Looking Back: New Super Mario Bros. U is actually one of Mario's greatest adventures
It's hard to believe that it's been just over four years since New Super Mario Bros. U first launched on the Wii U. It doesn't feel like it was that long ago, but then again I'm not sure anyone noticed because you don't really hear people talking about that particular Mario title much. Conversations about Nintendo's mustachioed plumber often revolve around classics like Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, or Super Mario Galaxy. And as far as the platformer genre goes, those are some of the finest examples you could ask for.
I recently revisited New Super Mario Bros. U. After playing through it again for the first time in years — as well as finally collecting all of the Star Coins in each level and finding every hidden exit — I'd argue that the titular mascot's 2D Wii U adventure is one of his absolute best.
Lost in the Shuffle
New Super Mario Bros. U received critical acclaim at launch for its level design and platforming gameplay, but it's since been long forgotten, living in the shadows of other modern classics like Super Mario 3D World and Super Mario Maker. It didn't help that New Super Mario Bros. U was released just four months after New Super Mario Bros. 2, a solid game in its own right, hit the 3DS causing it to be lost in the shuffle.
I couldn't be more disinterested in the Mario franchise in late 2012. At that time I was writing for another outlet, and I'd previously reviewed New Super Mario Bros. 2, scoring it 8 out of 10. One month later, I followed up that review with a piece discussing my own personal Mario fatigue, and how the series was in danger of growing stale. People in the comments section of that article and on N4G defended Mario to the death, praising New Super Mario Bros. U before it had even launched and calling me a hack.
Now here we are four years later, and it genuinely feels like I'm the only one still talking about how phenomenal New Super Mario Bros. U is. Unfortunately, that won't change the fact that the game is hardly considered one of the best in its franchise — easily a top 10 contender and possibly even a top 5 candidate. I'm not trying to start some Mario-centric war here, but I truly feel that New Super Mario Bros. U even manages to outshine the much-revered Super Mario World.
A Victim of Timing
A big reason why people don't talk about New Super Mario Bros. U is because it came along at probably the worst possible time. It was the fourth entry in Nintendo's New Super Mario line and a Wii U launch title. As much love as Mario gets, by that point a lot of people were clamoring for a 3D installment, a successor to the Galaxy games. Instead, we got a second New Super Mario game within a four-month period. Argue to the death as those commenters and N4G users might, no one really cared about New Super Mario Bros. U.
I didn't play the game at launch. I waited about two years to do so, and I'm glad I did because I remember really digging it. My Mario fatigue had subsided, and I was ready for more 2D adventures in the Mushroom Kingdom. Now, after another two years have passed, it's even easier for me to see that New Super Mario Bros. U isn't just a great game filled with beautiful art, tons of charm, stellar level design, and perfect degree of challenge, but it rivals the classic pixelated platforming romps that launched the series to amazing heights.
During my recent playthrough there were times when I just didn't want to put the game down. It took a great deal of discipline to pause the game, put my Wii U GamePad back on its stand, and perform other daily tasks such as walking my dog or eating lunch. That's discipline that I probably wouldn't have if I were a five-year-old kid playing New Super Mario Bros. U.
Speaking of which, I was around four or five years old when I first played Super Mario Bros. 3, which happens to be my favorite game of all time. New Super Mario Bros. U won't replace that cherished NES classic for me, but I wouldn't be surprised, nor would I argue with anyone who says New Super Mario Bros. U is his or her favorite entry in the franchise, or just favorite game in general.
A Modern Classic, Even If It Wasn't Apparent At First
If you've been following Nintendo's flagship franchise, played New Super Mario Bros. U in 2012, and either liked it or felt indifferent about it, I'd urge you to play it again now. Now that some time's passed, you may find that it's a lot better than you first thought, especially if you played the previous three 2D Mario games within a short period of time.
If, however, you never played New Super Mario Bros. U because you'd had your fill of the series when this one launched, I'd like to make the case that now more than ever is the best time to jump into this fourth installment of Nintendo's 2D Mario revival series. I don't think it was especially obvious back in 2012, but New Super Mario Bros. U is truly a classic.