New Super Mario Bros. retrospective — Reinvigorating the old New Mario

This article was originally written for Examiner.com.

In what is increasingly becoming a misnomer the “New” Super Mario Bros. series of games is now on its fourth iteration, the original debuting on the Nintendo DS in 2006. The series began as a fresh take on the classic, 2D style of Mario games that had fallen to the wayside since the arrival of Mario 64. Now some gamers are saying that the series that reused old Mario tropes has itself become stale. New Super Mario U hopes to change that.

But of greater concern to us are the classic elements of Mario. Of particular note are the callbacks to “Super Mario World.” Baby Yoshis are back and just as you remember them. World death traps, such as giant skewers inside fortresses, make their not-so-welcome return. Even the single, continuous map screen recalls the early 90s. The Koopa Kids and Boom Boom minibosses are once again back from Mario 3, as are the bouncy “music note” boxes, and the flying squirrel suit will remind any long-time fan of the raccoon tail. Even the classic POW block dating back to the original Mario Bros. makes an appearance. The game is positively soaked with nostalgia.

The game also references the legacy of the “New” Mario. Enemies that dance in time with the music are the surest sign of the “New” series.

Can a game still feel fresh when it’s comprised so completely of rehashed elements? Frankly, yes.

When New Mario made the jump to the Wii, it allowed four players to play the game simultaneously, introducing fun and yet frustrating gameplay to the classic formula. The addition of the Wii U game pad for the latest entry, “New Super Mario Bros. U” keeps things fresh, introducing a god-like fifth player that can create platforms to help — or hinder — fellow human players.

Nevertheless, it may be time for Nintendo to give Mario his next true reinvention, as they did with Super Mario Galaxy. But really, nostalgia hounds like myself will keep playing these games long after the “new” has fallen out of New Mario.

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