Back during the Apple event in September when the iPhone 7 was revealed, Nintendo decided that would be the platform to unveil their next foray into mobile gaming in the form of Super Mario Run. It wasn't entirely clear if Super Mario Run was an infinite runner or had defined levels at the time, or what all features it would truly offer. What mattered was that it was Mario on mobile, and they even said it offer a one time fee with no microtransactions for full ownership.
What could go wrong? A classic platformer with simple controls should have translated to mobile well without much fuss. Well, to be blunt, Nintendo found a way to mess it up.
The premise of Super Mario Run is simple. Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach, destroyed the Kingdom, and scattered the Toads. As Mario, it's up to you to race through the lands and fortresses of the Koopa King to find Peach. A simple, classic plot. The game even starts strong. You try out a level and get the hang of the running mechanics, automatically climbing over short objects, wall jumping, and enemy jumping. Not bad. You are taken to the Toad Rally, the minimal multiplayer aspect of the title, and are introduced to the Kingdom building and Toad rescue effort.
And then the game starts to fall apart.
To start, the game does not list a pricetag up front. If you are savvy to the progress of Super Mario Run, you understand there is a $10 cost associated with the full game. The pricing model alone is very open to criticism, carrying a heavy price to content ratio compared to similar fully featured free to play titles. You truly pay a premium for rehashed assets from the New Super Mario Bros series of games. Combined with the fact that they don't really hit you with the price until you get a taste of the first three levels of World 1 is a bit underhanded. It's understandable to give a taste before saying "please pay for the rest," but they need to do a lot more to make the cost of entry immediately apparent instead of making Super Mario Run falsely appear as a free to play title.
Once you get past the paywall, you steadily realize, the game has very little content. Super Mario Run has six worlds consisting of three regular levels and a boss level each. That means 24 levels that on average take less than a minute each to complete. That is a short game. Gameplay aspects like pausing blocks and even Boo Houses mix things up more than you would think at first, but these don't provide enough different or challenging content to make a major difference.
Now, in each level, you can collect five pink coins. If you get all five in a single run, you get 2 Toad Rally tickets, while clearing a world nets 10 Toad Rally Tickets. If you collect five pink coins, you unlock purple, then black, giving further opportunities to earn tickets. Once you try Toad Rally though, the drive to accomplish this for all but the most driven of completionists becomes negligible.
Toad Rally is a barebones multiplayer competitive mode where you play against other players and try to get as many coins as you can in a given time in a random level based on your completed worlds. Winning gets more Toads of varying colors that level up your castle in the Kingdom and unlock more assets to add. This entire effort yields nothing of importance though and quickly becomes boring and tedious. If Kingdom building provided additional levels or worlds, maybe it would matter, but it's just a poor attempt at fleshing out a lacking experience.
There are other small things like "missions," but nothing that warrants a deeper explanation or will sway final judgment. In the end, Super Mario Run is short, has little meaningful content, and feels like a level pack from Super Mario Maker was used to create the game. Even the most diehard of Nintendo fans should give this a pass and play a New Super Mario Bros title instead if you really need a Mario fix that matches the art style of Super Mario Run.
Either wait for more content or for the game to drop around 50% in cost. Until then, standard infinite runners offer the same level and quality of content at a much cheaper entry point. Save your money and give this one a pass.