With Super Mario Run, Nintendo is doing something very out of character: It’s releasing a Mario game on a non-Nintendo platform. Typically, to encourage gamers to, you know, buy the Nintendo hardware, the company keeps Mario and its many other properties strictly on its own systems. Yet, Super Mario Run is coming to iOS in December and Android in 2017. So the existence of Super Mario Run is definitely noteworthy; heck, it might even spell the end of the Nintendo we all love — but that’s getting ahead of ourselves. The big question right now: Will it be any good?
What it is
On the surface, Super Mario Run looks like one of the many recent New Super Mario Bros. games, since it has the same colorful art style. But it doesn’t play like those games — or not exactly like them, anyway. Thanks to touchscreen controls, precision platforming is quite tough to reproduce on mobile devices. So, instead of using an onscreen directional pad like many other games, Nintendo makes it so Mario runs automatically. The only control input players need to worry about is touching the screen to make him jump.
You can hold your finger on the screen to make him jump higher, or do a quick tap to pull off a low hop, but that’s the extent of your job. Onstage at Apple’s recent press conference, video game producer and Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto made a pretty big deal about players being able to play the entire game one-handed.
Look at Rayman
If you’re wondering whether or not an auto-running platformer could possibly be good on mobile devices, do yourself a favor and download Rayman Fiesta Run. The game, like its predecessor Rayman Jungle Run, is downright fantastic, channeling much of what makes its console siblings so good. All the charm of the bigger games is present in the mobile counterpart, but developer Ubisoft tweaked its approach to level design to account for the whole auto-running thing.
Judging by the few available gameplay videos, that’s exactly what Nintendo has done in Super Mario Run. Strings of coins help show you where to go. Mario can jump, go through pipes, and wall-jump to switch direction. Special blocks on the ground can send him running the opposite way when necessary, and he can monkey his way across handholds on the ceiling. From the looks of it, auto-running won’t alter the feel of the game as much as you might think.
It’s a paid app
The first part of Super Mario Run will be free to download, but you’ll have to hand over money via an in-app purchase to play the full game.
That might be disappointing to mobile gamers who are used to getting all their games for free, but it actually indicates that Super Mario Run will be good. Free-to-play games are designed to leech money out of players on a continuing basis. Some have cool-down timers that prevent you from proceeding immediately unless you spend in-game currency. Others have levels that are simply too hard to beat without paid power-ups. By charging money upfront, Nintendo won’t need to incorporate any of those annoying design tricks into Super Mario Run.
Which isn’t to say the game will be free of other in-app purchases. Just imagine if you could pay to swap the graphics with art from Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World, or if fans of Princess Peach and Luigi could pay to unlock other characters from the Mushroom Kingdom. We, and a lot of other people, would open our wallets in a heartbeat.
It’s Nintendo, and it’s Mario
If you’re still worried Super Mario Run will be bad, keep in mind that Nintendo has done a remarkable job over the years of maintaining a high level of quality in Mario games. While rivals like Sonic have had a much more spotty history, you can always count on the Mario platformers to be fantastic.
Nintendo is extremely protective of its properties, so when it comes to a game that’s certain to reach hundreds of millions of players — far more than any other Mario game — the company will make it the best it can. Don’t worry; it’s in Nintendo’s best interest to make Super Mario Run as smoothly as it possibly can. And judging by how great it looks in the trailers above, we doubt it will be anything less than fantastic.
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