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Super Mario Run Review

  • First Released Dec 15, 2016
  • Reviewed Dec 15, 2016
  • IOS

Mario time!

The first few levels of Super Mario Run will make any Mario fan feel right at home, with the series' polished aesthetic, and Mario's characteristic agility, present and accounted for. Gaming's foremost plumber has even picked up a few new tricks that, ironically, make him seem more acrobatic despite Super Mario Run's simpler-than-usual controls. The game immediately feels like a winner, and you might find that it continues to be; it all depends on your willingness to revisit the same levels over and over again in search of modest rewards.

To be fair, Run is the most convenient Mario game there is, with 2D level design that lives up to the series' rock-solid reputation. It's also complemented with graphics and moves that compare favorably to the refined New Super Mario Bros. games on DS and 3DS. With portability, however, comes a few understandable sacrifices: you don't have full control of the new, ever-running Mario, and levels are short to better suit typical smartphone play sensibilities. Regardless of these changes, Run feels like a Mario game from beginning to the end of its adventure, and the ease with which you can make Mario jump, bounce off walls, and spin attack enemies in mid-air with a simple tap of the screen feels great, not limiting.

Rather than fight to reach the end of a level by mastering platforming, which is the easiest it's ever been, your ultimate goal is to collect coins on your way to the finish line. Familiar gold coins are aplenty, and are banked at the end of a level to construct your personal Mushroom Kingdom later on. But there are other, harder to reach coins in every level--five a piece--that require more finesse and strategic platforming than usual to acquire. Once you've grabbed every special coin in a given level, a new set of five is distributed that are harder to grab--with three sets of five per level.

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As fun as Run's levels can be, they are undoubtedly short and easy, and it's not hard to finish all of them in less than two hours if you simply aim for the finish line. Beyond enjoying a taste of Mario's familiar and satisfying platforming, the aforementioned special coins are the sole reason to replay levels, both from a completionist standpoint, and because acquiring each and every coin of a given color in all levels unlocks a pipe that takes you to a special stage.

Without experiencing these levels firsthand, it's hard to know if the payoff is worth the effort. But when you choose to hunt for specific coins rather than simply enjoy the flow and excitement of platforming, Run loses some of its magic that made it so gratifying at the start. Replaying levels then becomes somewhat of a grind. With the small selection of levels and their brief nature, you're never so far removed from a stage that your next visit feels like a trip down memory lane either; repeatedly replaying Run's 1-minute-or-less stages quickly grows tiresome. And given that Mario is constantly moving forward, you are mostly at the mercy of his will rather than your own, which stands at odds with the series' tradition. It may not bother people who haven't played Mario in a while, but anyone who's kept up with the plumber over the years will recognize that something's missing: agency over one of the most enjoyable platforming characters around.

When you tire of chasing coins and replaying levels, you aren't left empty handed; you still have the Kingdom Builder and Toad Rally modes to explore. With a bank full of coins, you can construct a small kingdom with houses, flowers, and other flourishes. Outfitting your slice of land is both for personal gratification and for the populace of Toads that eventually move in. Rather than attract new neighbors through fancy landscaping, you need to impress them during Toad Rally challenges by collecting as many coins as possible in the allotted time--it's a coin trial rather than a time trial. You compete against the ghost of other players, and if you are the victor, you're awarded with a handful of Toads. They come in a small variety of colors, and it's important to diversify your town as it's the only way to unlock more expensive and rare items for your kingdom.

For the inherent sense of competition and the potential rewards tied to a successful Toad Rally run, these challenges become the most enjoyable excuse to continue playing Run. And if you manage to fill your Kingdom with Toads of all colors, you will eventually unlock new playable characters usable in both the main game and in Toad Rally races. Princess Peach becomes available after completing the game normally, and she comes with the usual ability to slowly float to the ground after jumping. Luigi, Yoshi, and Toadette must be earned through Toad Rally races, however. But after giving Peach a fair shake, the differences between her and Mario aren't meaningful enough to reinvigorate old stages. The competitive angle of Toad Rally could do wonders for the main levels, and there's a hint of it in the form of leaderboards--but you aren't comparing yourself to top-performing strangers, only to people you've manually added as friends.

