New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe review: The toad princess cometh

  • Solid Mario platforming, as always
  • Multiplayer is a lot of hectic fun
  • Looks excellent on Switch - the best looking 2D Mario game to date
  • No enough new content for people who already played on Wii U
  • Plays it a little too safe - a by-the-books NSMB game

Of all of the Wii U games Nintendo has been porting over to the Switch, New Super Mario Bros. U is arguably the biggest. With Breath of the Wild launching so late in the Wii U's lifecycle, I think it's fair to consider New Super Mario Bros. U the flagship Nintendo title for the platform, and it's one that could certainly benefit from exposure to a larger audience. This port is also another chance for Nintendo to flex its platformer prowess and show us once more why Mario is the reigning king of video games.

Mainline games in the Super Mario series – which has been running for more than 30 years, keep in mind – have never been outright bad. Instead, they tend to fall somewhere within a pretty narrow range of quality that starts at "very good" and ends at "essential." Have other games done it as well as Mario throughout the years? Yes. Have other games done it as well as Mario as consistently as Mario has? Nope.

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, in my opinion, falls a little short of its predecessors, but that doesn't mean it's a bad game. It's unquestionably a good game, even a great game if you're a fan of 2D Mario titles. We knew that much five years ago, though, so the question now becomes one of what New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe does to stand out from the game that first debuted in late 2012.

The biggest change in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is the addition of Toadette, expanding the roster of playable characters to six: Mario, Luigi, two different Toads, Nabbit, and now our Toad lady in pink. Of these characters, Mario, Luigi, and the two Toads offer the most challenging gameplay, Nabbit the easiest, and Toadette lands somewhere in the middle.

Toadette has some abilities that the rest of the cast (with the exception of Nabbit) don't. She controls better on ice and in water, which takes a degree of difficulty out of a number of levels. While those abilities certainly make some parts of the game easier, Toadette's true capabilities come from the Super Crown, a power-up that's exclusive to her. Upon touching one, she'll transform into Peachette, and with that transformation comes a number of abilities that definitely make the game far easier.

For instance, Peachette is capable of double jumping and floating through the air, which give her some huge advantages when it comes to traversing the game's stages. The float ability alone is usually enough to ensure that you don't take a hit or die outright after a mistimed jump, and both it and the double jump make collecting the three star coins that are hidden in each stage a trivial matter (for the most part, at least). On top of all of that, Peachette also has some immunity to pits – fall in one once and you'll be ejected back out, but the next time it happens you'll plummet to the bottom just like you're supposed to and lose a life.

Nabbit makes the game even easier, but those who played the New Super Luigi U expansion for the original game (which is included here as well) already know that. Nabbit can't be harmed by enemies in any meaningful way, instead walking right past them most of them. He can't use power ups either, but there's little point in using them when traps like pits, lava, and those that crush you are the only real danger.

He also has similar movement capabilities to Toadette when on ice and in water, so completing stages as Nabbit is a breeze. In regards to Nabbit, the major differences between Deluxe and the original game is that now he's no longer limited to the content in New Super Luigi U – you can play him in the base game's stages as well.

Platforming veterans may scoff at the idea of making a game easier – I did at first, to be honest – but New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe can actually get pretty tough at times. Maybe I'm just losing my touch as a result of getting older, but I don't remember platformers being this difficult back in the '90s. Obviously, these days we have games like Celeste and Super Meat Boy where the challenge is part of the appeal, but I don't usually expect a high degree of difficulty out of a game like Super Mario Bros.

There were times where I would die over and over again in a single stage – sometimes on the same screen – and be greeted with that green Super Assist Block that started appearing in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Instead of hitting that block and letting the computer complete the stage for me, I'd switch over to Toadette, use a Super Crown, and finish the level as Peachette with at least some of my dignity intact. I'm happy Toadette serves as some sort of middle ground between the game's default difficulty and the ease in which you complete levels by playing Nabbit, because without her, I definitely would have rage quit the game far more often than I did.

That was just in the base game too – the stages added New Super Luigi U make things even more difficult, so those of you who like a challenge have a game worth considering in New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe. Adult players who don't mind a difficult adventure will want to stick with the Mario Brothers as they play, but for kids who may be new to platforming titles and might get frustrated by having to repeat a stage too many times, making Toadette and Nabbit playable throughout the entire game is definitely a welcome addition.

You're in for a long adventure if you plan to compete everything New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe too, because there are a ton of stages between the base game and it's Luigi-themed expansion. Nintendo's count tops out at 164, and though I didn't go through and count them all myself, there's definitely no lack of content to play through.

I think the platforming in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is solid as always, and the level design is actually really good. There are a lot of very creative levels to be found in this game, and some of the challenges they present are designed well too. On top of that, the game is a joy to look at – colorful and vibrant, with plenty of varying aesthetics to experience as you jump from world to world.

As it is, I think that New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a perfectly good Mario Bros. game, and if you never played the original on Wii U, it's definitely worth buying on the Switch if you like side-scrolling platformers. Co-op play is fantastic, as it has been throughout the New Super Mario Bros. games that support it. Even playing with just one other person adds a lot to the game, as you'll need to time movements carefully to make sure one person doesn't push the other into a pit, trap, or enemy. I haven't had the chance to play New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe with four players yet, but it's something I look forward doing as I imagine it's a very hectic yet enjoyable way to play the game.

My main complaint about New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is that it falls a little flat in this post-Breath of the Wild, post-Super Mario Odyssey world. In both of those games, Nintendo did something it doesn't often do: it took chances, and in the case of Breath of the Wild, the risks it took were rather dramatic. Nintendo typically operates as a very risk-averse company – it knows what works and it sticks to that, tweaking the formula in each new game slightly to change things up just enough.

It was refreshing to see Nintendo take those chances in Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, and it's no secret that those risks paid off significantly. Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey were both better games for the chances that Nintendo took, and I want to see that spread to the big N's other franchises.

Even as a New Super Mario Bros. game launching in 2012, I'd argue NSMBU played it a little too safe. Its main hook, at least until New Super Luigi U launched later on in 2013, was "Super Mario Bros. in HD!" It was the first Mario game to be made in HD, and for some, that was enough reason to be excited.

Don't get me wrong, the game looks great, especially on the Switch, but I think New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe borrows a bit too much from its predecessors, which can hold it back at times. I don't necessarily begrudge Nintendo for that, because New Super Mario Bros. U was a launch title for the Wii U, an unproven platform that needed to pull people in. Consumers have shown time and time again that they love 2D Mario games, so it's hard to fault Nintendo for giving the people what they want as a means of selling a new console, even if the company played it a little safe in the process.


So, is New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe a bad game? No, it isn't, and I think that anyone who loves 2D Mario and missed this game the first time around should buy it on Switch. As I said, the level design is solid, the game looks great, and multiplayer is never a bad time. If you played the original game on Wii U, you can probably give this a pass, unless of course you find yourself drawn to the additions of Toadette and Peachette.

I hope, though, that this is just a teaser for something bigger that's coming around the bend. I want to see a New Super Mario Bros. game made specifically for Switch, and when that inevitably happens, I want Nintendo to step out of its comfort zone a bit. I don't know how it would do that, but I would love to see a New Super Mario Bros. title that takes some risks. Even if some of those risks don't work out, it'd be better to sticking to the same formula closely, however good that formula may already be.

I'm sure we're going to get a New Super Mario Bros. game for the Switch at some point, as the console is too popular to leave any franchise or series untapped. While we wait for Nintendo to announce such a game, I think New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is good for a 2D Mario fix, and if you've got some friends to play with, it makes for an excellent way to spend an evening (or two or three) on the couch.