Mario made a big comeback in 2006, not in a defining new 3D adventure, but in the first original 2D platformer Nintendo had produced since the mid-90s. New Super Mario Bros. for DS (NSMB) brought back the classic side-scrolling, block smashing, coin collecting gameplay, but blended it with a now familiar 2.5D look and feel. This ‘New’ series leapt onto the Wii a couple of years later, and then arrived on both 3DS and Wii U in 2012, before providing one of the themes for the brilliant Super Mario Maker at the tail end of the last Nintendo generation.
Now the Wii U iteration has been brought across to the Nintendo Switch in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, as Nintendo continue to plunder the overlooked console’s catalogue of first party games to flesh out the release schedule of their latest big thing and bring these games to more people. It makes sense as well, because these games fly off the shelves no matter how apathetic some gamers feel toward Mario platformers. It was the best selling game on DS, third best on Wii and Wii U, and fifth best on 3DS. They sell like hot cakes, and Deluxe is almost certain do the same on Switch… but is it the best way to play the game?
Fundamentally, the NSMB games have only really tinkered with success. The feel of the game is so utterly consistent as you run and jump, bounce off enemies, headbutt and buttstomp blocks, collect new and varied pickups. The game sees Princess Peach taken hostage… again… with Mario and chums chucked to the far end of the Mushroom Kingdom and having to journey through a series of themed worlds to get back to her, defeating the Koopalings and Boom Booms at their towers along the way. It’s still satisfying and often quite challenging to play, but none of this has really changed since the first game in the series, and each iteration has thrown in a handful of different powerups and gimmicks to help try and differentiate themselves.
If one adventure wasn’t enough, Deluxe bundles in New Super Luigi U (NSLU) which was a whole game remix that starred the lankier of the two brothers for the Year of Luigi. He can jump higher, but he’ll skid more when trying to stop or change direction during a run, which in addition to the revamped levels makes for a much more challenging game. Having this bundled in makes for a huge amount of Nintendo platforming.
However, the home console games also have the ability to play in co-op with up to four people, and multiplayer is where these games gain a chaotic sense of fun that can really elevate them. Either you’re working together to overcome the challenges before you, or you’re indulging in a race to the finish line, where you can bump into each other, get in each other’s way, and generally have messy amounts of fun.
It quite quickly turns into a party game, and that’s absolutely where the Nintendo Switch is at its best. On Wii U you either had to have four Wii Remotes or (eventually) Wii U Pro Controllers to get four player multiplayer, which would added a huge cost to the system, but Switch has two Joy-Con built in and another pair isn’t really that much more. The possible downside is that you’ll be playing with an analogue stick, not the digital inputs of a D-Pad, but the Switch is vastly more flexible with what it allows as a controller and ditches the need for a motion controller flick to trigger a mid-air spin. The Pro Controller is supported, an old Wii U Pro Controller can be used via USB, you can even hook up those GameCube controllers you got for Smash and use those (even if their button layout isn’t ideal). The barrier for entry is dramatically reduced, and it can be shared in tabletop mode as well as docked.
Nintendo have also sprinkled the game with a few tweaks and changes to make it a tad more welcoming in general. Nabbit was made a playable character in NSLU, but can now be used in the base game as well, and Nintendo have now added Toadette to play as. Labelled as ‘Very Easy’ and ‘Easy’, they trim off varying amounts of the challenge. They don’t skid as much and they both move freely underwater instead of having to mash the jump button, while Nabbit simply isn’t hurt by enemies. Toadette can still get power ups though, including a new ‘Peachette’ costume that makes her look and act like Peach would in other games, but with a slightly different pigtail-touting look. Why they didn’t just put Peach in there and say to hell with the basic Mario story, I do not know.
Toadette’s inclusion comes at the expense of a second regular Toad character, meaning that if you’ve got four players one of you has to play as Toadette or Nabbit with reduced difficulty. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not a particularly ‘Deluxe’ thing to remove characters. At least the other cutback does have a real reason for it, with the Wii U GamePad’s Boost Mode no longer possible. This allowed an extra player to sit there with the GamePad and tap on screen to create platforms for the other players and interfere with enemies. For people with less inclination toward multiplayer platforming, it offered a gateway to be able to participate, but more mischievous players could twist Boost Mode to actively play against the others and hinder them with blocks. It’s a real shame that such a mode is necessarily absent from NSMBU Deluxe, but then Nintendo have had to leave it behind, much like the charms of Miiverse integration on the world map.
Thankfully, the other extra modes like Challenges, Boost Rush and Coin Battle do make the cut, throwing more bitesized experiences at you, which feel very at home on Switch. Oh, and it’s even got touch support for the game menus, which is bafflingly missing from every first party Nintendo game that isn’t a Wii U port.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a huge amount of great 2D Mario (and Luigi) platforming and it’s at its easiest to pick up and play on Switch, but even with the sheer volume of content this doesn’t really feel like a ‘Deluxe’ game. Toadette’s easier gameplay comes at the cost of a regular difficulty fourth character, and makes for a token appearance of Peach as a playable character, while the best all round multiplayer fun has been left behind with the Wii U’s GamePad.