At the end of the day, Super Mario Run is about working to build a beautiful and busy kingdom. While it may sound similar to a game like Neko Atsume where you attract cats by placing their favorite things in a space, Run doesn't let you see a town full of Toads; you see only a few, with the rest living as statistics in a menu.

The elephant in the room is the fact that smartphones are home to numerous persistent and endless running games, many of which are excellent, and free or far cheaper than the $10 you have to pay to play Run beyond the third level--or five minutes of gameplay. Run is definitely one of the most polished examples of a mobile running game, but without an option to run endlessly through a procedurally generated level, you never get a chance to savor the act of platforming--the game's best aspect--for long.

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There's also the fact that Run's smartphone-game tendencies bleed over a bit too much and remind you that, while this is indeed a Mario game, it's a mobile game first and foremost. Beyond its "free-to-start" nature, there are timed bonus stages that beg you to jump back in every eight hours, but the rewards--small levels of chance where you may or may not earn the tickets required to participate in Toad Rally races--are hardly compelling reasons to watch the clock and jump back in as soon as possible. Strange as it may sound, if $10 won't unlock every character in the game, it would be nice to have an option to pay a small fee to Nintendo to simply unlock extra characters, rather than be forced to jump through hoops in different modes to access them in a roundabout way.

That's to say nothing of the game's always-online requirement. On one hand, it's a relief that should your phone lose a data connection in the middle of a level, you can still make it to the finish line, but Run simply will not start, or allow you to continue, if you are in a dead zone or without WiFi. For a game without traditional microtransactions or open-ended online competition, this requirement is simply baffling.

It's easy to fault Run for various reasons, but it's hard to totally lose appreciation for how well it's brought the series' core gameplay to smartphones. Simple controls be damned, Run offers great platforming and that distinct Mario charm that Nintendo's perfected over the years. It's a shame to find that it's on the easy side and bereft of a long-lasting platforming adventure, but it's the sort of game that you'll be happy to have in your pocket. Even if you don't play it to unlock every character and special course, finishing the game once will inspire you to dust off New Super Mario Bros. and revisit Run's quality roots on other platforms--a testament to the series' refined DNA than lives on in Run.

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The Good
Captures the look and feel of modern Mario platformers
Toad Rally races add the excitement of competition
Lots of rewards, including new playable characters
The Bad
Not enough levels
Always-online requirement
Steep asking price
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Peter finished every level in Super Mario Run, played a handful of levels with Peach and Toad, and competed against Nintendo-made ghosts in Toad Rally before writing his review. GameSpot was provided with a complimentary copy of the game by Nintendo.
181 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for Knighthawk_X

@woantu: Um... because this is an official Mario game, and not a simple Flash game with questionable quality. You could literally say the same thing about pretty much any major game franchise. 'Why waste money with [insert game here] while you can find countless free [insert franchise here] games on the internet?'

This is seriously one of the most foolish 'questions' I've ever read.

Avatar image for timthegem

I just read three different articles about how Nintendo's stock price has plummeted due to this being such a poor app, with endless user complaints and poor critical reviews on top of that.

I don't question the integrity of Peter's review but I think that the copy of the game he was given provided a far better experience than the general public seems to be having.

Avatar image for taytay17

Super mario run apk andriod

Avatar image for edinko

Is he seriously begging for microtransactions? Wow that a new low.

Avatar image for gameroutlawzz

Cant believe these casual fucks are being paid to review video games which they terribly suck at. Fucking world upside down.

Avatar image for darksouls

@gameroutlawzz: k. You do realize that this is one of the most casual games imaginable, right?

Avatar image for gameroutlawzz

@darksouls: My comment applies ot every single game review Ive seen in the past 6 yrs on both this site, ign and pretty much every gaming websites Ive visited. People have that trend to SUCK terribly but believe their opinions matter somehow.

