New Super Luigi U
During the “Year of Luigi” marketing campaign by Nintendo, Mario’s brother became the protagonist in a number of Luigi-inspired games.
These games were far from being simple palette swaps however, as the long-neglected plumber got some serious attention. One of those games is an expansion on New Super Mario Bros. U titled New Super Luigi U.
At first glance, you’d dismiss this as being a swap. The game is near identical in audiovisual presentation and mechanics as its source material. The genius of Nintendo shines once again, as NSLU plays like a speed run alternate to NSMBU.
While the story is identical, sans Mario being included, and all of the same power-ups exist in NSLU. However, each level is considerably shortened, with paths cut, enemies placed in other areas, and 100 seconds to complete each stage.
This creates a fast-paced, frantic version of the Super Mario Bros. formula, much like those YouTube videos we’ve all seen and tried – or the Super Mario Maker created speed run levels. This time though, the game play is forced instead of done for fun, and it’s a clever gimmick that I feel Nintendo must revisit again in the future when the opportunity presents itself.
Four-player multiplayer still exists, as does the select screen with four characters: Luigi, two different colored Toads, and Nabbit, who was previously an NPC you had to race to catch in the original version of the game. (Nabbit cannot be hurt, but balances out by not being able to use power-ups.)
I imagine this is what the original Super Mario Bros. 2 (i.e. “Lost Levels”) could’ve been like. (Rather than the incredibly stupid difficult game that skipped the United States.) While Super Luigi U ramped up the difficulty over Mario U, it did so in such a way that it’s not cheap and is beatable.
The end result is a really fun game that presents a challenge but is far from impossible to conquer.
I would recommend playing this even over the source material. The game was so solid, it even received a physical release and was eventually packaged together with NSMBU too.
It’s a hidden gem from the short-lived Wii U that deserves its time in the spotlight, especially if you’re a Mario fan.
This one took me wayyyyyy back! How many of you cool kids had the SNES Mouse back in the day? No? Well, I was one of them.
As I write this in 2022, I imagine most kids would look at this and think, what’s the big deal? Back in 1992, however, we didn’t have access to home computers in the same way we do with electronics today, such as PCs, tablets, and smartphones.
Therefore, Mario Paint was a HUGE deal!
I remember always going to stores, some that were even electronics specialty stores too, and just perusing the devices on display. Back then we’re talking the days of Windows 3.0 and Windows 3.1, which I believe had the “Paint” program on it. (Or at least something crude like it.)
I could sit there for hours, if my mom would’ve let me, and played on it, as art was a big deal for me in my formative years. However, having a multi-thousand-dollar machine at home wasn’t in the budget – we’re talking the era of having maybe a single color TV in the entire house!
But one day, Mario Paint came home. I don’t recall if it was a gift or an expenditure from my lawnmowing side hustle, but boy was this thing the best ever.
For those looking at the in-game shots below, you’ll likely recognize several precursors to Super Mario Maker, which would release over 20 years later on the Wii U. The “Undo Dog”, the rocket ship which wipes the board – there are so many things here where the foundation was laid for the later creator-style games, that I had forgotten about.
The endless amount of time I blew playing Mario Paint was likely in the hundreds if not thousands of hours. It wasn’t truly a “game”, as you can see, it allowed for drawing within a canvas. You could, however, save your work – and continue later.
That was crucial because Mario Paint was super detailed for its time. A plethora of colors, patterns, and stamps – many featuring Mario-specific pieces – were available. But the title really shines with the ability to create animations, custom stamps, and even soundtracks.
Yes, this truly was a precursor to creating your own Mario games, although they were simply animated clips and not a “game” you could play. I recall having Mario, and Yoshi, stomp on Goombas and also adding some other custom 16-bit pixel art.
The icing on the cake was a time-killing minigame packaged under the “coffee break” icon, where the SNES Mouse piloted a flyswatter as you killed gnats, hornets, flies, and yes, there’s even boss levels. The game helped kids at my age get more adept at using a mouse peripheral, that’s for sure!
And who could forget the title screen? Each letter in the word “Mario Paint” created a different effect, from inverting colors, to a bomb which blew everything up, to making Mario small or even clicking on “N” to see the Nintendo dev staff credits.
