Any new Super Mario game on Switch is going to exist in the shadow of the masterpiece that is Super Mario Odyssey. Released in the Switch's debut year of 2017, it managed to redefine what we expect from a 3D Super Mario game, let us travel across the world and meet (and become) a variety of brand new characters. So in that way, New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is always going to have an uphill battle. But it's actually a wonderful little game that deserves a plate piled high with praise.
There was a time where there was a risk of people missing out on some of the great titles that got released on the Wii U, but thanks to the power of remastering we've had some top notch Switch games arrive as repackaged Wii U greats, including the likes of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. The Switch is slowly making the Wii U obsolete, by making sure a brand new generation of gamers get to experience all it had to offer on a far superior console. Sorry Wii U, I hardly knew thee.
More fun with friends
Thankfully New Super Bros U is the latest title getting a re-release on Switch, and honestly it's never looked better. It might not be the 3D marvel that is Super Mario Odyssey, but it's the classic 2D Super Mario brought into a modern era. The colours pop on the Switch's screen, bringing to life the vivid and incredibly varied levels that Mario traverses. Of course, you don't even have to play as Mario himself. There's Luigi or Toad, but also new characters that are aimed at younger players - Toadette is incredibly easy to control, while Nabbit is invulnerable to enemies - which you can switch between at will with a quick trip to the options menu from the map screen.
The real icing on the cake is the multiplayer for New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe. Whereas it did work well on Wii U, the ability to jump in with two to four players just by grabbing an extra Joy-Con and changing the player count in the menu is ingenious. It's all so easy, quick and, most importantly, fun. It's all cooperative fun, although with the kind of troll your buddy banter that you get from a TT Games' Lego title as you can jump on each other's heads to stop them moving.
Innovation on iteration
Our original review for the Wii U release back in 2012 praised the title for its innovative spirit, and that shines through more than ever in the Switch's Deluxe version. Every level feels fresh and new, taking the classic gameplay trope of get chubby plumber from left hand side of the screen to the right until you reach the end within a time limit feel almost like a brand new concept. There's a brand new Flying Squirrel suit - not to be confused with the Tanooki Mario I might add - lots of mini-challenges along the way and even three giant coins to collect in each level that will not only keep you coming back for more, but also challenge your perception of what makes a 2D Super Mario level. Secret areas, delightful mini-games and even new bosses in the form of Bowser Jr. and seven Koopalings are all part of this package, and combine to create some of the most memorable Super Mario platforming we've seen in years. Nintendo's ability to remix and innovate on the classic Super Mario platformer without it feeling repetitive, or strained, or even too complicated. This is a tricky game, but not one that ever feels like a punishment.
Plus, having the New Super Luigi U mode unlocked from the start rather than after completing the main trail is a handy addition, although I would recommend ploughing through New Super Mario Bros U first because Luigi does not allow for many mistakes thanks to its super punishing time limits. And the time limits are already fairly challenging!
It's all so gloriously good fun that it's hard to find negatives. Well apart from one. The save system. 99% of my Switch gaming adventures are spent playing in handheld mode - I'm a Game Boy girl through and through - so implementing a save system that only kicks in after a boss fight rather than after every level has caused a few mishaps, namely losing several levels worth of progress. There is a quick save option in the menu, but if your Switch dies or you decide to switch to another game without using that, it's incredibly easy to lose progress.
If you get into a habit of doing that quick save, it's not too inconvenient and it's such a small niggle for a game that is so utterly wonderful. With New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe the year of Nintendo Switch games is off to an incredibly strong start.