I may not have been born of the era, but I was still playing Super Mario Bros. 3 by the time I could hold a controller.  I grew up primarily in the age of 3D gaming, but no matter how much Super Mario 64 impressed me, I always found myself gravitating toward the franchise’s 2D outings.

When New Super Mario Bros. debuted on the DS, it felt like both a breath of fresh air and a worthy return to the plumber’s roots.  So it pleases me to say New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a well-made entry in the series with some solid ideas.  Yet it also saddens me to share that this follow-up does not do quite enough to capture the magic that previous outings have encapsulated so well.

It's great to have the Raccoon suit back, but it only serves to remind how great Super Mario Bros. 3 was.

2D Mario titles tend to bear a certain level of quality, and New Super Mario Bros. 2 certainly enjoys its share of smartly designed levels and a perfect integration of the franchise’s run-and-jump gameplay.  Players will travel across six worlds, along with two extra areas, in an effort to save Princess Peach, who yet again left a window open in the castle and let Bowser in to kidnap her.  The formula mirrors its DS predecessor almost identically, but now the gang of pop culturally named Koopa Kids are along for the ride.

Each of the worlds has its own share of platforming levels, a mid-world tower to climb and an end world castle with one of the younger koopas waiting to face their demise.  Three star coins are hidden throughout the levels, and a few branching pathways are scattered throughout the adventure.  Sound familiar?  It should to anyone who has ever played a Mario title and unfortunately, that sense of familiarity is New Super Mario Bros. 2’s most glaring error.

Better make this jump...forget that, grab EVERY coin you can!

Granted, the level design lives up to the series’ expected caliber, and with the expectedly varied world aesthetics, I never became bored of the desert world before it was time to move onto the island world.  The issue with the offerings that arises is that nearly none of the levels offer much challenge.  This game is far easier than it should be, ending in only a few hours.  A short game does not automatically equate to a bad game, but when the level of difficulty is so low that I finish the entire experience with over 100 lives remaining, the struggle to survive becomes almost nonexistent.

With a hallmark platforming franchise like the Super Mario games, how tough the levels are can determine how entertaining the game is, and New Super Mario Bros. 2 is severely lacking when it comes to the challenge it presents.  In a way, the game appears to recognize this with its emphasis on coin collecting.  From the start, New Super Mario Bros. 2 asks players to aim for a one million coin haul, and each level includes a number of opportunities to gather more gold than you may ever have before.

The appearance of these fellows as every miniboss in the game shows a disappointing lack of originality.

Blocks that normally produce a few coins can be worn as a new head for Mario, eliciting coins with every step and jump.  A golden flower will turn all enemies a similar color, and their defeat translates into more coins than a traditional demise.  The game tallies the number of coins amassed after every level or death, reminding players at major points of their progress.

New Super Mario Bros. 2‘s obsession with finances in a fiscally difficult time is perhaps a little ill timed, but the goal certainly changes up the dynamic of a franchise stuck in familiar ways.  Though the road to one million coins is a long one, and may not seem worth it in the end, the change in focus is an interesting shakeup.

"I love gooooooooooold." - An Austin Powers villain and now, Mario.

Yet this alteration may not be enough for those who are familiar with the genre or series.  The absence of difficulty and lack of true innovation makes the game feel like more of an expansion pack than a true sequel.  New Super Mario Bros. 2 retains the franchise’s gorgeous visuals and enjoyably light-hearted tunes, and with the attention on gold digging, there’s an undeniable charm to the proceedings.  And hey, who can complain about having the Raccoon Mario suit back in the mix?

New Super Mario Bros. 2 taken by itself, is an enjoyable romp through the Mushroom Kingdom.  Yet, in the larger scope of not only the franchise but the platforming genre at large, feels like a lesser version of its predecessor.  It does not take any steps toward advancing the series and did not do enough for me to make me feel like I was playing the same game I did in 2006.  The quest for a million coins is a fun diversion but it feels just like that – a quick sidestep from the true Mario adventures.


Here’s the Rundown:

+ Classic Mario platforming is always a joy
+ The attention on coin gathering is a fun deviation from the norm
+ Raccoon Mario!

– Where’s the challenge?
– Even with the coins, it still feels like the same game from decades ago
– Over far too quickly with a formula that is too familiar

7 and 7.5 represent a game that overall manages to be worth a playthrough, just not worth the full price at launch. These scores are for games that are relatively good or even really good, but generally worth waiting for a sale or picking up as a rental when possible.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 was developed by Nintendo EAD and published by Nintendo.  It was released on August 19, 2012 for an MSRP of $39.99.  A copy was provided to RipTen for the purposes of review.