Of all the New Super Mario Bros. games, beginning with the 2006 DS title, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is probably the one least deserving of the "New" moniker. It is, after all, a Switch remaster of the Wii U launch title, and although some new features and the New Super Luigi U expansion are included in this capable repackaging of an already great game, it's getting tougher to justify calling this series New with each passing entry.
There's no doubt the formula works; the 2D Marios continue to boast the best platforming of any game series, with accessible controls and inventive obstacles complementing the best-feeling jump in video games. And as with the Wii U version, NSMBU is inventive from start to finish, with the mid-game Soda Jungle world being one of the best Mario environments ever. However, we've done all this before, haven't we? You start off with a grassy world, then a desert one, then a snowy one, then a water one, repeat ad infinitum.
Once upon a time I found this repetition comforting. But U Deluxe is a victim of its 3D cousins' success: It now exists on the same console as Super Mario Odyssey, which is possibly the finest 3D platformer ever made. By comparison, NSMBU Deluxe feels a little… ordinary. By the numbers. Safe. Where Odyssey confidently transported us to fresh worlds filled with moons and stars and dinosaurs an uncanny valley New York, NSMBU suffers from a lack of originality.
That's not to say it's boring--no, not by any stretch. Within the restraints of a New Super Mario Bros. game, Nintendo does a wonderful job of thinking up new enemies and hurdles for you to overcome, with each level offering a new electrifying critter, weight-limited transport or water-filled safety net. Latter worlds plateau at a satisfying level of difficulty that never becomes frustrating but still gives you a rush when you succeed, while star coins remain available to collect for those who want an extra challenge. Ghost houses can still absolutely get lost, though.
The Switch remaster also adds a new item, the super crown, which transforms Toadette into a version of Peach with special powers. She can double jump, for instance, as well as use her trademark dress to float downwards. Other characters, however, cannot use the super crown, which, as well as denying the internet the Bowsette it so dearly desires, is a strange exclusion. Toadette is denoted as "easy" in the main menu, where Mario, Luigi, and Toad are normal difficulty and Nabbit is "very easy." You can change characters outside of any level throughout the game, but it strikes me as an odd choice--why keep Peach's powers isolated to one difficulty level?
Once you inevitably defeat Bowser--spoilers!--a post-game opens up, offering super-hard levels only unlocked for those who collect every star coin throughout each of the game's eight worlds. From the start you can also access special challenges, such as dodging fireballs for a certain amount of time or triple-jumping to coin glory, as well as the aforementioned New Super Luigi U. The Luigi-led expansion remixes each level from the main game to be shorter but harder, and Luigi himself changes to have a higher jump but slower--and thus trickier--reaction times. NSLU is the most substantial mode outside of the main game, and it's thankfully unlocked from the start for those seeking a challenge.
Despite its aging formula, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is still a great entry in the series, with its typically tight platforming and both accessibility and depth to spare. While it can feel a bit stale for those who have been round the Mushroom Kingdom one too many times before, Deluxe is well worth playing, especially if you didn't get a chance to play NSMBU on Wii U.