New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a prime example of both a growing and a declining trend from Nintendo. One the one hand, it is part of the steady stream of Wii U titles being ported over to the Nintendo Switch, and on the other hand, it’s the first release for a 2D Mario platforming title since Super Mario Maker back in late 2015.
Of course, it isn’t surprising that Nintendo is continuing to re-release some of the stellar titles that they produced for the ill-fated Wii U. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe continues to be one of the Switch’s top sellers over a year after release, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze outsold the Wii U version in just under two weeks in Japan. With every re-release, it’s becoming more and more apparent that the problem with the Wii U wasn’t the software itself.
The thing with this latest port from the Wii U catalog is that there have been only some very minor enhancements made to entice people to take a second bite at the cherry, especially when compared to other titles. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe included new racers and vehicles, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze included the meme-worthy “Funky Mode”, and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker included new levels based on Super Mario Odyssey.
There are really only two extras that New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe offers. First of all, there is the ability to use Nabbit in the core game, where he was only an option for the Super Luigi U DLC on the Wii U. Nabbit is an incredibly cool character to play as if some of the platforming is much too hard for the player. Nabbit can’t be killed by enemies and can jump as high as Luigi, making him a great choice for beginners. The best thing is, Nabbit no longer requires a cheat-code to play as in single player anymore, as he is selectable from a menu before the start of the game, and can be selected at any time on the map screen.
Another character that’s available to select, and also makes the game just a tad easier than normal is Toadette. Toadette comes with the much talked about Super Crown. When Toadette collects one of these powerups, she turns into Peachette. Playing as Peachette allows the player to float in the air for a small amount of time, and she is also able to take a mid-air jump to reach high places. Why the Super Crown turns Toadette into a clone of Peach is beyond me, but then again, I do not have the answers when it comes to half of the things that happen in Mario titles, so we will just roll with it.
Peachette provides an easier experience than playing as Mario, Luigi and Yellow Toad. She can be hit by enemies, so she does provide some challenge over Nabbit. Toadette is also able to use Fire Flowers, Ice Flowers, and all the other items in the game, whereas Nabbit remains powerless. Still, both characters move freely in the water and are granted an additional 100 seconds to complete each level, so both Nabbit and Toadette provide excellent options for beginners, as well as making things easier for co-op mode.
Aside from this, the basic package of New Super Mario Bros. U and Super Luigi U are exactly the same as its Wii U counterpart. As there is no Wii U GamePad, Boost Mode is gone, but not missed. The title boasts some very good platforming action and is of the high quality we would normally expect from a Super Mario title.
The one negative that plagues the New Super Mario Bros. series is the visual aesthetic. Much of what made both the NES and SNES titles charming in their own right were the limitations on the graphics. The developers found many ways to convey the protagonists and the enemies on screen with the limited power offered by the consoles of yesteryear. This often resulted in some rather interesting takes on what the Mushroom Kingdom looked like in each individual title.
The levels of New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe are presented as being from different areas of the Mushroom Kingdom from previous games, but at the end of the day, look and feel exactly the same as worlds from previous games in the New Super Mario series. The grass, desert, ice and water levels that we come to expect in Mario games do next to nothing to stand out from other games. The one exception to this is Painted Swampland. The Vincent Van Gogh inspired art style in these levels looks almost out of place in New Super Mario Bros. U, but it is the level to look out for.
The same goes for the audio. Before the New Super Mario series, each Mario game had its own set of musical tracks and sounds to set them apart. Despite being one of the most recognized tunes in the world, the original Super Mario Bros. theme was rarely used in its sequels — the overworld theme was different in every 2D Mario title on the NES and SNES. With the New Super Mario Bros. series, the same overworld track gets reused often, and it gets tiresome after hearing it a number of times. It certainly isn’t bad, but it’s nothing memorable, or of the quality of other Mario titles.
Despite the uninspired art direction of New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, it’s crammed with a huge amount of platforming goodness. There are over 150 levels across both included games, though some of the early levels are very simplistic in nature. Thankfully, the game ramps up in terms of complexity and design. Finding all the Star Coins, completing all the challenges, and finding all the secret exits paves the way for a healthy amount of replay value.
Even towards the final levels, New Super Mario Bros. U keeps throwing new elements and enemies into the mix to keep things fresh. The difficulty toughens up over time as well, all without being too unfair on the player. If things get too tough, you can always bring out either Nabbit or Toadette to help finish those levels. If things are still getting too tough, dying five times in any one level will provide the player with the option to use a Super Guide. This manifests itself as Luigi, who drops into the level and shows you have to navigate your way through the level. Once Luigi gets past the point of certain death, you can resume control and finish the rest of the level on your own.
It’s these small — yet significant — contributions to the game that make New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe an accessible experience for all skill levels. Even in Co-op mode, a player that struggles alongside their partner can press both the L and R buttons to put themselves in a protective bubble and allow the more experienced partner to move things along. Once the tricky part is over, the player can be released from their bubble and continue as normal.
For those looking for an additional challenge, the game comes with its own Challenge Mode. Not unlike some of the levels more difficult levels showcased in Super Mario Maker, Challenge Mode contains a slew of levels filled with plenty of platforms and enemies that will take the utmost precision to navigate around. Sometimes it’s performing triple jumps over narrow platforms, other times it’s asking you not to touch the ground for a whole level. It’s oftentimes a tad ridiculous, but interesting enough to check out on top of the core set of levels.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is an excellent addition to the Switch’s ever-growing catalog of games. That being said, it is still a re-release of a title from the New Super Mario series, a series that already started to feel stale back in 2012 when the game was originally released. As there has been no new game from that series since then, six years seems like a good enough amount of time has passed to get back into the series again. Despite the fact that there isn’t a whole lot that is “new” with this re-release, I can’t recommend New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe enough.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A review copy was provided to us by Nintendo.
Sure, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe might be yet another Wii U game re-released on the Switch, but it boasts a huge number of levels, filled to the brim with platforming greatness. Even though it's been six years since its original release, the overall experience holds up very well.