Nintendo Switch; Nintendo
With straightforward 2D linear play this game can feel anachronistically flat – but chaotic multiplayer action is where the infectious fun lies
Recent Mario games have been wild and freewheeling, taking the little red plumber on galaxy-spanning trips and global tours, playing with the laws of physics as he jumps between planets or possesses weird creatures with his cap. But New Super Mario Bros is more like the simpler Mario adventures remembered from an early-90s childhood. It has straightforward left-to-right levels set in castles, underwater, on top of giant mushrooms, in the clouds. A loopy overworld connects them all together, offering a couple of different routes through each themed world. You run, you jump, you try not to die. And in multiplayer, where four of you can leap around dementedly together, you help each other out.
But though the running, jumping, Goomba-stomping and coin-collecting is fun, and the madcap landscapes that you tumble through are endearingly weird, the magic that animates Mario’s best adventures is missing. The music doesn’t stick around in your head for hours after you stop playing. It looks colourful, but oddly flat. After the joyfully creative Super Mario Odyssey, a game that anyone with a Nintendo Switch should own, it’s an unwelcome surprise to play a Mario game that doesn’t immediately floor you with its charm.