Super Mario Run reviews roundup: Is it worth buying?

Nntendo’s first Mario game for iOS is finally out. But is it worth paying $9.99 to play Super Mario Run? Read reviews of the new game and find out.

super mario run lead

Nintendo shocked and pleased the iOS gaming world when it announced its first Mario game for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Now that the game is out, reviews have started to come in from around the web.

Is Super Mario Run for iOS worth buying?

I’ve compiled a list of the latest reviews of the game to help you make up your mind before paying $9.99 for the full game. I've also included some video reviews at the end of this post that offer some different commentary and that will let you see Super Mario Run for iOS in action.

Macworld: Yes, Super Mario Run is worth $10

Andrew Hayward at Macworld believes that the game is definitely worth its purchase price:

Nintendo’s demo-like approach lets you download Super Mario Run for free and play through the first three levels, as well as get a 20-second taste of the first end-world stage—and then it stops there unless you pay $10 for the full game unlock. You’ll find no ad banners or other in-app purchases for premium currencies or power-ups; this isn’t a freemium game. It’s a premium one, but you don’t have to make that purchase immediately.

Expectedly, people are mad about this. One App Store review I read this morning claimed that asking for payment makes this is “a sham that Nintendo should be ashamed of.” Look, I’m a big proponent of paying for quality things that people create, which shouldn’t be a controversial or unpopular opinion. Nintendo built something that is joyful, imaginative, fun, and terrifically polished. That said, $10 is a larger-than-usual ask for a mobile game, so I understand some resistance… even if much of the criticism tends to be caustic and obnoxious.

I happily paid for the full game, and Super Mario Run is well worth the expense. We should pay for quality experiences, and we should reward developers for making smart adaptations to bring their best games to mobile. Millions of players keep unimaginative dreck like Mobile Strike or Game of War: Fire Age on the Top Grossing apps chart, happily pumping in money for in-app purchases. However, they’ll grumble about the one-time purchase of a game that is full of personality, not to mention precision-crafted and balanced for fun and challenge—instead of pushing players to continually spend cash.

If you try the free levels and don’t think you’ll get $10 of fun out of Super Mario Run, then that’s totally fair. It’s not mind-blowing or wholly innovative stuff: the game adapts a familiar formula to make it work well on your phone, but this isn’t a genius reimagining like Nintendo’s own Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario 3D Land. It is a lot of fun, though, and if you love Mario and have a soft spot for Nintendo’s particular brand of gaming bliss, then it should bring you plenty of pleasure through the holidays ahead.

More at Macworld

IGN: Super Mario Run is a fun and frantic chase

Jose Otero at IGN admired Super Mario Run’s animations but felt that the backgrounds and effects didn’t match up to Rayman Jungle Run:

At its core, Super Mario Run is an automatic runner that utilizes simple touch controls to perform all kinds of actions. You can extend the duration of Mario's jump, delay his fall mid-air, or somersault off of foes to reach high places. Like any solid game, these smooth moves are easy to pull off but difficult to completely master, and there's plenty of open screen space towards the bottom, so my fingers were never obstructing my view. I always felt like I had enough room to react and pull off a slick maneuver, even though I couldn’t stop Mario’s constant forward movement.

Super Mario Run is a joyful romp through the Mushroom Kingdom, but it doesn't feel as fresh as an all-new console Mario entry might; there aren't any new power-ups to use or enemies to fight. Nintendo’s strong level designs comes to the rescue by offering highly replayable stages, but they also feature the same three-hit boss fights with Bowser and Boom Boom over and over. These encounters feel a bit like relics from Nintendo’s past, and it’s a shame they’re not as smart or clever as the rest of the campaign stages.

Visually, Mario’s mobile debut falls mostly in line with other 2D Marios. But if you stop moving long enough to notice, the flat backgrounds and simple effects look a little lifeless compared to other vibrant mobile runners, like Rayman Jungle Run, which is disappointing. On the other hand, the animations are terrific; Mario has never moved with more energy or grace in a 2D Mario game.

Super Mario Run is an elegantly designed platformer with strong hooks that kept me coming back. Once I wrapped up the main campaign, the addictive, replayable stages urged me to perfect my coin runs. Kingdom Builder and Toad Rally provided further motivation to keep dashing for the finish line, so I could invest the spoils in my own Mushroom Kingdom. While this isn’t the best-looking Super Mario game by a longshot, it successfully distills the core fun and charm of the Mario franchise into a smart, one-handed experience.

