Mario is a fantastic entertainer regardless of what dimension he’s in, and New Super Mario Bros 2 is yet another top-notch side-scrolling adventure. That said, it’s not without its failings, including the nagging feeling that the game turns its nose up at opportunities to really shine.
ESRB Rating: E
Compatible With: Nintendo 3DS
GOOD: A solid Mario outing, and a sturdy platforming experience overall.
BAD: Feels like we’ve been down this road before. The coin collecting mechanic is under-realized.
THE BASICS: Pennies (and Some Gold) From Heaven
There are some new power-ups on hand too, and they relate to the secondary goal in New Super Mario Bros 2: Coin collecting. Lots and lots of coin collecting. Coins are everywhere in every level. You can even supplement your in-game income by nabbing a gold brick hat that generates coins as you run, or a golden Fire Flower that crushes bricks or enemies and leaves shiny gold coins in the wake of the destruction.
GAMEPLAY: Unexplained Wealth
Familiarity is expected from a Mario title. That’s part of what helps the series endure. At the same time, most Mario games have a setting, quirk, or mechanic that sets it apart and makes you smile regardless of how many times you’ve been around the Mushroom Kingdom. In the case of New Super Mario Bros 2, Mario’s trip is supposed to be made a little stranger by the inclusion of the hundreds of thousands of gold coins lying around. Unfortunately, the game squanders the coins and the potential to turn their function upside-down. While it’s fun to wallow waist-deep in money (many of us Mario fans grew up with fantasies about swimming in Uncle Scrooge’s Money Bin from Disney’s old Ducktales cartoon), New Super Mario Bros 2 doesn’t give us any incentive to do so. Story-wise, there’s no explanation for the money explosion, nor are you rewarded for reaching certain milestones. The lack of a reason for the influx of coins is especially disappointing, as Nintendo has thrown away an opportunity to deliver a stirring tale about a devastating spike in the Mushroom Kingdom’s inflation. Okay, okay, kidding. Still, what’s with Mario’s newfound greed? No one plays a Mario game for deep character introspection, but in the case of New Super Mario Bros 2, it could have been fun.
Granted, New Super Mario Bros 2 does do a couple of novel things with its coin fiesta. Players can indulge in “Coin Rush” mode, which lets you rip through select stages and collect as many coins as possible within a time limit. Your best accumulated total is saved, and can be passed on to other players via StreetPass. It’s an awesome option, but it would be made even better with some online leaderboards.
Despite all the negativity on display here, New Super Mario Bros 2 is still one of the best platformers available on the Nintendo 3DS. It falls back on old tricks like water worlds, lava fields, perilous jumps, and wild flights into the sky—but let’s face it, these old tricks still hold a lot of value.