New Super Mario Bros. 2 Review

Our official take on Nintendo's latest cash cow.

By: Jason Johnson

Filed Under: Adventure Review


As much as it must suck to be Mark Zuckerberg these days, it could be worse. He could be at Zynga, whose value has dropped like a fly since the feudal lords of FarmVille went public last year. It should be of some consolation that paper money is becoming as worthless as virtual crops. Pretty soon, Bitcoin may be a smarter investment than the US dollar.

No, I’m not a closet conservative who rails about Bernanke’s policies on pumping liquidity into the market in CNN’s comment section. (And if I were, my alias definitely would not be right6ider.) I’m just pissed off that New Super Mario Bros. 2 is so rough.

It’s no secret that Nintendo has been bleeding money lately. Ever since the Wii business dropped dead, and they had to slash the price of the 3DS because no one was buying it, the Big N has resorted to milking Pokémon (apologies for the bad mental image) and Mario to stay afloat. In four years, we’ve gotten four proper Mario games, which has been great. Until now.

Nintendo’s cash cow has finally cashed out, and what’s funny about New Super Mario Bros. 2 is how it wears the company’s financial woes on its sleeve. Here’s a game where the catch is to collect MOAR GOLD COINS THAN EVER!!!1, while the company’s financial books are in the crapper. It seems they are banking on it to refill their money vault, which not so long ago rivaled that of Scrooge McDuck. Nintendo has one thing in mind with this release: their valuation on the NIKKEI.

Nintendo isn’t alone. The traditional software industry has been in a slump all year. The bomba meme is seldom used on NeoGAF anymore because everything (with exception of Diablo) is a bomb. Of course, some games sell more than the numbers show, but only because people are waiting to buy them for twelve bucks on the Steam sale.

One problem is that the economy stinks. The federal government almost shut down last year because of too much debt. The euro may go the way of the dodo. And when rappers are giving their stuff away for free, you know something’s up. Who is going to pay full-price for entertainment when a pound of beef costs $3.08? This was a serious problem for the game industry until one day a little devil sat on a CEO’s shoulder and said, “What if we gave the games away, and charged the people that get hooked a lot of money?”

Don’t get me wrong. New Super Mario Bros. 2 isn’t evil. It’s not free-to-play – thank God. It costs hard-earned bucks up front. However, it has plenty in common with your average Facebook game. It is so easy that anyone who is clever enough to turn it on can play from start to finish without much trouble. It is cute in the generic way that will appeal to the broadest possible audience (kids, grandmas, that creepy dad from E3). And it gives the illusion that you are buying your way through the game, even if you’re not. These factors don’t make nice bullet points for the back of the box, but they probably look great at investor meetings, where anxious shareholders question Nintendo’s social strategy and look on in disbelief when President Iwata answers, “StreetPass.”

It turns out Mario’s economic situation is worse than we thought. Hyperinflation has shaken the Mushroom Kingdom. New Super Mario Bros. 2 constantly shoves its worthless currency down your throat, as invisible coins appear before your eyes, and kicked turtle shells leave trails of coins behind, like they have a hole in their pocket. Sometimes when you bop a question block, it will get stuck on Mario’s head, so that the very act of moving makes you a penny richer.

Similarly, the game hands out mushrooms and fire flowers and golden flowers like a pediatrician prescribes Adderall – whether you need them or not. (Don’t worry – Obamacare will pick up the tab.) I enjoyed it the most when I wasn’t paying attention, but instead having a conversation with a friend over text messages, pausing it every 30 seconds to send a reply, while the phone company nickel-and-dimed me for international SMS. This is also how I tend to play games on my iPhone, although those cost one or two bucks, instead of forty.

I’m not saying a Mario game should be priced the same as an item on the dollar menu. But at least when you buy a bean burrito, you get what you pay for. New Super Mario Bros. 2 is not what I’ve come to expect from the Mario name. It isn’t creative. It’s not really in 3D. It isn’t even very fun. Here’s a list of games I think are better than it: Every other entry in the Mario line, including (the Japan-only) Lost Levels and Super Mario Land 2 (the weird Game Boy game where Mario repossesses Wario’s house); the past two Sonic titles; kick the can.

Yep, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is probably less fun than the game your granddad was playing during the Depression. At least he had someone to kick the can with. The only potentially entertaining aspect of NSMB2 is multiplayer – that is if you can find anybody who wants to play it. Most people I know have better things to spend their money on than a derivative Mario game. Cans, for instance.

Why then did New Super Mario Bros. 2 garner pretty decent review scores? Is Mario so deeply entrenched in gamer DNA that it is good by necessity? The only other conclusion I can come up with is the Rothschilds.

I wonder what’s next for Mario and his cash-strapped friends. Will we find Miyamoto kowtowing man-babies on Kickstarter to fund the development of Yoshi’s Island 3? Will the execs at Nintendo rent out prime advertising space inside Bowser’s Castle? “Jump higher with Reebok.” Will players be prompted to please enter a virtual coin to continue?

Relax. I kid. But any of these options would have been better than what we got this time around, which is a cheaply made game. And a fake plastic coin, if you gave retailers a loan by pre-ordering. And double virtual coins from Club Nintendo, if you purchased it from the eShop on day one. And a counter that tallies how many in-game coins you’ve collected, which serves as a rough estimate of the time I wasted on this game. It makes me sigh. Money will ruin everything.



New Super Mario Bros. has moments of good among foundational flaws

Filed Under: Adventure Review

About the Author:
Jason Johnson is a freelance writer. His work has appeared in Kill Screen, Gamasutra, Unwinnable, GameSetWatch, FingerGaming, WSJ Speakeasy, and The Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures. He owns 27 Sun Ra albums.

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