Quite honestly, I wasn’t expecting to have this much fun playing Mario Paint in 2022. I was instantly lost in nostalgia, and oftentimes revisiting those memories don’t age well. Yet, Mario Paint is still a tremendously fun walk down memory lane that I highly recommend to anyone who owned the game, or anyone else who has had a curiosity in the past.
Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2
It takes a lot for me to be disappointed in a Super Mario game. And for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why it took me so long to play this one, since I had (mostly) enjoyed the other Super Mario Advance GBA ports.
Well, it looks like I’ve finally been letdown, this time by the Super Nintendo just being that darn good.
The Game Boy Advance’s take on Super Mario World isn’t inferior, but it does struggle with a lot of items that are hard to turn away from if you’re a fan of the SNES original – which I consider to be one of the greatest games ever made.
For starters, the colors are washed out due to the lack of color depth on the GBA hardware. The Mode 7 scrolling backgrounds are also changed in most scenes, giving the game a very dry and unappealing aesthetic. Tinny audio changes that downplay the classic soundtrack, along with the lack of the extra X and Y buttons on the console, really underscore what is a tremendous game otherwise.
Yes, Nintendo went ahead and played around with this, as they did the other Advance Mario games too. However, the changes aren’t to the same level as what they did for Super Mario Bros. 2 or 3, with no new levels and nothing much of substance here, other than changing sprites to align with the other games…
That is, unless, you actually want to play with Luigi, who has been 100% altered to be his high-jumping, slow and slippery-footed self. (It’s the change that no one really asked for – does anyone play with Luigi?)
There are a few extra cut scenes at the beginning and end, and the message boxes, I’ve been told, have been increased. Oh, and a list of levels on the map screen, because, well, I don’t know why that’s needed!
I know this game so well, that the only thing I noticed that was different, and somewhat neat, was that the Top Secret Area (above the Ghost House in World 2) is now a hill instead of just a dot on the map.
Is this game really that bad though?
It just suffers from the same lack of screen real estate you may have with other TV to handheld translations. Otherwise, it’s still the great game play and depth as the original.
I’m just that much of a purist when it comes to SMW that I would prefer playing the original over the squeezed down version with very little changed for the better. You may find it’s the same way should you feel compelled to play it.
Super Mario 3D World
I have so many reactions to this game that I’m not sure where to begin. Let’s start with this: I’m stoked that Nintendo finally re-released Super Mario 3D World for the Nintendo Switch.
Because it was easily the Wii U’s best kept secret.
Darn near the entire world witnessed Super Mario Odyssey rise to greatness, hailed as the best Mario game ever created. However, anyone that SM3W had to be skeptical, as I was, that any game could top the Wii U’s offering.
Among many of the great games offered for the Wii U, SM3W encapsulates everything the Mario universe ever threw onto a screen. In fact, many of the ideas we saw in Odyssey were actually introduced in SM3W… or in its predecessor on the 3DS, Super Mario 3D Land!
Regardless, 3D World is a tremendous Mario title and if not for Odyssey going so far above and beyond, would hold my personal acclaim as the greatest Mario game of all time.
Somehow, SM3W captures the spirit of the 2D NES Mario titles better than Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, or Super Mario Galaxy ever did.
3D Land was described by game designer Shigeru Miyamoto as a “3D Mario that plays as a 2D Mario game”. 3D World tops it by a country mile.
The game begins with introduction of clear pipes, one of the critical elements added to SM3W. The plot is different from other Mario games, where Bowser captures Sprixies, and you travel to the Sprixie Kingdom to rescue them over the span several worlds – some which have to be unlocked.
Levels are open, yet linear. Mario can move in three dimensions a la Mario 64, but levels play out like the original Super Mario Bros., complete with a flag pole at the end of each.
Traditional powerups, such as super mushrooms, fire flowers, and the starman return, as well as the Tanooki suit, which was featured first in Super Mario Bros. 3, but included in 3D Land – as well as the Boomerang suit which was introduced in the latter.
Other inclusions are propeller, cannon, and coin blocks, all worn as “helmets” with various powers, plus the Mega Mushroom from New Super Mario Bros., which creates a Godzilla-sized character on-screen that can smash through most of level.
