Super Mario Run: Is It Worth Buying?

Given Nintendo’s long history in the portable gaming market, you would think they would realize that the point of a portable single-player game is that you can play it anywhere, not just anywhere with an Internet connection. Unfortunately, you would think wrong.

At its core, Super Mario Run is a trimmed-down, auto-running version of New Super Mario Bros., with simplified controls that allow you to play with one hand. You can build up your own personal Mushroom Kingdoms and challenge other players’ best runs in Toad Rally, but for the most part, you’ll be putting your platforming skills to the test against a wide assortment of levels just like any other Mario game.

Unfortunately, by “wide assortment of levels,” I apparently mean just 24, as the game only features six four-course worlds in total. That’s not a lot of levels when compared to traditional Mario games, and leads me to question a) how long will it take to beat these levels, and b) how much replay value Super Mario Run will have after you beat them. Andre at GameXplain hypothesized that completing all the levels would take an hour or two at most, which seems like an absurdly low amount of gameplay for a $10 mobile game. There are two potential mitigating factors here, however:

  • All we’ve seen so far is the first world, so other worlds might ramp up the difficulty and take longer to complete. (Given that Super Mario Run seems to be an entry-level Mario game aimed at casual players, however, I can’t see Nintendo kicking up the difficulty all that much.)
  • Coin collectibles are a major point of emphasis in the game, and gathering all of one set of coins will unlock other sets that are harder to collect. Dedicated players, therefore, will end up replaying each level a few times to 100% the game.

Replay value, however, is a minor gripe compared to the game’s major issue: Super Mario Run “will require a constant internet connection and will not feature any support for offline play.” I’ll be frank: This is the absolute dumbest decision that Nintendo could make.

Single-player mobile games should be like green eggs and ham: You can play them on a boat, on a train, in a box, with a fox, everywhere. Reliable Wi-Fi, on the other hand, is not everywhere, and can be spotty or nonexistent on subways, planes, buses, and many rural communities. If commuters and travelers figure to be a large part of your user base, this is a huge problem.

According to game producer and Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, the decision to require online connectivity was made to combat software piracy, which is a reasonable goal. By implementing this online requirement, however, Nintendo is compromising the outreach potential of Super Mario Run, and will either a) reduce the number of players who will purchase this game, or b) irritate consumers who purchase the game assuming they can play it whenever they want. Neither outcome is good for Nintendo’s long term goals.

Super Mario Run should be thought of as a gateway drug of sorts: It should strive to be played by as many people as possible (regardless of how much money it makes in the process), and give non-Nintendo fans enough of a taste to convince them to play (and buy) real Mario games on actual Nintendo hardware. With the game’s premium price point and strict online requirements, however, Nintendo is treating Super Mario Run as a standalone AAA title that is a core element in its Mario series, a designation the game does not have the depth to merit.

Additionally, Super Mario Run does not give existing Mario fans a compelling reason to pick up the game. I already have several full-fledged Mario games for my 3DS that I can play whenever and wherever I want—why would I fork over ten bucks for a watered-down version that’s not as flexible? If Nintendo is serious about protecting its IP for the purposes of making money, then why didn’t they do more to tap into their existing fanbase?

I won’t be picking up Super Mario Run, and unless you’re desperate to play a Mario game and are sure you’ll always have a good Wi-Fi connection handy, you shouldn’t either.