Will Super Mario Run be a big dud?

Nintendo will release Super Mario Run for iOS on December 15, but will its one-handed game design really please Mario fans?

super mario run lead

Nintendo has announced that Super Mario Run will be released for iOS devices on December 15. The game will be free to try, but if you want the entire thing you'll need to pay $9.99. You can try each of the three game modes for free though, so you can get a feel for what the game offers before buying it.

While I have no doubt that many iOS gamers are eagerly looking forward to playing Super Mario Run, I’m not one of them. I'm actually somewhat skeptical about Super Mario Run, despite being initially delighted when Apple and Nintendo announced that Mario was coming to iOS.

A crippled version of Mario on iOS?

I had very high hopes for the first Mario game for iOS until I found out that it’s designed to be played with one hand. It’s not possible to control Mario the way that you could in previous Mario games designed for Nintendo’s own systems. He runs automatically to the right and you have no control over him except for jumping.

I think this is a bit of a gamble on Nintendo’s part. The company has a history of innovating for new platforms, and that’s usually a good thing. But it seems to me that Super Mario Run might come across to some players as a crippled version of a Mario game.

At first glance the game looks great, just like any Mario game. But then you notice that Mario can only run to the right. He cannot move to the left, and he keeps moving no matter what. So you don’t get any time to stop and look around to decide where you want to move next, you just have to get ready to jump whenever needed.

Here’s a video preview of Super Mario Run’s game play:

I suspect that the actual game play experience of Super Mario Run will probably be a take it or leave it affair. Some people will love it, particularly those who haven't played any Mario games on other platforms. But the folks who have been playing previous Mario games might quickly tire of being limited to the one-handed game play.

Big phones and a one-handed Mario game?

I understand that the game is designed for phones, and Nintendo probably figures that people want to use their phones with one hand. But is that really true anymore? The most popular phones these days are much bigger than in years past, and I wonder how many people use them with just one hand.

For example, I own an iPhone 6s Plus. It has a 5.5-inch screen and I rarely use it with just one hand. The phone’s size means that it’s usually just easier and faster to use two hands for most apps, browsing the web, etc.

The only time I really use my iPhone 6s Plus with one hand is if I’m reading a book in the Kindle app. I can usually just hold the phone in my hand and then turn the page with one of my fingers. Other than that though, I usually use both hands when using the iPhone 6s Plus.

Obviously not everybody has a plus sized phone. But even when I had an iPhone 6s, the phone was wide enough that using two hands was usually faster and easier. The only iPhone model that I can see that is truly viable for one-handed gaming is the iPhone SE. That phone will probably work very well with Super Mario Run's one-handed game play.

It's really too bad that Nintendo didn't design Super Mario Run in a way that made one-handed use optional. It would have been great if it had been a full-blown Mario game that gave players complete control of Mario with the option of playing one-handed for those on smaller phones.

I think I’ll stick with Mario on the Nintendo 3DS

I hope that I haven’t come across as an anti-Mario grinch in this post. I’m actually a huge fan, and I’ve played many Mario games over the years, going all the way back to the original NES system when it was first released.

But I suspect that I’ll quickly take a pass on Super Mario Run after trying it out when it is released for iOS. Instead I’ll continue to play Super Mario 3D Land on the Nintendo 3DS, as well as the various Mario RPGs, and other Mario games available on that platform.

I have no doubt that I’m probably part of a tiny minority that isn’t very excited about Super Mario Run for iOS. The game will probably hit the top of the iOS App Store's sales charts on its first day, and Nintendo will almost certainly have a gigantic hit on its hands as millions of gamers go nuts for Super Mario Run.

But I won't be one of them.

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