New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe Review


Despite being the newest New Super Mario Bros. game, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe feels like Nintendo’s most tired rendition of the Mario formula. While the game may distract you with its decent visuals, addictingly satisfying sound effects, and fun gameplay, there is a secret behind the curtain. And the secret is this: Nintendo released this game 14 years ago. They then released it again in 2009, and twice in 2012.

This might sound confusing to you. “How could they get away with releasing the same game five times?” I hear you ask. Well, none of that is meant literally. They didn’t actually release the same game 5 times, but they might as well have. Let me tell you a story of how this game, and by extension this series of Mario games, came to be.

It was 2006, the year of my birth. Nintendo hadn’t released a 2D Mario platformer in 16 years. Ever since the release of Mario 64 in 1996, Nintendo had only released 3D Mario platformers, a whole different genre. And then, one fateful day, Nintendo decided to release the first 2D platformer they’d made in more than a decade. New Super Mario Bros! Emphasis on the New.

It was a whole new Mario platformer! People were ecstatic that they had finally made another 2D platformer, harkening back to their roots and the tough-as-nails game design that made them who they were today. It was a great game, and made a big leap towards another decade of dominating the platformer scene. Years later, in 2009, New Super Mario Bros. Wii was released. It was like New Super Mario Bros., but it had new levels and a new power-up, which created more interesting gameplay mechanics. Next they released New Super Mario Bros. 2 in 2012, and New Super Mario Bros. U later that same year, which introduced a coin gimmick and new power-ups respectively.

Now, here we are. Finally, modern day, 2020. Well, technically the game released in 2019, but that’s not the point. Can you guess what this “New” game added? A new power-up.

It’s almost suspicious, the way these games look, feel, and sound so similar to each other. Not even Google can tell the difference between “Bros. U” and “Bros. U Deluxe.” What’s the deal? This series of games feels so samey that people make the mistake of thinking that they’re just the same game. Why is that?

I think the reason is that Nintendo has gotten lazy. The only thing that differentiates these games is the up-res’d (higher resolution) graphics. The level design is very similar across games, the art style is incredibly similar across games, everything is very similar across games. So when reviewing the latest game in the series, I feel at least a little responsible to teach the reader the annoying history behind this oh-so-samey series.

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a port of a Wii U game on the Nintendo Switch. It has slightly higher quality graphics, and a new character with a new power-up. The power-up allows the player to float across the level with ease in the press of a button. This character and power-up make the game exponentially easier than the original game, and makes this tough-as-nails platformer feel more like a gentle balloon ride across a small river. The interesting mechanics that peppered the first games in the series are gone with the option to just float right over them. Other than a surrogate easy mode, the game has no changes to its gameplay than the first game. And I don’t mean the original version, I mean the first game in the series. There is no story to speak of, there is a weird lack of challenge (even without the easy mode), late-game content is relegated to a single world with only eight levels, and worst of all, the game still feels like a DS game from 2006.

So, this is where most reviews end with a score. I feel conflicted when deciding a score for this gem, though. Do I review the game as it is, a fun, casual Mario game with no glaring weaknesses ignoring historical context? That might be the technically correct way to review it. But what I want to do is point out the tired old game design that has been churning out money for over a decade, and all of the flaws that have come out of the woodwork regarding that tired old game design. So, instead of a single score, I will give the game two; one that is blissfully ignorant of the dead horse that Nintendo is beating, and one that keeps that in mind.

9/10 – Ignorant Review

3/10 – Cognizant Review