Nintendo is continuing its infiltration of the iPhone with Super Mario Run, an app game they just launched that parlays everything good about the side-scrolling Super Mario Bros games that made Nintendo famous by brilliantly translating it to the touchscreen. It only takes one hand to play, it’s divvied up into bite-size chunks of roughly minute-long levels, and it’s addictive enough that you can play for hours... just like every other Super Mario game ever.
That’s the linchpin here—this is exactly like every SMB game you’ve ever played. The conventions are all a part of the identity of video games themselves at this point, and you’ll be chasing coins and bashing bricks on an almost subconscious level in no-time. Most importantly, there is a genuine sense of accomplishment to be had in Run. Making tough jumps or nailing the landing on the top of a flagpole will give you as much of a right to fist pump as it did when people first started doing it thirty years ago.
It was a genuinely dicey move for Nintendo to attempt to translate something as classic as the idiot-proof control scheme that has served Mario so well these decades, because a misstep might well have been a nail in the coffin for their smartphone ambitions. Luckily that’s not the case here. Mario is a pixel in perpetual motion in Run, and his constant movement to the right combined with the new ability to hurdle pesky enemies means the focus remains on the best parts: perfect timing and scavenging for loot.
Loot might be the more important element this time around, though. In their plan to turn a profit, Nintendo is giving the game away as a free download, but anything beyond the first four levels need to be purchased with real dollars. The one-time $9.99 price tag for all the levels is certainly reasonable enough. The game’s addicting qualities and replay value more than justifies that moderate entry fee.
Beyond the sheer joy of playing a great-looking Mario game on your iPhone, there are also two additional game modes to be found in Run—a competitive one where you go up against friends’ high scores, and another where you can build your own kingdom using the coins you collect in-game to purchase building materials.
Nintendo has given hardcore and casual gamers alike an exceptional time-killer and, just like PokemonGo did for the Pokemon Sun and Moon release, Super Mario Run is sure to introduce Mario to yet another generation and hook them for whatever Nintendo has planned on the upcoming Switch console.