More at IGN

Polygon: Super Mario Run is enjoyable but imperfect

Michael McWhertor at Polygon found Super Mario Run to be enjoyable but imperfect and noted that Mario’s best games are found elsewhere and not on iOS:

Nintendo has made an admirable attempt at translating the gamepad controls of side-scrolling Mario games to taps on a touchscreen with Super Mario Run. Mario runs automatically from left to right, and players simply tap to jump — a move that allows Mario to stomp enemies, smash blocks and collect coins.

Super Mario Run's simplified control scheme generally works well, but after three decades of Mario's evolution, the experience often feels compromised by the lack of power-ups and precise control I've grown used to. That's understandable, given the limited inputs Nintendo has available to it on mobile platforms, but for a company that has made its share of incredible one-button games, it's a little disappointing.

Players will spend the bulk of their initial time in Super Mario Run in World Tour, one of the game's three modes. Similar to a traditional Mario adventure, World Tour spans 24 levels spread across six worlds. Players visit very familiar territory: ghost houses, deserts, the skies of the Mushroom Kingdom, and Bowser's castles and airships. They have the look and feel of a modern Mario side-scroller, and Nintendo's clean, colorful and charming art design shines through.

Super Mario Run is an enjoyable but imperfect adaptation of the Mario games for touchscreen devices. Nintendo's unmatched craft in creating platformers is evident during the best moments of Super Mario Run, but the experience is sometimes hamstrung by the game's limited control. The all-too-brief World Tour is its strongest pillar, but I wish there were more to the game beyond playing the same levels again and again. Mario may finally have a home on a much bigger platform than Nintendo's own hardware, but his best adventures remain elsewhere.

More at Polygon

Trusted Reviews: A great platformer but a bit overpriced

Simon Miller at Trusted Reviews seemed to enjoy Super Mario Run but noted that the game’s price might be a bit much for some players:

Super Mario Run is exactly what you’d hope and expect it to be. Why anyone thought Nintendo wouldn’t be able to make the most iconic figure in video games work on mobile is a mystery – more often than not, Miyamoto and his team just get it.

The question, then, is if it’s worth £8 – which is no doubt a premium price for an iPhone title. The novelty of having Mario on Apple’s device is probably worth it alone, but it’s only fair to say you’re paying a little extra given whose name is attached to it. The mechanics aren’t too out of the realms of what we’ve seen before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Because it is. And having Mario in it just makes it better still.

It’s no surprise that Nintendo didn’t skimp on Super Mario Run. It’s a Nintendo product and therefore a certain amount of quality is expected. There’s a novelty here, sure, and this isn’t a game-changer like the franchise has produced so many times in the past. It’s good, though. And sometimes that’s enough.

Super Mario Run is a great iPhone game that sticks to the expected formula but makes that formula extremely fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

More at Trusted Reviews

TechCrunch: $10 is a bit steep for Super Mario Run

Brian Heater at TechCrunch enjoyed the game but wondered if the $10 was a bit steep for a game that can be completed in a couple of hours:

The game’s true value, of course, is in the levels themselves. The deeper you play, the more the game starts to justify the cost. The levels differ greatly from one to the next, with different settings, challenges and villains, a diversity that’s the result of an amalgamation of several generations of Mario platformers. This isn’t Flappy Bird with Mario cast in the lead.

By world four, I was both fully engrossed and slightly bummed that I was most of the way through the game, fully committed to the nostalgia of desert worlds and airship battles.

Ignoring the coin-based challenges, many users will find little problem defeating the whole thing in a couple of hours. And as such, $10 still feels a bit steep, particularly given the fact that the game requires a constant internet connection, which means you’ll just get a spinning wheel if you try to play it in a subway dead zone or online a plane without Wi-Fi.

Five bucks would have been a solid compromise, but given the quality of the gameplay and its general replayability, those who bite the bullet and spend the full $10 likely won’t feel ripped off.

