winner in my book.



Emaan said:

I knew this would be a great game, it's clearly the best NSMB yet and best 2D Mario game since Super Mario World. Well done Nintendo! I can't wait until I get this for Christmas!



Damo said:

@MultiMariosonic A review should be taken in the context of when it was written. Going back and retrospectively changing review scores on games that are now several years old isn't something you'll find many sites doing.

And actually, NSMB Wii was quite innovative as it introduced the multiplayer mode.



Schprocket said:

@MadAussieBloke Haven't worked out what credit I'll get from EB yet but if all the Wii U is getting as a bonus for BLOPS2 is the tin cover, I'd rather pay the discounted price for the placky cover and get ZombiU.... or.... NSMBU... or... another controller.... with the balance.



Whopper744 said:

Great score. Even though it's not much extremely revolutionary, it is truly a great game.



RevolverLink said:

I wish more levels in the NSMB series had the visual ambition of the Van Gogh-inspired stage. I could stare at backgrounds like that for hours.



SteveW said:

More changes would have been nice, feels like I'm playing the last couple of 2D Mario games once again...



FonistofCruxis said:

This definitely looks like the best NSMB game and easily looks like the best Wii U launch game, this would be my game of choice if I was getting a Wii U soon.



AmishThunder said:

Great review, couldn't have said it any better myself, which is probably why I don't write for a website.



ClassicJetterz said:

In my opinion, this is the best of the series because it appears actual effort was put into level designs and the separate challenges.

Multiplayer is frantic as well.



gefflt said:

"Once you do manage to complete the story campaign then the fun isn't entirely over - additional modes have been included to keep you coming back for repeat visits."

Are these extra modes unlocked once you finish story mode or are they available from the start?



Ryno said:

Nice to know the challenge has been increased. Looking forward to playing this after Christmas.



Ren said:

hmm, I thought I'd never tire of the classic Mario formula, and it does look like a blast but... I just can't get excited about this. I feel like I've played it before.. a lot. Looks like a cleaned up Super Mario World.
That's not bad per se, it's great, since I know innovation does not a great game make. Really, though, did anyone like that later Star Wars movies? they probably weren't technically THAT much worse than the first 3 but come on, the horse has died many times over much as I love that horse.

When I finally give in to temptation and get a WiiU it will be for the WiiU ware. That's what kept me excited about the Wii. They're readily available at the stores I've been too, but I'm not willing to trade my xbox for one yet until there are more robust options; I'm sure it'll come - 6months or a year and I'll be all over it.




Brilliant. It still improves in several key ways on previous installments which are classics as well. Deserves a 9. Good revw.



Gridatttack said:

This game seems to have really great level design. Cant wait to play it.
I hope one day we can make our custom levels on this game.
Would be awesome :3



chewytapeworm said:

An obvious 9/10 game, when isn't a typical Mario game less than that?

Less than 24 hours, and I'll be playing this baby to death!



hYdeks said:

wow, too high, WAY too high of a score Sorry, but it's the same old stuff, just in HD, big deal



I-U said:

"Many levels require absolute accuracy and total concentration, forcing you to time each jump to perfection, memorise patterns and display lightning-fast reflexes."

While I love the Nerve-Wrack Pack in NSMB2, I could not find myself getting very into an experience that is like that all the time. Same could be said about the Crown level in Super Mario 3D Land. High difficulty levels in the recent Mario games have been very enjoyable as they break away from the easy standard present in most of the game. Making high difficulty the standard zaps the appeal right out of it, and it ends up failing to stand out.



DarkLloyd said:

Dont really find it that difficult im in the ice/snow map now and only having minor difficultys locating the last star coin in the first castle



-KwB- said:

All right !! Review just on time !! Picking it up tomorrow ! Thanks Nintendolife



KingDunsparce said:

I can't find myself too excited for this, but my brother wants it. I'm sure I'll end up loving it anyways.



Varia01 said:

My mom and dad can't keep me in the dark forever! I was debating with my brother if we should get a Wii U for Christmas (Deluxe version along with the game shown here, Lego City Undercover, the black pro controller, and a new set of wii remotes and nunchucks) or new bicycles. I wanted the wii u, and my bro wanted the bikes. My dad said we could get one for Christmas and one later after that (as in a few months). If they got the Wii U, then I can't wait to play this!



Powkitty4 said:

I can't wait to start playing it and not ever stop playing it and even better I will not be hogging the tv



SparkOfSpirit said:

I guess this should be it for the NSMB series for a long time since they only make one per system.

Still, this is better than NSMBWii and that was excellent.



WaxxyOne said:

Good review. I'm loving how much extra content Nintendo has packed into this one with the secret levels, challenge, boost rush and versus modes. The Miiverse implementation also adds a lot more than I had originally thought it would. Definitely a must-have game for anyone who gets the system.