The big tease, and major addition other than the clear pipes, is the cat suit. Once equipped, Mario and the gang run around on all fours and gain the able to charge at enemies and climb walls for a short period of time. A variation exists later in the game which also mimics the “statue” power from SMB3’s Tanooki suit too.
Another added feature is the Double Cherry powerup, which creates an on-screen clone of Mario that moves, jumps and reacts simultaneously with the others on-screen. It’s possible to get as many as five Mario’s going at the same time, which are then used to unlock otherwise inaccessible areas or help topple foes more quickly.
Honestly, the fan service here is second-to-none. Save screens bring back 8-bit NES Mario running on the screen as a timer, and you can also shrink smaller, near-death, rather than worry about hearts or coins for health, just like the original.
Super Mario 2 is on display as you can choose one of several characters to play with, all retaining similar traits from that game. Luigi jumps higher, Toad runs faster, and Princess Peach can float temporarily in mid-air. Since four player multiplayer is also part of the regular campaign, each can be represented at the same time as players dash with one another to complete each level.
Slot machine style bonus levels also harken back to the day of SMB2 also.
Super Mario 3 was mentioned earlier with the Tanooki suit, but Bowser’s armada and mid-level boss Boomer make cameos as well.
Super Mario World contributes Ghost Houses and Kamek. The “New” series the aforementioned Mega Mushroom as well as some of the jumps and moves that have become commonplace with the strictly 3D games too.
Heck, even Super Mario Galaxy is represented with Lumas (star-shaped creatures) and Rosalina.
Gaining 100 coins will net you an extra life still, finding three green stars is critical to unlocking later levels, and the red coin loop, to collect 8 red coins, carries over from the Yoshi’s Island games. (Though it was also adopted in other titles too.)
There’s still even more as SM3W introduced the Toad Treasure Tracker minigames, midlevel “bosses” and toad houses appear on the map much like the moving Hammer Bros. did in SMB3. Bonus worlds and other surprises await as well.
It’s quite a mouthful attempting to tell anyone about how deep this game is and how much tribute it gives to every other Mario game created.
It’s challenging just to collect all of the stars in each level, but there’s also harder-to-find stamps for a “stamp collection” embedded within each level too, special mystery challenge houses, and overall, just when you think you’ve done it all, the game keeps going… and going… (Just wait, the SMB2 rocket ship also makes an appearance!)
The levels are of such a mixed variety too, with speed runs, water levels, locked overhead perspective levels, the aforementioned multiple-Mario (cherry power-up) levels, auto-scrolling levels… the list goes on and on. (My only true complaint are the few times the Wii U gamepad is required for touch controls or to blow into the mic – an unnecessary gimmick.)
My last note is that this game seems to feel different too because it went away from the “save the princess” and “beat Bowser’s kids” theme prevalent in the previous. SM3W offers just about everything a Mario fan could want and more.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of playing this, I highly encourage you to find a copy – I even hear the Switch version adds more to the original Wii U game too! It’s really that good and definitely worth owning in your library.
Super Mario Bros. 2 (All-Stars Version)
Super Nintendo’s Super Mario All-Stars compilation is one of my favorite cartridges and/or game compilations ever. For the uninitiated, All-Stars is a re-publication of four NES Mario titles: Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros 3., and the previously unreleased (in North America) Super Mario Bros. Lost Levels, which was Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan.
The latter was the entire basis for the American version of Super Mario Bros. 2, which I previously reviewed – and is one of my favorite games of all-time.
SMB2 is such a departure from anything in the series before or since. (If you’re not familiar with the back story on this game, search for it: it wasn’t a Mario game at all originally.)
Regardless, this title, and each game in All-Stars, was given a new coat of paint, with upgraded or totally revamped graphics and sound. Paired with the SNES controller, they were as crisp as ever.
Ideally, I should review them all together, but practically, each game really stands out on its own. (Interestingly enough, Electronics Gaming Monthly, per the All-Stars Wiki entry, handled these titles the same way.)
The All-Stars edition of SMB2 serves as the basis for any of the remakes or offshoots since – and is thus, such a standard-bearer it deserves its own review. Unfortunately, there’s not much that’s different from the original, other than the graphics or sound, to speak of!
And that’s not a bad thing!
