New Super Mario Bros U review

  • Classic Mario fun with refreshing additions
  • Tons of minigames to test your skill
  • Very good looking when it wants to be
  • HD graphics aren’t as impressive as they could be
  • Having your friends jump on you in multiplayer
  • Still not as innovative as the 3D Mario games

The 2D New Super Mario Bros. games have always been crowd-pleasing throwbacks to Mario’s past, but even though every entry in the series has been a huge seller, none made the same lasting impression as Super Mario Bros 3 or Super Mario World. Fortunately, Wii U launch game New Super Mario Bros U represents a welcome return to not just the mascot’s 2D roots, but also his innovative spirit. NSMB U is still fun for the whole family, yet it takes enough risks to keep hardcore players coming back.

As has been the case for the last 30 years, NSMB U’s foundation is built upon the concept of moving a diminutive plumber from left to right across a series of platforms. The controls for Mario, Luigi, and the rest remain unchanged; the teams run and jump with dynamic precision. The gameplay is as easy to grasp now as it was on the NES, and that goes double for the simple story of Mario once again saving Princess Peach from Bowser and his bratty kids.

The over familiarity of the setting and controls had been holding back the series for years now, so it’s fortunate that this Wii U title isn’t as afraid to step out of that comfort zone. Thanks to new power-ups, level layouts, and enemies being used in original ways, this expansive adventure finally lives up to the “New” in the title. 2D Mario titles haven’t felt this fresh since the SNES.

NSMB U’s innovations start small with the new Flying Squirrel suit, but that simple twist on the standard Mario flying controls is merely the beginning. The expansive stages are dense with areas to explore and secrets to find, which is quite different from the constrained stages of New Super Mario Bros 2 or the large but barren backdrops of New Super Mario Bros Wii. Almost all the levels, particularly in the second half of the game, deliver some of the New Mario team’s freshest ideas to date, all implemented in the classic Mario style.

Many of the game’s best moments benefit from a clever, clear level concept that’s supported by interesting uses of enemies new and old. Each stage has the usual cadre of Goombas and Koopas backed up by a handful of original evil minions, in addition to some creative new uses of bosses like Bowser Jr. and the seven Koopalings. All these elements are arranged with care, working in harmony to create memorable platforming action.

As a solo game, New Super Mario Bros U is a tasty slice of traditional Mario fun, and fortunately it preserves many of its best qualities when played in groups as big as five. The frantic rush of four simultaneous players is a hectic as ever, but it’s at least a little easier to keep clear on an HD screen. Two players is really the ideal number for multiplayer, as that combo inspires teamwork by providing players with enough space to focus on clearing the level at hand.

The third, fourth, or fifth wheel in all these multiplayer scenarios is whoever happens to be holding the GamePad that isn’t directly controlling the character. While watching the action on the touchscreen, that person can tap on the Wii U’s tablet-like GamePad to place helpful (or obstructive) platforms within the stage. Though many serious Mario fans will barely use it, this modest use of the GamePad works great in a party, allowing players that aren’t as confident in their gaming skills to still be a part of the fun.

In general, New Super Mario Bros U’s use Wii U-exclusive features is fairly low key. Motion controls with the GamePad or Wii Remotes often amounts to imprecise shaking to extend jumps, virtually unchanged from how motion was utilized in NSMB Wii. As for the GamePad’s alluring touchscreen, outside of multiplayer it’s mostly used as an optional smaller monitor for what’s on the TV, a convenient extra that’s hardly groundbreaking.

Of all the new system features, NSMB U uses the HD visuals best, though not as consistently as it could. Many stages look good; a few are even downright gorgeous, showing what the Mario devs can accomplish with HD graphics at their disposal. Unfortunately, that limited use of tantalizing graphics makes lesser levels look worse by comparison, with many visually a half-step from the Wii and 3DS franchise entries.

Outside of marveling at the graphics in some select stages and bouncing around with four friends on your HDTV, how much longevity does NSMB U have? A good deal, thanks mostly to the dozens of minigames designed to appeal to the more skilled Mario players out there. Challenges like speed runs and completing a stage without touching any coins push players in ways the New Super Mario Bros franchise has never dared to before, a welcome change of pace.

