Super Mario Run Preview: Hands-On First Impressions

Arguably the most anticipated iOS game of the year, Super Mario Run will debut in just a few days on December 15. However, Apple Stores have gotten the game preloaded ahead of time on their iPhones and iPads. Excited, I ran down to my local Apple Store to explore the game ahead of time and give you an early preview.

I got my hands on a demo version to give Nintendo’s iOS debut a test drive. I didn’t have enough time or patience to stand in an Apple Store and play the entire game start to finish, but I’ve developed some solid first impressions. Is Super Mario Run worth your ten bucks, and is a worthy addition to Nintendo’s wildly successful Mario franchise?

Super Mario Run Basics

When I excitedly made my way over to an iPad Air in the Apple Store, I found Super Mario Run as the last home screen icon on the last page. When I launched it, I got a message: “This version of Super Mario Run has been created specifically for demonstration purposes.” That’s fine I suppose — I didn’t think much of it.

After proceeding to select my stage, I realized the message was serious. The game only allowed access to the first three levels in world one and a 20-second demo of the first boss stage. I shrugged and carried on by tapping World 1–1, then Start.

Before I comment on the game itself, it’s worth pointing out that there was no indication of instructions or game help anywhere within my field of vision. You’re just led directly into the start of the game. This is a fantastic luxury Nintendo can afford though as I’d imagine most people who purchase Super Mario Run will be familiar with what to do.

Besides, instructions aren’t necessary anyway. Playing the game feels totally natural. Mario runs on his own through the side-scrolling world you’re familiar with through the franchise and your main task is to simply tap to jump. Jump to unlock power-ups, jump over enemies and pipes, jump onto platforms and so on. That’s your only job, but it works. You also tap repeatedly to perform wall jumps as high as the wall goes or tap while in mid-air to spin around give yourself a slight boost.

Most of what makes Super Mario Run challenging is having to make it to the end before the timer runs out. Even if you fall into a pit, a bubble lifts you up and carries you back to wherever you tap to pop it, then you have to proceed again from there. The timer stays where it was though, making the level that much harder to get through this time around.

Mostly everything else should feel pretty familiar to Mario fans. The stages and worlds have their own unique feel and challenges, but nothing is so unique that it should confuse legacy players. Mario’s constant motion is pretty easy to adapt to. Plus, there are pause blocks scattered throughout the stages where you have a moment to gather yourself. Other than that, the game is a fresh take on a phenomenal classic.

Super Mario Run Criticisms

As entertaining as Super Mario Run is, I do have some gripes. The first might just come from the demo limitations, but I found the game a little too easy. For some reason, even if I didn’t tap to jump over enemies like goombas, Mario would just climb over them anyway. He even leaped over pits when I didn’t tap. It seems like the hardest part is just racing against the clock rather than against traditional obstacles. I’m not sure if that was just part of the demo, but I hope so since I like to think.

Super Mario Run also requires a constant Internet connection to play. No offline mode means you can’t download the game and play it anywhere you might be without wireless service or Wi-Fi. I hold out hope Nintendo reverses that decision because it’s a huge let-down.

Lastly, Super Mario Run does seem a little short. It includes six worlds and four levels per world for a total of 24. I’m hoping they get harder and longer as you progress because if they don’t I could foresee beating the whole game in about an hour. Perhaps Nintendo will add bonus levels for those interested in in-app purchases, but I don’t think this is likely given 10 bucks is already a stretch for many iPhone owners.

The Verdict: Nintendo Strikes Gold

Everything considered, Super Mario Run is a fantastic title and Nintendo does not disappoint. Realistically, it’s a lot of what you’d expect from a Mario game on an iOS device but with just enough variation to spice things up. The game should attract some familiar faces, but also has enough charisma to get folks new to the Mario franchise on board too. Thanks to the excellent displays and graphics in the latest iPhones and iPads, Mario has never looked better either.

Super Mario Run will be the easiest 10 dollars I ever spend in the App Store.

Are you eagerly waiting for Super Mario Run? Let me know if you’ve any questions in the comments below.