by Matthew Thompson
(I am counting down my 25 favorite games of the last console generation. I explain a little about how I put the list together in this introduction. And you can see a collection of all my articles on the Best of 7th Gen compiled here.)
I couldn’t have been more excited by the prospect of New Super Mario Bros. At the time it released in 2006, I was left somewhat unimpressed by Mario’s two forays into the third dimension. They just weren’t what I imagined Mario to be in 3D. So a return to what made me fall in love with the mustachioed plumber, classic 2D platforming, was an idea I could really get behind. But once I got beyond the sheer excitement of Mario’s sidescrolling revival, I realized the game just wasn’t up to the series standards. Luckily Nintendo’s second stab at this New series on the Wii would deliver a game worthy of the franchise’s legacy.
It is hard to describe exactly what makes the best Mario games so special, but you know it when you play one of them. And it is all here in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. The levels are both creative and challenging. The DS game introduced the idea of using some of Mario’s 3D moves like wall bounding and ground pounds and the Wii game puts these to great use. There are fun power-ups like Ice Flowers, Penguin Suits and Propeller Hats. Yoshi is back with his flutter jump. Airships return. It all comes together to create some really exquisite level designs and platforming concepts that combine classic elements from the throughout the series with unique new ideas that this iteration brought to the table.
Of course, the biggest new feature NSMB Wii added to the series was the four-player co-op and it is just so much fun. The idea that your characters bounce off each other seems like a divisive one. Some people hated the chaos it created, but I loved it. There are just so many great random moments created because of it. Accidentally knocking friends into bottomless pits or hitting them with errant shell throws will provide plenty of laughs. As will some more intentional griefing like picking up friends and chucking them into the abyss below. There are even some cool cooperative moves available for when you actually want to help each other. Admittedly some of these levels just don’t feel designed for multiple people to play through, but I think that speaks to the fact that they kept the game challenging enough for solo play and I think the hilarity that ensued and fun I had going through with three friends made up for any shortcomings the mode had. It was a truly memorable experience.
The New Super Mario Bros. series has grown a bit tired in the years since, but the Wii version was the worthy follow-up to Mario’s classic adventures I had always dreamed of and still managed to infuse some new ideas into the formula at the same time. It is my favorite of Mario’s 2D outings other than Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World (and Yoshi’s Island if that counts) and there is no shame in being behind those all-time greats.
A few more things:
- I usually comment here on other games in the series from the same generation, but Mario was one of my exceptions to my one game per franchise rule. So there is more Mario to come!
- Every time I write about a game I typically feel like it should be put higher (writing about it makes me remember how much I loved it), but I felt extra bad here. I had such a tough time ranking these especially in this middle area, but I tended to give the edge to genre or series favorite. NSMB Wii isn’t my favorite platformer of the seventh gen or my favorite Mario game. That is my excuse for it ending up here!
- This game has my favorite final boss in any Mario game. It is basically a platforming level and that feels like what the boss fight of a pure platformer like this one should be.
- This game kept track of how many continues each player used which me and my friends lovingly referred to as “The Shame Counter.” Just added to the trash talk.
- Clue for #14: My all-time favorite in this genre had me choosing my favorite color to start the game.