Those minigames make for a nice coda to the best 2D Mario game since the days of the SNES. Though still not as revolutionary as recent 3D Marios, New Super Mario Bros. U is more interested in making new memories than retreading the character’s celebrated history. It’s clear now that the team saved its best for NSMB U, and early Wii U owners should not pass that up.

More Info

Release date: Nov 18 2012 - Wii U (US)
Available Platforms: Wii U
Genre: Action
Published by: Nintendo
Franchise: Super Mario Bros.
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Comic Mischief
Henry Gilbert

A longtime GR editor that has written millions of words for the site, as well as hosted hundreds of podcasts and videos.


Mario Nintendo

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  • ohms - November 15, 2012 4:58 p.m.

    For some unknown reasons, I've never enjoyed New Super Mario games no matter how many time I tried. For me, my favorite Mario game of all time still be Super Mario World on SNES. I feel like NSMB games are lacking something that other Mario games have but I cannot point out what that thing is.
  • AuthorityFigure - November 16, 2012 6:54 p.m.

    I agree. The DS one was poor, the Wii one seems to be fairly poor (from what I've read), and this one looks like an improvement on a second-rate idea from Nintendo. Oh well - people can enjoy it instead of me I suppose.
  • Tjwoods18 - November 15, 2012 2:21 p.m.

    Nintendo seriously under-utilizes the other characters in the mario universe. Just for once, I want a koopa troopa game.
  • n00b - November 15, 2012 2:19 p.m.

    what?!?!? youtube?? What treachery against brightcove is thi oh never mind youtube is much better thanks
  • DREAMCASTSATURN - November 15, 2012 12:48 p.m.

    Honest to God, isn't this just the same game that was released two years ago on the Wii, which was a port of a DS game from 2005? Nintendo's idea of 'innovation'
  • Tjwoods18 - November 15, 2012 4:08 p.m.

    Meanwhile Lugi's mansion keeps getting the shaft.
  • shawksta - November 15, 2012 10:23 p.m.

    So now games in a series are called "Ports"? Nice one
  • StrongPillow - November 15, 2012 12:16 p.m.

    Nintendo sells Cartoons. That's it. I know Wii U will sell like crazy at the beginning because its the 'new thing' but they will not see the steady sales like they did the Wii, especially when the other consoles come out with far better third party support and at around the same price point which is what you will need for longevity. You can only whore out cartoons for so long at the price point the Wii U is at.
  • Cyberninja - November 15, 2012 2:49 p.m.

    funny because I will tell you now that the ps4 and nextbox will launch at way higher prices if they are going to be as next gen as people think.
  • shawksta - November 15, 2012 2:56 p.m.

    You do realize that Nintendo knows they need 3rd Party and tries. Otherwise supporting Rated M games and saving Bayonetta meant nothing. Also stop acting as if Great Graphics means it has to not be Cartoonish and be Realistic, that's the biggest bullshit I get tired of hearing
  • veryweirdguy - November 16, 2012 1:13 a.m.

    Cartoons are /awesome/.
  • tehtimeisnow - November 15, 2012 11:03 a.m.

    such a horrable gane no way i will by it. if its suppeosed to b hd grafics then y is it a game u only go left and rite? its 2012 not 1960 it shuold b mandetory all games b hd. and y still no blood? or online play? nitedno keeps makeing these bad mistakes and they need to just drop out of makeing systams and make iphone games insted
  • SweetTeeth - November 15, 2012 11:26 a.m.

    WOW! You sound like such an idiot. Nice typing skills.
  • Dadyo238 - November 15, 2012 2:38 p.m.

    Don't bother. He's just a troll, and a bad one at that.
  • SUCKxITxEZ - November 15, 2012 4:50 p.m.

    I see someone respond to his obvious trolling in almost every article thinking that hes serious. Im starting to wonder if he is making different accounts and responding to his own trolls just to troll people like us who see through the original troll comment. If so this man is a geneous. If not then he is the worst troll ever, although still somewhat successful.
  • brickman409 - November 15, 2012 5:09 p.m.

    I feel like games radar just wouldn't be the same without him
  • 7-D - November 15, 2012 6:42 p.m.

    Ditto. He's one of the comment section hi-lights for me.
  • winner2 - November 15, 2012 7:51 p.m.

    Also agreed, I love seeing his comments