If there's one thing that can be said about most Mario games, it's that they have an undeniably solid quality to them. Sure, some games are noticeably better than others, and the argument that the franchise is ridiculously oversaturated is certainly fair game, but ultimately, the series succeeds at giving us fun platforming, oversaturation be damned! Before Mario spiraled into a depressing mess of reliance on 2D platformers, there was one game that stood tall as the revival of something great: New Super Mario Bros.
Released on the original DS in 2006, this refreshingly old school project proved that Nintendo could still create magic like in the good old days. Of course, the success of New Super Mario Bros. meant that the game was inevitably followed up by dozens of sequels (yay exaggeration!) that just didn't capture that same level of nostalgia and giddiness. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't look back on this particular entry with the utmost adulation. Let's celebrate New Super Mario Bros. here on Up Up Down Down, all the while pointing out some of its miniscule missteps.
Up Up: A pleasantly fresh return to form
In the '80s and '90s, Mario excelled due to its challenging, rewarding, and precise platforming. The series then went in a different direction and entered the 3D realm. It was a departure that still felt familiar, and it made for some truly great games. New Super Mario Bros. brings back old feelings that could only be instilled in players through a 2D landscape. The levels are brimming with unbridled originality, and though you can't help but remember classics such as Super Mario Bros. 3, there's an inherent newness here that expertly blurs the line between old school and new school.
Down Down: This is where it all started
Admittedly, this isn't exactly a knock against any of the mechanics or features in New Super Mario Bros. No, this is one of those “bigger picture” scenarios. Personally, I think this game is as close to flawless as a 2D platformer can get. That said, this little nugget of success prompted Nintendo to make another “new” 2D Mario platformer, and another, and another … and another. No word is more fitting than “overkill” right about now.
Up Up: A great look for the series
The visual direction of Mario games drastically changes depending on several factors. The old school games are deliciously pixelated. Super Mario 3D World is the prettiest 3D entry in the series. Paper Mario is joyously cartoony. At the time of its release, New Super Mario Bros. was able to give us the best of both the 2D and 3D worlds. The game captures the spirit of its NES and SNES predecessors, all the while delivering rich 3D backgrounds and character models. It's a unique look that really stands out, and even though the game's eight years old, it still looks mighty fine.
Down Down: None of its sequels were ever as good
It's not that any of the games that followed New Super Mario Bros. are bad — in fact, they're all quite good — but their quality very clearly declined with every installment. Level designs slowly began to lack creativity, and though I still personally hold New Super Mario Bros. Wii as one of my favorite Wii games, no 2D platformer in the series since the original DS title has managed to offer up that same level of impressive stage design and fun factor.
Up Up: Cool power-ups
There's something jovially empowering about that first time you stumble upon the Mega Mushroom. Seeing Mario grow to a massive, daunting size is pretty great, but it's being able to recklessly crush all the blocks and enemies that stand in your way that really makes you feel powerful. This isn't the only notable power-up, though. You can also shrink down into Mini Mario or don a quirky blue shell as Shell Mario.
Down Down: Not enough of 'em
Sadly, while we're treated to a few new and familiar power-ups, there really aren't a whole lot of them. It's very possible that you won't even notice the lack of items, but in retrospect, the series has become notorious for its use of wacky power-ups. Suffice it to say that the fact that there aren't more of them is a bit surprising, if not slightly disappointing.
Left Right Left Right: It's okay to love New Super Mario Bros., because it's great
Alright, so maybe New Super Mario Bros. resulted in multiple sequels that just weren't as good. At the end of the day, this game is unmistakably one of the best entries in the entire Mario series. And to be fair, none of those sequels were actually bad. That said, if you could only play one of these “new” Mario games, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better installment than this first title. It's entertaining, challenging, memorable, and nostalgic.
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