Avatar image for I-am-Error

@gameroutlawzz: I'd believe my opinion mattered too if somebody who allegedly thinks I suck had been following my reviews for the past 6 years... ;-)

Avatar image for darksouls

@gameroutlawzz: I gotcha

Avatar image for ExoticCharm

Did I seriously hear a reviewer say that he wanted microtransactions?

Avatar image for johnjonglee

This is a terrible review; it doesn't explain the major gameplay elements of the game and doesn't consider the perspective of major segments of the potential audience. For example, you earn tickets by collecting special colored coins, which if earned properly, reset the level with a different layout. There's nothing on this in the review at all. There is also no discussions about the graphics, control, music, level design, and even elements of its replay ability. The substance of the review is EXTREMELY lacking. The game also targets people who aren't familiar with the MARIO games generally but have an iPhone and enjoy mobile gaming (like me). This review doesn't consider that perspective at all; its extremely narrow focus of the review doesn't give many viewers a good general picture of what the game is and if they'd enjoy it. Plus it's organized extremely poorly, with the hosts jumping from disparate topics to disparate topic, and often talking about aspects of the game that don't impact it's enjoyability at all (does it feel like traditional MARIO or a mobile game? Who cares!?)

Seriously hope Gamespot steps it up. I came back to the site after a long hiatus and I am SORELY disappointed.

Avatar image for iandizion713

@johnjonglee: Agreed, its a pretty shatty and lazy review.

Avatar image for darksouls

Gake and Fay

Avatar image for ps3gamer1234

Avatar image for silv3rst0rm

The point of this game, the main fun of it is to have a lot of friends playing and try to beat the crap out of them again and again!

If you don't think any of your friends will be playing it don't even bother to buy it.

You have to like to "hammer" on the same levels again and again to try and perfect your scores.

See it as a racing game where you try to beat your best lap over and over and over again to top the leaderboards... Sounds fun?

If you're the kind of player "Once the level is done, I'm skipping to the next one" don't even bother either, within an hour you'll be done with the game...

This game is for those who have an OCD and assume it! haha!

Avatar image for chiefwiggum16

Always online?...hmmm may have to pass this up then. When will companies learn.

Avatar image for Jersalaw

@chiefwiggum16: Boohoo. Always online is a problem for you? That is a shame. My phone always has a connection. When you catch up to the 21st century let us know so we can stop catering games to your preferences.

Avatar image for chiefwiggum16

@Jersalaw: if you were my kid I'd smack the shit outta you

Avatar image for darkmafia99

@Jersalaw: So what you are saying is screw all the kids that play this on touches and tablets lol not at home, say in the car/plane/anywhere where there is no wifi #dealwithit

and before you get all high and mighty, yes I had no issue with the initial xbox one announcement of always online on, as anything in my house has a connection to a 50 mbps connection(yes it sucks, but my area can't get more) and then Sony doubling down on that, and then pushing Destiny superhard(the irony as the game is always online)

This is such a dumb decision, but I guess this is their first foray in the online market, they will learn, you have to remember they were about 10 years late into having a proper online network, and just read a massive article last night about how they thought online was a fad back in 2000/2001 (Dolphin/GC development story)

Avatar image for hazuki

@Jersalaw: So..all of us should live by a town/city. Where you live even. That some of us who don't like neighbors, and don't have internet or cell signal available to us. We are meant to suffer eh? Where I live in WV, more than 100,000 of us just got DSL available the beginning of last year. 12mbps, being the highest available. 'plenty though.'

Now take this. White sulfer springs, WV. Home to one of the Bunkers, the president can escape to if he needs be. Guess what internet is best available there in many parts of town? 256kbs.

So your comment, is that of a 12 year old mindset. And really needs flagged to be honest. Just because you have luxuries where you live, doesn't mean we all do son.

Avatar image for darksouls

@chiefwiggum16: Yeah it's sad but Nintendo is the least likely to learn from past mistakes so don't expect this to change.

