New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe – As Good as New?

If there’s one thing we can all agree on regarding the New Super Mario Bros. series, it’s that they aren’t all that new anymore. In fact, the New branding is kind of ironic, given that each title in the series is very much the same as the last. New Super Mario Bros. U was initially released as the Wii U’s flagship launch title way back in 2012. Seven years later – in 2019 – the game was re-released for Nintendo Switch as New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe. The release of Super Mario Maker 2 – specifically its inclusion of the New Super Mario Bros. U theme – makes paying $60 for New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe a steep task. All these years later, does this game still have legs to stand on (figuratively speaking)?

Introduction

I remember when New Super Mario Bros. U was released in 2012. At the time, it seemed like it was going to take a different approach than its predecessor. Of course, the game starts with Bowser kidnapping Peach, but this time, Bowser takes over Peach’s Castle and flings the Mario brothers away. Now they have to make their way back to Peach’s Castle. This is about is interesting as it gets, unfortunately, as there’s no other story points to speak of. The Koopalings and Bowser Jr. are here too, but as usual, they only feel like they’re here so the game has an excuse to have seven worlds (and no original new bosses, like New Super Mario Bros. on Nintendo DS did).

The Deluxe version of New Super Mario Bros. U doesn’t make many changes to the base game. It includes both the main campaign from the Wii U version and the New Super Luigi U expansion. These two were already bundled together for $60 on Wii U, though, so the deal isn’t any sweeter on Switch. Deluxe’s main addition, then, is the inclusion of Toadette as a playable character. She’s kind of like an easy mode, as she can use a new power-up called the Super Crown to transform into Peachette. You’ve probably heard all about how disturbing these lore implications are. And I completely agree!

In my own personal opinion, I believe New Super Mario Bros. U might be the second best New Super Mario Bros. game (following the original version on Nintendo DS). If you played this game on Wii U and are debating whether or not to re-purchase it on Nintendo Switch, let me break the bad news to you now: there’s not enough new content here to warrant an additional $60 purchase. If you like the game and have friends to play it with, though, it might be worth a second purchase, but that part’s really up to you.

Story & Presentation

As I mentioned earlier, New Super Mario Bros. U’s storyline is par for the course by Super Mario standards. There’s not much more to say about it, but I would like to make one important note here: Bowser does take over Peach’s Castle. So you would think that you’d go through Peach’s Castle as the final level, right? That would be correct. Except apparently Bowser was able to terraform the entirety of Peach’s Castle, making the final levels generic lava worlds once again. I just wanted to point out that this was a missed opportunity, in my opinion; I would’ve liked to see a more traditional Peach’s Castle level with Bowser as the end boss.

But let’s move on to something ultimately more significant: the game’s presentation. In terms of graphics, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe meets expectations, but does not exceed them. Everything looks clean, bright, and colorful, which is exactly what one would expect from a Super Mario game! That being said, New Super Mario Bros. Wii and New Super Mario Bros. 2 used the exact same aesthetic. New Super Mario Bros. U’s use of this “style” isn’t very unique. I’d really appreciate a 2D Super Mario game with a unique art style… and this one ain’t it. The game looks good, it just doesn’t have any visual flair to set itself apart from the others. You might argue they’re part of the same series, but look at Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy: generational differences aside, you can tell they’re different games just by looking at their art styles. A subtle but noticeable art difference would’ve been much appreciated in New Super Mario Bros. U.

New Super Mario Bros. U’s soundtrack is a bit more original. A new main theme was composed for the game, and this main theme pops up several times throughout the story in the form of themed remixes. Grass levels, athletic levels, and the like. In other worlds, not all the level melodies are recycled from previous games, which is definitely a step forward.

So, basically, New Super Mario Bros. U has a solid presentation — if this is the first New Super Mario Bros. game you’ve played. If you’ve played previous games in the series, you might agree that seeing the same art style again is kind of a slog. Which is why that fancy “New” in the title is ironic in its own way.

Gameplay

With all of that being said, though, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe does excel in its gameplay. The controls are fairly solid, and I felt very much in control of my character while playing. I lend this to the game’s midair spin ability — which halts the protagonist in the air, allowing them to “float” for a brief moment. The midair spin makes tricky jumps a bit easier, too, so that’s always a plus. Spins aside, the game includes a variety of jumps and maneuvers to use, including wall jumps and ground pounds. They aren’t hard to pick up at all, so even newcomers will be able to understand them before long! And that’s one of the game’s strong suits: it’s very newcomer-friendly. You could play New Super Mario Bros. U with a friend who’s never played a Mario game before and they’d have the basic controls down pretty quickly!

The game introduced a few power-ups back on Wii U, too. The big new inclusion is the Super Acorn, which transforms Mario and co. into flying squirrels. They can use this new power to glide around and double jump in midair. Maneuvering a character is really easy with the Super Acorn equipped. I’m completely fine with the inclusion of this power-up, as it’s different enough from the Super Leaf, Tanooki Suit, and Cape Feather of old. Somehow.

As we discussed before, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe includes the default New Super Mario Bros. U campaign as well as New Super Luigi U (a DLC campaign released as part of the “Year of Luigi” on Wii U). Both of these campaigns boast great level design, but that’s a series standard by now. Each features a huge amount of courses to play as well as a wealth of Star Coins to collect, meaning players will have a lot of content to complete. Between both campaigns, my personal favorite is New Super Luigi U. Its levels are much shorter and don’t drag on for as long. Don’t get me wrong here, New Super Mario Bros. U’s levels are good — it’s just that I enjoy the greater sense of “pick up and play” found in New Super Luigi U.

As you might expect, both campaigns include local multiplayer. In New Super Mario Bros. U, players can choose from Mario, Luigi, Toad, Toadette, and Nabbit. The latter two are essentially “easy modes”; Toadette uses an enhanced Super Acorn and Nabbit is literally impervious to enemy attacks. New Super Luigi U removes Mario from rotation. If you’re playing with four people, one of them will be forced to play as Toadette or Nabbit. In other words, one of them is going to have to play under easy mode.

That being said, though, the gameplay still suffers from a handful of issues. If you lose a life in a level, you get booted back to the world map. From there, you have to select the level again and restart. Which means you’ll have to sit through two loading screens every time you die. What a slog. This feels clunky and annoying, to say the least, and often made me want to stop playing. Not because I lost a life, but because I have to wait to get back into the action. To add insult to injury, the game only lets you save after beating a tower or castle level, making it more difficult to pick up and play.

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe retains its Challenge Mode from the Wii U version. And these challenges don’t lie: they really are difficult. Getting a gold medal on all of them is nearly impossible, as several of the challenges require pixel-perfect jumps and angles. In other words, if you don’t dedicate yourself to speed-running the game and learning its ins and outs, you won’t be getting gold medals on everything. The game also includes Boost Mode and Coin Battle, but they probably won’t hold your attention for very long.

The Verdict

Overall, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a solid platformer. Is it worth buying if you played it on Wii U? Not really, but it depends on  how much you liked the original. Is it worth buying if you’ve never played it? Sure, and especially if you have friends to play it with. Something else to consider, though, is that Super Mario Maker 2 is available now, has local and online multiplayer, and contains millions of online levels to play. If you’re more of a creative type, or if you like playing user-created levels, then Super Mario Maker 2 might be more up your alley. If you just want to pick up a game and start playing with some friends, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe might be a better option.

Though the New Super Mario Bros. games have legs to stand on all on their own, they’ve been “samey” for a long time now. I’m hoping that a new era of 2D Mario comes soon. One that includes a new art style, maybe some new mechanics, a better story… better everything, really. In the meantime, this game will have to do.

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