Although a re-release of a Wii U original, packed with all the add-ons and expansions that followed its original 2012 release - like the excellent New Super Luigi U which remixed levels in a fast-paced time trial fashion - New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe feels more like a second go of it. A re-launch after a failed start, as opposed to a simple re-release or remaster.
It all comes down to the simple fact that there are far more Nintendo Switch consoles out in the wild than Wii Us. A disparity that has resulted in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe already outselling its previous release by a considerable amount. Coupled with the handheld nature of the Nintendo Switch it means that for better or worse titles like this and Mario Kart 8 are now associated with and considered Nintendo Switch releases first and foremost.
Taking this sentiment to argue that New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a brand-new Mario game is fair – but even so this is a very different experience to something like Super Mario Odyssey. One gets the sense that the New Super Mario Bros. series is happy to be considered the safer or less ambitious counterpart to the full-3D movement Mario games. That said we’re more than happy to see a game, from Nintendo no less, offering up classic side-scrolling platforming levels in an 8-bit NES and 16-bit SNES fashion. New Super Mario Bros. series leans heavily into this side of Nintendo’s past, using specific Mario games as a jumping off point to have fun with level design - with additional touches like multiplayer modes and offering up different characters to play as.
Again, as this package features both the original game and New Super Luigi U, this results in quite a bit of variety in terms of flow – ranging from the rather easy and player-friendly all the way up to nail-biting and challenging. But not too challenging, as one also gets the feeling that Nintendo isn’t all that interested in upping the challenge of classic 2D Mario in the same way that say Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES or Super Mario World on the SNES did. For that style of play, there are already a few great indie platformers like Celeste available for the Nintendo Switch.
With New Super Mario Bros. there’s a focus on forward momentum and not falling behind. You can call in the AI (in the form of Luigi) to complete levels on your behalf. Playful, without punishing players in any meaningful way. Entertaining too, with some wonderfully bright visuals, vibrant music, and cute animation. For experienced players there’s always the option to collect all the coins and so forth, but the overall light approach to the presentation makes this part of the experience less of an incentive than in a more traditional Mario release.
There are a few fixes and improvements over the original Wii U release too, with new playable character Toadette introduced to add a more pixel-perfect and classic feel to movement. This means the floaty and less-precise running and jumping that comes from playing as Mario or Luigi can be swapped out for what feels more traditional or old-school. Even though this makes most of the levels a breeze to get through, it alleviates one of the main issues that we’ve had with the New Super Mario Bros. series over the years. That being the use of 3D assets and characters, which ultimately fail to match the precision and tight feel of the classic 2D Mario games. This still rings true here, and in effect it lessens some of the overall ambition or creativity found in the level design, but the addition of Toadette helps bridge the gap.
In the end New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a welcome addition to the Nintendo Switch library, a fun and entertaining platformer with charm and every now and then – that classic Nintendo feel. But due to the success of the platform, it also finds itself competing with many stellar indie platformers in a way that Super Mario Odyssey never did.