As far as platformers are concerned, SMB2 is one of the greatest games ever made. As such, its why Mario is embedded as one my favorite series ever, and one of my most-reviewed – you can go back and play it over and over, almost never tiring of it while also reliving great memories.
Wikipedia notes the following changes in this edition, namely continues and game saves being the big additions that helped this young gamer finally conquer “Mario 2”.
It is possible to change the character after losing a single life, while the original version allows changing it only after completing a level or when the player loses all their lives and chooses “Continue”, making the game more forgiving when choosing a character not adept at some specific level.
The player begins with five lives instead of three, and the slot game gains an additional bonus: if the player obtains three sevens, the player wins 10 lives which is something that was not featured in the original NES version of the game. However, the game has a 99-life limit.
If you were to tell six-year-old me while growing up, that puzzles games would be some of my fondest memories, I’d probably look at you confused – because I’m only six, remember?
Seriously though, puzzle games? The mere mention of the word puzzle brings to mind grandparents doing crosswords or the word jumble in the newspaper. Not video games.
Yet, two of the most influential video games in my life were both puzzle-based. First, there was Tetris which dominated the life of anyone who owned a Game Boy.
Then came Dr. Mario.
Ah, yes – let’s slap the plumber on this box and sell it like hotcakes. Afterall, all things Mario were hot. Nintendo at this time could do no wrong. Super Mario Bros. 3 had released months earlier as a blockbuster larger than some summer movies. The Super Nintendo and another Mario title was on the way with Super Mario World – but somewhere in the middle is where Dr. Mario landed.
Initially this is a game I missed as a kid. Some parents were apparently up in arms over the doctor/drug theme, but for myself, the puzzle game looked like a rip-off of Tetris. (How dare they?!) Little did I know years later how many times I would play the NES original, and its many sequels, with my girlfriend and wife-to-be.
Dr. Mario is considered one of the best NES games ever made and with good reason.
The premise is simple: align four blocks of a single color in a row, either vertically or horizontally. The blocks can be made up for the three colors of viruses, red, blue and yellow, which are randomly placed at the start of each level and must be eliminated to move to the next.
Strategy is incorporated in many ways. Each pill contains only two of the three colors, so you do not want to block your ability to gain four in a row of a single color. You may also use the edge of one pill to eliminate other rows and columns, with the extra piece breaking off and falling lower in the stage.
In this manner, savvy players can clear boards quicker – critical to victory as gameplay speeds up throughout each level to a breakneck pace. The amount of viruses are also predetermined as you level up, but players can also set this, as well as the speed and catchy tunes of the game’s timeless soundtrack, in the main menu.
In two player mode the game remains essentially the same. Players split screens and attempt to beat the other by clearing their stage first. When clearing two or more rows/columns simultaneously, extra one-bit pills fall on your opponent’s stage, which usually clogs up their plans to eradicate the viruses.
Explaining the dynamic might be more difficult than actually seeing the game in action – and there’s a real ending to it as well, which, I’m so far removed from my peak Dr. Mario skills that I prefer to show you a YouTube clip of someone who’s done the hard work for me.
If you’ve never played Dr. Mario, well, you’re missing out. It’s a good solo romp as well as a great game to play in tandem. The are numerous follow ups which build upon one another but retain the same core game play too – in fact, Dr. Mario has appeared on nearly every Nintendo system, with this game spawning yet another subgenre in which the famous plumber printed money for his creators.
If you haven’t indulged, I highly recommend this game – and series – especially if you are a fan of puzzle games.
New Super Mario Bros. 2
It’s hard to believe this game is almost ten years old now, while the Nintendo 3DS is still alive (but on life support due to the portability of the Nintendo Switch).
That’s where it falls into odd territory as a “retro game” but I feel it’s old enough now to go back and explore – anyone else’s definition of “retro” be damned!
Released in 2012, NSMB2 is the successor to the Wii title of a similar name, which itself was a sequel to the first of the “New” Super Mario Bros. titles, released for the Nintendo DS.
Did you follow all of that?
Essentially this is “New” Super Mario Bros. 3 – and as such, it shares a lot of similarities to the NES Super Mario Bros. 3, namely the reintroduction of Racoon Mario. For the unaware, grabbing a leaf powerup would give Mario a raccoon tail he could use to swipe enemies, smash blocks, or, for whatever reason, fly.