UnseatingKDawg said:

Hard from early on?

Ooh, I am gonna LOVE this game. Considering I've managed to clear out every game in the Mario series except for the Lost Levels (working on it) and Sunshine. Plus all the Donkey Kong Countries, especially DKC2 in "BARRAL AX" mode, DKC3 in "TUFST" mode, and DKCR in Mirror Mode. And then there's a challenge mode on top of the main game here? I am gonna love the challenge of this title once I finally get a Wii U.



Iggy said:

I prefer my Mario to be in 2D. Hopefully sense they release this at launch we'll see another Super Mario Bros Wii U game. Was going to buy this anyways but its good to see it getting good reviews. I will be buying this as my first Wii U game.



KingDunsparce said:

@Iggy Actually, I doubt they will make another since they said they only do one 2D Mario in a console's lifespan. (I'm pretty sure, don't quote me on that though)



MitchVogel said:

This game looks great! Sounds like they really put their effort into it. I just wish the same amount of care was put into NSMB2...



Haxonberik said:

This game had 9/10 all over its face. You should've given more time to explain the challenge mode, Ive heard it's a hardcore player's treat.



Tasuki said:

I know I am going to get slack for this but I love my Mario games 2D. I tried Mario 64 back in the N64 era and both Galaxy games and I just couldn't get into them like I could the 2D Mario games. In fact I am probably one of the few people that really enjoyed NSMB2. The only thing though is I dont really care for the multiplayer aspects of the NSMB series I find it to chaotic and annoying having both players on the screen. I guess I am old fashion.



Mario500 said:

"the first thing which hits you in New Super Mario Bros. U is the long-overdue resurrection of the famous world map system, made famous by the seminal Super Mario World. Featuring branching levels, multiple exits and optional secret zones, this arrangement adds immeasurably to the overall experience, making you wonder why it has taken Nintendo so long to reinstate it"

Both the New Super Mario Bros. Wii and the New Super Mario Bros. U had maps similar to the maps for Super Mario World.



Drawdler said:

You had me at "dessert-filled deserts"! Squee! I can't wait to boot this up now!



zipmon said:

Great review Damo, and no kidding about the difficulty! Seriously, sorry baby Yoshis - I'm trying my best!



Lobster said:

@Varia01: I hope you got the WiiU also, mostly because I got a bike for Christmas when I was seven and while that was SUPER AWESOME I couldn't really use it until March or April because of the snow and general foul weather of this time of year. Maybe you guys live someplace nicer though! (I remember my mom making pointed remarks about Santa not thinking things through, haha!)



Varia01 said:

@Lobster Truth is, my Dad couldn't help but give me and my the bro the Wii U early. It is really cool! The games on Nintendo Land are AWESOME! And I got NSMBU just yesterday, I maybe too used to the experience, but there is clever ideas. I am really enjoying it so far.



isnchz said:

Sorry for bumping an old thread.
I too love Mario in 2d, and yes I've enjoyed NSMB2 on 3ds immensely. I just don't get what people don't like about it - it's the best 2d platformer, and 2d platformer is my favourite genre.
Also, the new downloadable levels in NSMB2 are super challenging. In fact harder than Super Meat Boy.
Additionally, the sales of 2D Mario games are much higher than of other games, so Nintendo knows this too.
I'm getting Wii U only to play NSMB U!



SteveBosman said:

I've watched the kids play this and it looks like fun, but yet again there are only 3 save files (Wii games had the same problem). Each of my kids has grabbed a save which means I'm stuck waiting for one of them to finish before I can have a serious playthrough. I'd hoped that with the introduction of a console with individual accounts this kind of messed up junk would be a thing of the past.




redrx8gt2005 said:

the only thing i dont see you mention on your review is that players can now use YOSHI .... witch to me is a welcome addition , being a big yoshi fan ... anyways great game , very challenging at time , highly recommended to anyone who has a wii u and hasnt picked it up



TomJ said:

Just picked this up, it's pretty fun, I mean the HD graphics are enough to distract me from the negatives of this game.
EDIT: OK, I take it back, this game looks as if it was just thrown together with platforms, coins, and blocks on steroids, it is soooo annoying. $60 was just too much to pay for this, can't wait for NSL U, maybe they'll at least fix the stages to where they're actually fun to play on and not just frustrating (NSMB Wii was easier), and maybe a level editor DLC would be good, too.



GreatPlayer said:

@BlackSpy Mario U is just a rehash of Mario 3 and 4. (I actually think Mario 3 or 4 is more fun). I feel that Nintendo should give us Luigi U for free - I feel that I have wasted $60. I feel that Nintendo is lazy in comparison with Rayman Origin at least in graphics.

Is Mario U really "one of the most accomplished 2D platformers ever created"? Where are Rayman Origin and Sonic Generations?

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