New Super Mario Bros


Don’t let the name fool you. New Super Mario Bros. Wii is actually a little old. This traditional, 2-D action game brings back everything you loved about classics like 1991’s Super Mario World.

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Hey, it’s the totally ’80s, totally radical Koopa Kids! Fire Chomps! And Micro-Goombas!

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The big innovation this time is that you can experience all the shell-kicking, flagpole-jumping action with four players on-screen simultaneously.

If you’ve got friends who regularly come over for Smash Bros. and Mario Kart competitions, this is the perfect addition to your collection. If you’re just looking for a solo adventure on par with 2007’s exceptional Super Mario Galaxy, the new game falls a bit flat: It’s fun, but designed more for chaotic multiplayer than deliberate single-player.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii, released this week for Wii, is largely patterned after New Super Mario Bros., an excellent 2006 title for Nintendo DS that brought the videogame company’s longtime mascot back to his roots. These games feature 3-D graphics and 2-D gameplay, creating a world that’s less visually interesting than the best hand-drawn games Nintendo produced, but also much more malleable: The camera can zoom in and out; the level can transform dramatically as you play.

The fact that the camera can zoom out so far allows for New Super Mario Bros. Wii‘s main attraction, the four-player mode. Players can spread out quite far around the game’s levels and still be visible.

But this doesn’t mean it’s not utter chaos. Most of the time, that’s exactly what multiplayer New Super Mario Bros. Wii feels like. You might be playing with three Mario experts, but the fact that you’re all stuck in the level together means that everyone’s carefully laid plans can be quickly thrown awry when one of your friends does something you didn’t expect — jumps over you and knocks you into a bottomless pit, nudges you off a platform, accidentally kicks a turtle shell at you.

This goes double when you’re playing the competitive mode. In Coin Battle, all thoughts of working together to clear the game’s levels go out the window. Everyone’s competing to collect as many coins as possible, and that means that you’ll be intentionally firing turtle shells at your pals.

Although I preferred Coin Battle, the cooperative gameplay also works well. If a player dies, he floats back a few seconds later in a bubble, which the other players must pop to release him. If everybody dies and there’s no one left to pop bubbles, you fail the level.

Although you can access any level you’ve discovered in the single-player game from the multiplayer menu, you can also go through the entire game’s main story mode with anywhere from one to four players, who can drop in and out between levels.

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Bringing friends along for the ride seems like the optimal experience. While you can play New Super Mario Bros. Wii entirely by yourself, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the other three players are missing. Previous 2-D Mario games could have all kinds of different levels that were tailored specifically to a single player, but New Super Mario Bros. Wii‘s are wide open and mostly linear — which you need if you’re going to give four players their own personal spaces.

Creating a Mario game that is fun and functional with anywhere from one to four players can’t have been an easy task for Nintendo’s designers. Playing through the adventure solo is fun, and at times brings back that great old Mario feeling of discovering secrets and pulling off desperate acrobatics with perfect timing.

And it can be brutally hard. Nintendo is walking a fine balance between giving hard-core players the difficulty they want and giving its new casual audience a break. If you fail a level enough times, a Super Guide block appears. Hit it, and the game will play the level for you, allowing you to go to the next one. (I got my ass kicked a few times and had the block appear, but there was no way I was going to let the levels get the best of me.)

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Judging this game purely on single-player, it doesn’t hold a candle to Super Mario World or Super Mario Bros. 3 from 20 years ago. I think that’s because those games’ level designs and mechanics didn’t need to take three other players into account.

It’s justifiable, though, since the multiplayer is so good (even if it’s only local, not online). The one thing I truly didn’t like is that the game forces you to use motion control in certain situations. When a character gets a Propeller Suit power-up and wants to fly up into the air, you have to shake the Wiimote. Want to pick up an item? Shake.

And because Nintendo’s comfortable, retro-style Classic Controller doesn’t have a motion sensor, you’re stuck holding the standard Wiimote on its side, which is much less comfortable. I’d rather have seen a game design that didn’t use motion at all — except in very rare instances, it adds nothing to the gameplay.

As a Mario fan from way back, I’m probably being a bit of a stickler here. New Super Mario Bros. Wii is an excellent game with friends, and I had a great deal of challenging fun with the solo mode. But if you’re looking for a new Mario adventure that’s tailored to creating the maximum amount of fun for just one person, you’ll have to wait for next year’s Super Mario Galaxy 2. Frantic multiplayer, adorable character designs, lots of challenge.

TIRED Forced motion controls, imperfect single-player experience.

$50, Nintendo



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Chris Kohler started writing for in 2002, and founded's Game|Life channel in 2005. He is the author of the books Power-Up and Retro Gaming Hacks, and co-hosts the Stitcher Award-winning podcast Good Job, Brain!
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