Considering SMB3 was one of the greatest titles of all-time, it’s not hard to imagine that this was one of the highest-selling 3DS games of all-time as well. Yet, it felt like it was lacking.
In my opinion the game reuses too much of the same “new” formula: that’s not really a bad thing, just an observation. It has the same 2.5D graphics (3-D models in a 2-D platformer) plus the familiar super mushrooms, fire flowers, and the invincible star man.
In addition, there are golden variants of the same which make for a coin-collecting boost – as collecting coins becomes a major focal point in this game over previous ones, though the star coins are also important to unlocking areas or challenging completionists.
With that component in place, a “blockhead” powerup (for lack of better terms – not sure what it’s really called!) has Mario (or Luigi) produce even more coins as they run and jump around every stage.
The game tracks every coin you collect in something akin to a “career mode” throughout every playthrough on your saved game file.
Speaking of stages, this title is deep: with 85 levels over 9 worlds and tons of hidden exits and areas.
There’s also a Coin Rush mode, which admittedly I didn’t get into very much, so here’s what Wikipedia had to say about it:
In addition to the main game, New Super Mario Bros. 2 features a Coin Rush mode, made accessible after the player completes the first world.
In Coin Rush, the player plays through three randomly chosen levels collecting as many coins as possible. Star and Moon Coins add several coins to the player’s running total in this mode. However, the player is given only one life and each level gives a time limit of 50 or 100 seconds.
It’s a need addition, but really just a distraction from the main game.
The premise of NSMB2 is the same as it’s predecessors: rescue Princess Peach from Bowser and his underlings. Again, no departure from the norm which can be seen as a good or a bad thing – or both.
Regardless this is a fun game and deserves attention from any Mario fans. Newcomers to the series may be best served starting with earlier Mario titles, just to get the mechanics down – some of the coin grabbing and non-linear landscapes tend to be great for experienced gamers but a bit of a learning curve for kiddos.
Either way, I enjoyed NSMB2 as its yet another Mario title where Nintendo can seemingly do no wrong.
Super Mario Bros. 25th Anniversary
Amidst the Mario mania for our favorite plumber’s 35th anniversary was a loosely celebrated 25th anniversary for Super Mario Bros. some ten years ago on the original Wii.
To celebrate the milestone Nintendo had a special red console released, along with a re-release of the Super Nintendo’s Super Mario All-Stars collection. The 4-in-1 disc included revamped versions of the first three Super Mario Bros. titles as well as the first stateside appearance of the true Super Mario Bros. 2 which was only released in Japan at the time.
In other words, it was the exact same set of games as they appeared on the SNES cartridge version in the 1990’s.
Naturally, there must’ve been more for the big guy’s birthday, right?
Well, there was a game music compilation CD and a booklet which came with the above physical game release – and this Wii Virtual Console release celebrating the big two-five.
That seems really exciting doesn’t it? Back then it did, and looking back now, after getting a taste of Mario 35 on the Nintendo Switch, retro gamers must be thinking “wow, I need to play Mario 25 now!”
Well, sorry to let you down (as I have a habit of doing sometimes) but the reason I haven’t mentioned much about this game is that there’s not much that was changed or updated to make this much of a special release to play.
It’s Super Mario Bros., with a new date added to the copyright on the title screen and “?” blocks replaced with “25” in them instead.
The only other noticeable tweak is Princess Peach, who upon completion of the game adds another line about pressing “B” to choose your world on the menu screen – you can go straight to the first level of any of the eight worlds, but in the “second quest” or whatever its called when you beat the NES version and everything changes to hyper speed with buzzy beetles in place of goombas.
Actually, that part isn’t too shabby, but I imagine it was included somewhere else in the history of Mario – and its especially underwhelming for those of us who have used cheats or save states to do the same thing in the past.
For someone playing on the Wii?
My guess is if you wanted your SMB fix, then you would’ve already purchased the unadulterated version from the Virtual Console shop, which was a release day title anyway.
Don’t get me wrong: this is still Mario. The controls are tight, and the translation to play a bit more of the levels on a wider screen, but not so much as to ruin the original experience, totally works. It’s a good port.
