In this series of articles we'll write about one or more Mario games per day (apart from when we miss a day), each representing a different year as part of our Super Mario 30th Anniversary celebrations.
We're now well into the current generation with this series (which ends soon, we promise). 2012 was also a weird year for 2D Mario games, as it actually led to some notable backlash from online communities of Nintendo fans; the simple argument was that there was too much Mario.
The 'New' series of 2D Mario games had been well spaced out prior to this year. Let's not forget that 2006's New Super Mario Bros. on DS was the first full 2D Mario - ignoring spin-offs - in over a decade when it arrived, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii then arrived in 2009. Throw in the two Galaxy games on Wii, however, and when these two titles arrived there was a mixed reaction.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 landed first, and its main gimmick was coins - lots and lots of coins. Coin Rush was a mode in which you tackled tricky courses while grabbing as many coins as possible, and you could then share your record via StreetPass. In addition this was also the first retail download on the 3DS eShop (or any eShop, for that matter) and it was also an early dalliance in paid DLC for Nintendo; not the first ever paid DLC from the company, but arguably the highest profile at that point. For those two reasons alone this title secured a place in 3DS history.
The obsession with grabbing coins was all about boosting a personal count, and not much else. The Raccoon suit also featured, bringing greater verticality to levels, while also giving a little thrill to those with fond memories of Super Mario Bros. 3. Local co-op in the main game was possible, too, though unlike the four-player mayhem of the Wii title it was limited to two players who each had their own cart.
We've often defended this game for doing the 2D Mario basics very well, providing a fun experience. Undoubtedly, though, many felt it was lacking in ideas and were left disappointed.
Just a few months after this 3DS title, New Super Mario Bros. U arrived as a Wii U launch release. It wasn't the Super Mario Galaxy 3 that some vocal fans online were demanding, but it did mean there'd be a Mario game on day one with the new hardware - and in HD for the first time.
NSMBU retained key ideas and power-ups from its Wii predecessor, including four player local co-op. It shook things up with the GamePad, however, with the touchscreen serving as a help or hindrance depending on who was using it. The fifth player had the power to place additional platforms or disrupt enemies, but by the same token could place a blocky platform to cause the characters on screen to plummet down a pit. Also new were challenges in which you could run and jump as your Mii, another fun extra with a little freshness.
The core campaign, meanwhile, earned huge praise from us and certainly represented a step up on what had come before. Even though the Super Acorn (with its flying squirrel-esque abilities) was the only new power-up, the level designs did manage to shake things up while adhering to the 'New' Super Mario Bros. template. Beyond the usual world design tropes, some lovely surprises were also present, such as adorable Baby Yoshi characters with neat abilities.
It being on Wii U, it did have features that were entirely fresh at the time. For one thing there were lush HD visuals, adding extra sharpness and detail to what had come before on the Wii. In addition to that, as a Wii U launch release, this one pushed Miiverse at every opportunity by regularly prompting players to share a post on the service.
With the return of an overworld, neat surprises and even some hidden exits thrown in there, NSMBU was arguably a return to form and a contender for the title of best 'New' Super Mario Bros. game. It performed well despite the hardware's sales troubles, too, at last count being the third best-selling Wii U game at 4.84 million units.