New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe review: 2D Mario title gets the audience it deserved

Have you ever had one of those moment where you’ve done something really cool, and there was no-one around to see it? A 3-pointer from the halfway line, for instance?

That’d be a bit like Nintendo’s 2012 release, New Super Mario Bros. U for the Wii U. The culmination of six years work which had kicked off with the New Super Mario Bros on the Nintendo DS in 2006, reimagining the classic 2D side-scrolling Mario titles, New Super Mario Bros. U was an under appreciated joy upon its release. This was simply by virtue of the Wii U console itself shifting so few units.

Fast-forward to 2019 however, and the transforming Nintendo Switch is the must-have console on the block. And with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe proving that there’s a large audience for Wii U remasters on the new hardware, here we are at the start of the year with a remaster that, for many, will be a brand new Mario title in the shape of New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe. 

And gee, are we thankful for it.

Return to the Mushroom Kingdom

So, first off – what hasn’t changed with New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe (which we’ll be calling U Deluxe from here here on in to save our keyboards from wearing out).

U Deluxe remains a 2D side-scrolling platformer in the classic Mario vein, but with characters and backgrounds modelled in the now-familiar 3D Mario style. Mario (and friends – each level can be played with four players simultaneously) has an expanded moveset in keeping with his free-roaming adventures, which includes letting him spin jump and butt slam, while there’s a Flying Squirrel suit power up for tackling tougher enemies, jumps and hunting down secrets. 

The game also re-introduced the classic Mario overworld map, which allowed you to unlock secret levels and paths to a final confrontation with Bowser by exploring each stage meticulously. It was a tough challenge (something that’s been addressed by the remake), and a manic one at that – competing against the intricate and tricky stages, as well as the bumbling efforts of your couch-bound pals, made for a thrilling single-player ride and a laugh-a-minute multiplayer session. 

While the sense of discovery never matched the zenith seen in Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo, we’d argue it’s one of the top three side-scrolling Mario’s ever, after Super Mario Bros 3.

What's new, bros?

So then – what has changed? For starters, the console itself. For many remasters this wouldn’t mean much more than the opportunity to bump up texture quality and ramp up the resolution. And while U Deluxe does this with aplomb (with the game now running at 1080p when the Switch is docked, compared to the dynamic resolution of the original) the nature of the Nintendo Switch means that the game can now for the first time be enjoyed as an on-the-go handheld title.

This is doubly significant as the game includes as part of its price New Super Luigi U, which was originally sold as a DLC pack. Here the focus switches to green-garbed Luigi, whose moveset is floatier and slippier, as he takes on challenge levels. With the timer for these reworked levels set to just 100 seconds, they’re perfect for bite-sized runs while on a commute. 

The biggest change really sits with the characters themselves. You’ve still got Luigi, Mario, Yellow Toad and Blue Toad, as well as the easy-to-play Nabbit, who’s control precision makes it designed for beginners. But in addition is an all new character called Toadette. She too is easy to play just like Nabbit, with stickier feet, directional swimming control and floatier jumps, but comes with her own unique powerup, the Super Crown. This unlocks Peachette, who can float in the air and double jump, again making tough levels easier to beat.

There’s been a casualty in the conversion though, and that’s access to the quirky Miiverse that shipped with the Wii U. This chat-lite system, letting you doodle thoughts, pictures and level tips for other players to see, is gone as the Switch doesn’t support the cross-title system feature. It was a fun diversion (and one that archivists will certainly cry over). But from a gameplay perspective as opposed to a social one, you’re not missing out.

Verdict: Play it

If you already enjoyed New Super Mario Bros. U the first time around, there’s going to be little here to tempt you to lay down your cash again, other than a desire to take the game on the go with you. It’s a more complete package with the Luigi levels added and resolution bumped, but the additional content is quality-of-life oriented, rather than padding an already sizeable campaign.

Likewise, if you’re only going to play one Super Mario game on the Switch (which would be a very sad mistake indeed) you should go with Super Mario Odyssey, which truly represents everything great about the Nintendo Switch, and is one of the finest games Nintendo has ever made.

Those concessions aside (and especially if you’re a newcomer to the game), New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe resurrects an under-appreciated platforming star. It’s got Nintendo’s signature charm throughout, a scalable challenge based on the characters you play as, and sits up there with the best 2D Mario games ever released. Whether you pick it up on the Nintendo Switch or are inspired to dust off a Wii U console, it deserves to be played.

Gerald Lynch

Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.