More at TechCrunch

GameSpot: Super Mario Run is one of the most polished endless runner games

Peter Brown at GameSpot noted that Nintendo did a great job bringing the charm and core gameplay of Mario to iOS devices:

The elephant in the room is the fact that smartphones are home to numerous persistent and endless running games, many of which are excellent, and free or far cheaper than the $10 you have to pay to play Run beyond the third level--or five minutes of gameplay. Run is definitely one of the most polished examples of a mobile running game, but without an option to run endlessly through a procedurally generated level, you never get a chance to savor the act of platforming--the game's best aspect--for long.

There's also the fact that Run's smartphone-game tendencies bleed over a bit too much and remind you that, while this is indeed a Mario game, it's a mobile game first and foremost. Beyond its "free-to-start" nature, there are timed bonus stages that beg you to jump back in every eight hours, but the rewards--small levels of chance where you may or may not earn the tickets required to participate in Toad Rally races--are hardly compelling reasons to watch the clock and jump back in as soon as possible. Strange as it may sound, if $10 won't unlock every character in the game, it would be nice to have an option to pay a small fee to Nintendo to simply unlock extra characters, rather than be forced to jump through hoops in different modes to access them in a roundabout way.

That's to say nothing of the game's always-online requirement. On one hand, it's a relief that should your phone lose a data connection in the middle of a level, you can still make it to the finish line, but Run simply will not start, or allow you to continue, if you are in a dead zone or without WiFi. For a game without traditional microtransactions or open-ended online competition, this requirement is simply baffling.

It's easy to fault Run for various reasons, but it's hard to totally lose appreciation for how well it's brought the series' core gameplay to smartphones. Simple controls be damned, Run offers great platforming and that distinct Mario charm that Nintendo's perfected over the years. It's a shame to find that it's on the easy side and bereft of a long-lasting platforming adventure, but it's the sort of game that you'll be happy to have in your pocket. Even if you don't play it to unlock every character and special course, finishing the game once will inspire you to dust off New Super Mario Bros. and revisit Run's quality roots on other platforms--a testament to the series' refined DNA than lives on in Run.

More at GameSpot

TouchArcade: Super Mario Run isn’t substantial enough

Shaun Musgrave at TouchArcade enjoyed what Super Mario Run had to offer, but felt that the game just didn’t have enough to compete with other endless runner games in the iOS App Store:

Super Mario Run is a stage-based auto-runner that sees the plumber doing his usual bit to rescue Princess Peach from King Koopa. The game includes three modes and gives you a fairly small slice of each for free before asking you to pay a single IAP to unlock the remainder. The mode that will likely be of immediate interest to most players is the Tour Mode. Here, you'll run and jump your way through 24 stages spread across 6 worlds.

In trying to evaluate this game fairly, I'm forcing myself to do a little thought exercise. If this weren't Mario, if this weren't Nintendo, if this didn't have all the hype, expectations, and nostalgia behind it, what would I think of this game? If I do that, all I can say is that the game is fine. It's well-polished, the controls are responsive enough, and the level designs are acceptable.

But it also feels quite lean in terms of content, and insubstantial on the whole. That's the last place a paid auto-runner wants to find itself in, especially on iOS. There are so many fantastic runners on mobile, that if we were to separate this one from its brand, it probably wouldn't even be poking its head into the upper tier of quality. That's not even counting the twin elephants of the relatively high price tag or required online connection sitting over there in the corner, both of which could be seen as reasonable deal-breakers for some players.

Super Mario Run is a decent game. It accomplishes the fairly difficult goal of feeling like a proper Mario game while also bowing to some of the trends of mobile gaming. But with the likes of Rayman Fiesta Run [$2.99], Wind-Up Knight 2 [Free], Punch Quest [Free], and countless others competing at a high level in this genre, decent isn't really good enough. A grindy town-builder isn't exciting enough. A couple of hours of fun with only coin-hunting to keep you busy afterwards isn't substantial enough. If you want Mario on your iPhone, Super Mario Run does its best to approximate the trappings. On the other hand, if you're looking for a top-shelf auto-runner to play, it's-a not him.

More at TouchArcade

Video reviews of Super Mario Run for iOS

Now that we’ve seen some reviews from various gaming sites, I’ll leave you with a selection of video reviews from YouTube. These video reviews offer some alternative commentary as well as peeks at Super Mario Run itself in action:

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