However, this game was nothing special other than the swapped “25” blocks; essentially something a game hacker could’ve done with a little bit of extra time on their hands.
Check it out at your own risk.
New Super Mario Bros. U
Traditional 2-D side scrolling Mario games took a hiatus following the stellar entries of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World into the series. Those games launched, respectively, on the NES and Super Nintendo in the early 90’s.
Entering the new millennium, 3-D graphics were all the rage. Super Mario 64 took the famous plumber into an open world of three dimensions and the old platformer we all grew up with was all but a forgotten genre with no new entries.
Then, in 2006, Nintendo unleashed a “New” update to the original formula with the Nintendo DS’s “New” Super Mario Bros. The update brought the traditional gameplay into the 2000’s and sparked sequels on the Wii, 3DS, and this one, on the Wii U.
Some of that spark flamed out by the time we get to this “U” iteration, but there’s enough meat left on the bone here for Mario fans to pick clean regardless. It’s also the first Super Mario Bros. (platformer) title to get the full High Definition treatment on the Wii U.
The formula is familiar: Princess Peach is captured, Bowser (and his usual array of henchmen) are responsible. This part of the game will make those familiar recall Super Mario 3, which could be a good or bad thing when it comes to being repetitive.
Mario navigates a world map, which has hidden levels, mushroom houses and the like.
The usual fire flower and starman power-ups are present, as is the ice flower from the Wii predecessor. Yoshi (and baby Yoshis) also make an appearance.
As with any Mario game, there is a new special item, this time a squirrel suit which allows you to glide in the air and stick to surfaces.
At times this new suit can be a hindrance and oftentimes you may find yourself better off with a different approach. While it’s novel, it takes some getting used to and can feel out of place with some of the more time-tested and tightly woven power-ups found throughout the game.
Multiplayer was a big selling point for this Wii U exclusive (since ported as a “Deluxe” edition to the Switch). I didn’t give it a try, so I cannot give an opinion on its elements or effectiveness.
There is another mode with a new “antagonist” named Nabbit, who you must chase and catch for a prize from Toad. This was actually a refreshing entry to the game and one that makes some levels much more appealing to play back through.
In all, everything here should look somewhat familiar. There was definitely a push in this game to make the levels less “blocky” than in previous games. My hunch is that Nintendo made this decision to differentiate Mario U from the upcoming Super Mario Maker: and make sure users couldn’t just recreate the U levels.
This small touch, along with your usual 100 coins for a 1-Up, star coins to unlock other areas, and a few Mario jokes and surprises makes it worth playing, but could end up being a monotonous playthrough for some of the older or hardcore fans of the series.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games
At my household we decided to dust off an old relic of an accessory known as the Wii Balance Board. In doing so, we started looking up games which supported this century’s version of the NES Power Pad… and in doing so, we found a game that was a blast to play, with or without the accessory!
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is something you’d look twice and shake your head at if you were a time traveler from the 1990’s. No one ever envisioned Nintendo’s main mascot pairing up with the face of their competition. Furthermore, I doubt anyone ever saw the duo teaming up on for an Olympic-themed game.
Yet, all of these oddities come together and simply work. Much like Nintendo’s foray into the kart racing genre, Mario & Sonic really clicks with a well-known cast of characters from both series in a number of events that transcend demographics.
I’m the least bit interested in figure skating, for example, but seeing how it works with the motion controls of a Wiimote and/or the balance board, made for quite the experience. In some cases, you could even get a nice workout in playing each of these events.
While some of the events do not use the board, the ones that do don’t always feel like a tacked on gimmick. Snowboarding even has you turn the board vertically, as to stand on an actual snowboard and shift your weight.
There are many events to try out (as seen in the images below) and most of them are well-balanced and play fairly for anyone picking up the game. It’s likely the most accessible Wii game outside of Wii Sports – so yes, even grandma can give freestyle skiing a try!
The graphics are somewhat dated now if you’re playing the SD Wii console on an HDTV/4K TV, but aside from that technical hurdle, Mario and Sonic could be the definitive balance board game for the console. I highly recommend it, especially if you have someone to share laughs with: it makes for a great inclusion on a game night.