Avatar image for normanislost

@farimaru: god dammit nancy

Avatar image for farimaru


Avatar image for ferna1234

the score cap for mobile games should be 6 because all of them suck balls.

Avatar image for se007

@ferna1234: Actually, that's not entirely correct. Try playing the Room series games. Those are masterpieces, that really showcase what mobile gaming capable of. Also, squenix GO series is very high quality, and lots of others games.

Avatar image for darksouls

@ferna1234: Thats a good one haha

Avatar image for csward

Hmmm I wouldn't call less than 2 hours of content and low replayability a 7, but maybe it's a 7 in mobile game terms, since mobile games a crappy by nature?

Avatar image for iandizion713

@csward: Ive spent over 2hrs on the free part trying to replay and collect all the special coins.

Avatar image for darksouls

@iandizion713: That's sad

Avatar image for silv3rst0rm

@iandizion713: You're doing it right!

Avatar image for chisoxrule

Bleh, not impressed. I find the idea that you have to get all the colored coins in one go extremely frustrating. It didn't take me long to blow through 3 levels before the game asks you to 'purchase' the full version. Try again Nintendo.

Avatar image for xgalacticax

@chisoxrule: Maybe if you weren't rubbish at the game you'd get the coins in one go.

Avatar image for silv3rst0rm

@Metallicwolf29: I was thinking just that as I first played it!

Whoa, Mario in Retina sure is nice!

Avatar image for wexorian

Gamespot is back to mobile reviews, i can't wait when they will review candy crush soda.

Avatar image for Deadmaninc024

" would be nice to have an option to pay a small fee to Nintendo to simply unlock extra characters..."

I guess we can count you as an advocate for ridiculous microtransactions, yesman journalists and reviewers such as yourself are exactly the problem

Avatar image for KungfuKitten

A 7 for a phone game is pretty high.

Avatar image for PrpleTrtleBuBum

@KungfuKitten: The point system should be like that 1-5 is reserved for phone games and 6-10 is reserved for real games. If a phone game is simply exceptional (like Bejeweled on phone is the same as real machine) then maybe it could tickle little higher, or if a real game is like Big Wheels then it would be allowed to sink lower

But the first thought when looking at that 7 is that there's no way this automatic platformer is as good as the countless games with 7s

Avatar image for metallinatus

@PrpleTrtleBuBum: That Dragon Cancer is in no way as good as any game with a 7, let alone with a 9, but hey, Gamespot pulled that bullshit to never be forgotten already....

And the game is literally cancer.

Avatar image for RaveNRolla

" would be nice to have an option to pay a small fee to Nintendo to simply unlock extra characters..."

wtf is wrong with you?

Avatar image for darksouls

@RaveNRolla: My thoughts exactly

Avatar image for deactivated-5bda06edf37ee

The most boring game concept ever is now available dressed in famous IP!

Next up; Super Mario Tower Defense

Grab dat cash, Nintendo!

Avatar image for Artwark

@groowagon: You're overexaggerating here. The game is fun for what it is and while I'm not a fan on mobile games, I think this one will do fine.

Avatar image for Megamandrew

Wait, you're saying that Nintendo has failed to understand a type of game they haven't made before and didn't really get what their intended customer base would want or expect from a game like this and instead decided to continue to demonstrate how terrible they are at reading gaming trends and successfully marketing their franchises outside of familiar territory? I, for one, am absolutely shocked and astounded, as demonstrated by my overly long run-on sentence.

Super Mario Run More Info

  • First Released Dec 15, 2016
    • Android
    • iOS (iPhone/iPad)
    In Super Mario Run, you constantly move forward through the courses while using a variety of jumps to navigate. Your character will behave differently depending on the timing of your taps, so it's up to you to show off particularly smooth moves, gather coins, and reach the goal.
    Average Rating29 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Super Mario Run
    Developed by:
    Published by:
    2D, Platformer, Action
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.