New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe Review — Not Quite New, But Still Pretty Fresh
Though it may not have the same luster as it did over six years ago, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is still a platforming gem for Nintendo Switch owners.
When it first released back in 2012, New Super Mario Bros. U has a good amount riding on its shoulders by debuting alongside the Wii U, let alone being one of the first modern Mario games to officially enter the HD era. Though New Super Mario Bros. U‘s achievements might have been undercut by the underwhelming performance of the Wii U in the years since its release, the arrival of the Nintendo Switch has given the chance for the Wii U’s roster of games to get a second life on a new platform. Joining other titles like the Bayonetta series, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Hyrule Warriors, and more, the Switch release of New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe gives this excellent platformer a new chance to shine, even if it doesn’t feel quite as “new” as it once did in 2012.
For those that may not have played New Super Mario Bros. U when it first released, or its New Super Luigi U expansion that released in “The Year of Luigi,” New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe packs both titles into one release for the Nintendo Switch. After Switch owners last saw the series reach new heights with Super Mario Odyssey in 2017, New NSMBU Deluxe brings things back to the traditional 2D perspective of Mario games of the past, and while it might lack some of the invigoration that Odyssey provided from everyone’s favorite plumber, Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe still manages to pack in a number of creative and challenging levels.
As an experience that is closer to some of the series’ classics like Super Mario World, NSMBU Deluxe is both a return to the 2D platforming that Mario fans know and love, but with enough tweaks and new mechanics implemented to give a slightly higher dose of challenge, especially in New Super Luigi U. Outside of just running and jumping, players can also perform a few more acrobatic feats, such as wall jumping and a new spin maneuver that can give that slight extra bit of momentum to nail a landing, or to enhance Mario’s power-ups like fire flowers and ice flowers.
Even more impressive in NSMBU Deluxe are the range of power-ups and abilities that players have at their disposal, including the flying squirrel suit that lets Mario glide across stages, the penguin suit that lets you slide across ice at breakneck speed, and the Switch version’s brand new Super Crown item that specifically allows Toadette to transform into Peachette with her own set of abilities. Much to the internet’s dismay, Bowsette doesn’t make an appearance, so don’t get your hopes up.
Outside of the new and varied ways that players can move through each level in NSMBU Deluxe, the real joy of the game comes through the fact that even more than in its original release, the game’s platforming feels right at home on the Nintendo Switch either on your TV or while playing on the go. Given the bite-sized nature of each level–the majority of which take less than five minutes to complete–NSMBU Deluxe offers just the right amount of challenge and excitement if you’re looking to sneak in a few levels during your commute or lunch break, while also delivering a colorful, joyful experience if you’re looking to play at home.
Even better is the fact that the game’s co-op play is an incredible fit for the Switch, making it easy to play a full-fledged 2D Mario game anywhere at anytime. Though the frantic action of four-player co-op might be better-suited to playing on a TV versus sitting around a Switch in tabletop mode, having the ability to break off the Joy-Con and play with a friend on the go seems just like the way that NSMBU Deluxe was always intended to be played. While the game does offer a fair amount of challenge compared to most other Mario titles, NSMBU Deluxe does remedy this a bit for younger/less experienced players with the additions of Nabbit and Toadette, who each have some abilities to give players a bit of an easier time in the game.
With a solid foundation of mechanics and 2D platforming that has been refined better than ever before, the only elements that I really came away with mixed feelings from playing NSMBU Deluxe are the game’s visuals and level design. As much as NSMBU showed the possibilities of what an HD-era Mario game could look like with the launch of the Wii U, the same can’t quite be said for the game’s appearance on Switch with more capable hardware.
From a performance standpoint, NSMBU Deluxe plays tremendously fast and fluid even when four players are onscreen at once. But from a visual standpoint, the themes and designs of the levels don’t stray too far from what we’ve seen before from past Mario games; you can still expect, ice, water, and fire-themed levels much like we’ve seen before, with only a couple levels really standing out in significant ways, such as the lush visuals of the Painted Swampland, or some of the post-game levels that will really test your dexterity and reflexes.
While the expectations for a Mario game have been raised in a post-Super Mario Odyssey world, that shouldn’t drive you away from experiencing one of the Wii U’s earliest hits with New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe. Filled with well over 150 levels between the base game and the New Super Luigi U expansion, there’s more than enough in NSMBU Deluxe to keep players occupied on-the-go or surrounding a big-screen TV, and the game’s tremendously fun co-op multiplayer is right at home on the Switch. Though it may not shine as brightly as it did six years ago, there’s no denying that New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is still a gem in its own right.