In October 2016, Apple Magazine revealed Nintendo’s plans to rival the popularity of Pokémon Go with Super Mario’s debut iOS adventure. Pokémon Go revolutionized mobile gaming with a geocaching augmented reality version of the much-loved Pokémon brand, allowing fans to ‘catch them all’ in their own neighborhood. The popularity of the free Pokémon Go spread rapidly and it wasn’t long before players all over the world had their heads buried into their iPhones as they searched for 1st generation Pokémon. Nintendo will be desperate for Super Mario Run to have the same impact as Pokémon Go did back in the summer of 2016.
Over 20 million people signed up to be notified when Super Mario Run would be available to download, demonstrating the high level of anticipation surrounding Mario’s maiden mobile adventure. Despite the high number of downloads in the first couple of days following the release of Super Mario Run, which led to the game topping the App Store charts, the actual number of active players may be relatively lower due to the purchase model adopted by Nintendo. The free version of the game allows players to work through the first 3 levels in World 1, before a purchase message appears prompting the player to unlock the full version of the game for a price of $10. With a wide range of free to play games readily available to download from the App Store, is the $10 investment justifiable for the mobile version of a classic game?
Whilst Pokémon Go completely reinvigorated Pokémon and created something far removed from existing versions of the game, Super Mario Run relies on familiarity and the classic characteristics which have been prevalent in almost every Super Mario game since the release of Super Mario Bros back in 1985. The game starts in a typical manner, setting Mario on an adventure to rescue Princess Peach. In order to save Princess Peach, Super Mario must complete a number of levels in different themed worlds and is faced with familiar faces along the way. This formula has always worked for Nintendo and the game has a real sense of nostalgia which will make fans of all ages eager to download the game. The basic left-to-right movement of play has made Super Mario a relatively simple game in terms of game play. Equally, each Super Mario game has also provided a number of challenges and tricky levels to keep even the most avid gamer troubled. This simple nature has always been one of Super Mario’s strength, allowing players to jump straight into the game without hours reading the game manual.
Conversely, in Super Mario Run the simpleness of the game is the biggest weakness as at no point in the free version would you feel at all challenged, with the difficulty allowing most players to complete every level in 60 seconds. The full version of the game may provide more challenges, but that might not justify spending $10 to potentially complete all 24 levels in 24 minutes. In an effort by Nintendo to adapt the game for the small screen, Super Mario Run is an autorunner which means that players have no control over the forward movements of Mario. This actually works as it keeps the fast paced nature of the game alive. However, Super Mario will also automatically jump over small enemies and minor gaps, leaving the player with very limited involvement in influencing the gameplay. This lack of control over our favorite Italian plumber, in addition to the relatively unchallenging levels, leads to a game which is inevitably boring and will fail to capture the attention of even the most loyal Super Mario fans’. The main positive of the game is the return of the title character and Super Mario is the star in an otherwise disappointing game.
Super Mario Run may instill a feeling of joy and maybe even nostalgia, but the novelty of playing Mario on an iPhone will most likely wear off pretty soon. Unfortunately, once that novelty wears off, it doesn’t do enough to warrant a payment of $10 to unlock every level of the game. If fans do spend $10 then the 24 levels, which last less a minute each, are over within a flash. Furthermore, whilst the removal of micro-transactions may be welcomed by some, the upfront payment by players means that Nintendo don’t really have any incentive to add additional content and levels in the future. The initial free version will see Super Mario Run’s download figures comfortably surpass Pokémon Go’s record breaking numbers, but the limited free version will prevent any real longevity or growth. Super Mario Run has briefly filled a Mario-shaped void in our lives, but the brief nature of the game means that fans’ attention will once again turn to patiently waiting for more details about Super Mario’s brand new adventure on the Nintendo Switch.
Written by Michael Oakes