With a name as convoluted as a Kingdom Hearts spin-off, at a glance, it’s difficult to know exactly what New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is. Well, aside from being a mouthful, this title is a port of the fourth entry in the ‘New Super Mario Bros.’ series that started way back in 2006, aiming to be a faithful, modern evolution of the original Super Mario Bros. Games from the 1980s.
New Super Mario Bros. U was a 2012 launch title for the Wii U, and this reconfiguration brings it up to speed with Nintendo’s current console architecture. Deluxe offers both the main game and it’s standalone DLC, New Super Luigi U, in one tidy package.
The main addition from Nintendo is a new power-up, the Super Crown. This sent the internet into a collective state of emergency when it was announced late last year (remember Bowsette?) Sadly, Nintendo has since clarified that the only person who can don the transformative headdress is Toadette, a brand new character exclusive to Deluxe.
On the character selection screen, Toadette is tagged with ‘Easy’, and operates as such. She is more stable when on ice, can swim with ease and thanks to the Super Crown and even has the ability to turn into Peachette — who can float and double jump with the spin button.
If you’re looking for a reason to take this adventure again, Peachette is a worthwhile change of pace. This is a delightful addition to a game that is, pardon our French, bloody difficult. Testament to this, we played through all of Deluxe and still hit some serious brick walls.
That isn’t to say that the moment-to-moment platforming wasn’t enjoyable though. Typical of Nintendo, New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe has some wonderfully imaginative levels. From the murky, Van-Gogh inspired Painted Swamplands to the misty, precarious heights of Meringue Clouds, you will hop, skip and jump your way through this bubbly landscape, facing new challenges in every location.
Clever motion control wanders into the fray in the later stages of the game, as well as platforms that stop if enemies land upon them, forcing you to duck, weave and take part in damage control when a bob-omb decides to make a home next to you. When this happens, you’re left at the mercy of the wall of lava quickly encroaching the screen, which creates an adrenaline-pumping atmosphere and in turn, some of Deluxe’s most memorable moments, the ones that involve playful shouting and laughter between friends.
The map isn’t so linear once you get to the mid-game, which means you can make choices about which worlds you want to tackle. For example, we saw an upcoming water world and made a hard, almost Colin McRae-esque rally drift into the ice world, hoping for something a little bit more forgiving. Luckily, this still offered surprising new challenges, like the pernicious penguins who stay long and low to the ground, flaunting cool shades that taunt Toadette as she falls to her doom.
Every swift movement in Deluxe feels absolutely fantastic thanks to the HD Rumble upgrade, to the point where getting kicked out of the level door after a crushing defeat feels good in your palms. It adds another pleasing layer of veneer to a game that was already functionally sound.
Old Habits (Make You) Die Hard
The levels weren’t always consistent though, and at points, I did tire of parallel gauntlets that often wavered dramatically in difficulty. The ghost mansion levels stand out as the most cumbersome, where most of the experience boils down to frustrating trial-and-error, a far cry from the joyous exploratory platforming of other levels that are far less claustrophobic. The supernatural misdirection from the Boo’s would be charming if it wasn’t so frustrating.
The fun is heightened with the addition of more players who fill the screen and make the gameplay even more mad-cap than usual. Deluxe as a package seems designed to make the game available to all skill levels, a necessity given the ‘Super Mario Bros.’ design principles that are still baked in after nearly three decades.
However, this is also where one of the game’s problems first rears its head. By exiling the Blue and Yellow Toad characters from the original, the game runs the risk of putting different demographics off. In the main game, this means that for your fourth character you have to pick an ‘Easy’ character in Toadette who has a clear advantage over everybody else. This is more troublesome in New Super Luigi U, a game designed as a challenging step up from the main game.
Due to the removal of Mario, you have to pick both Toadette and the invincible Nabbit if you want to play as a four, which doubles the timer and tends to undermine a lot of the level design. It’s a double-edged sword. If you have young family members who want to play with low consequences and you’re just looking to have fun, this will please you, but it’s a move that doesn’t really consider long time series fans who are seeking a challenge in this upgraded port.
If something is really frustrating you in Deluxe, you can always rely on Nabbit to help you out in a bind. A strange new addition to the lore, he’s a rabbit criminal with the greatest vice of all, currency. He also happens to have some sort of strange, stalkerish obsession with Mario, who he studies intently from his home on Secret Island. Seriously. Nabbit is also completely impervious to damage, and clearly, some kind of god. We don’t know what this bandana-toting bunny did to secure his spot on Mount Olympus, but let’s be honest, they’re a pack of criminals at the best of times so we imagine he’d fit right in.
The only way to shuffle Nabbit from this mortal coil is to get him trapped in geometry or drown him in lava, so he’s absolutely perfect if you’re looking to coast through a level that has frustrated you one too many times. Truly, it’s only your personal pride holding you back this time around. In a game as difficult as New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, it’s a breath of fresh air, especially considering you can always go back to the mission once you’ve honed your skills on other challenges later down the line. This is coupled with a helpful hints section and an exhaustive suite of videos guiding you through each level and it’s associated collectibles. It’s a shame then that you can’t fully remap the controls and add true accessibility options beyond swapping your jump and dash buttons.
Visually, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a joy to look at, but if you scratch the surface you can tell that this is a port of a game that is now seven years old. The environment minutiae like the ruffling flowers and the clever enemy designs mitigate this slightly, but looking at any of the main characters pre-mushroom is a bit ghastly. There’s nothing wrong with the visuals, but they’re not eye-popping. Don’t go in expecting the same kind of delightful aesthetics you’d see in Super Mario Odyssey.
This tracks for the score too. Most of it is forgettable. Peach’s Castle did stand out though, with its wonderfully dark remix of the castle theme from Super Mario 64. This whole world had a fantastic oppressive atmosphere to it and some challenging but deeply rewarding levels. It’s a shame the best was saved for last.
Due to the nature of the single-screen setup on the Switch, Boost Mode has been turfed out for this port. It’s a shame as using the gamepad to place platforms was heaps of fun and added a lot of depth to the original Wii U title. Yet, a whole suite of challenges are still in the package, alongside Boost Rush and Coin Battle, which offer meaningful ways to flip the switch on the levels you will know very well by the end of the game. You can even edit Coin Battle courses with Coin Edit, which was so seamless it just left me hankering for Mario Maker Switch… Make it happen, Nintendo.
Is New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe Any Good?
Despite dashing the dreams of Bowsette fans everywhere, this is a great game made more palatable for gamers of all skill levels, and although sometimes it threatens to be too easy by grafting in characters without really thinking about it, there is a blockbuster amount of content here that is fantastic fun solo, only to be made more exciting by the four-player multiplayer.
Whilst this isn’t the most essential Wii U port to come to the Switch compared to more inventive titles like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is easily the best modern Super Mario Bros. game, and if you’re looking for that kind of fix after the 3D heights of Super Mario Odyssey, this 2D golden oldie is worth your money and your time.