Mario loves da gold! Wa-hoooo!

Ever since Mario had to traverse eight definitely different worlds, donned his first set of raccoon ears to fly, and bashed Bowser’s seven nasty Koopalings, the formula to making a great side-scrolling Mario game hasn’t changed much over the years. New items have been introduced, and Bowser Jr. sometimes takes the place of Larry, Morton Jr., Wendy O., Iggy, Lemmy, Roy, and Ludwig, but for the most part, things have stayed relatively the same.

And this formula’s maintained once again with New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS. The Koopalings, who have a bit more of a grown-up design—they’re technically of legal drinking age now, after all—and their dad, Bowser, have kidnapped Princess Peach for the billionth time. So, it’s once again up to Mario and Luigi to storm through the Mushroom Kingdom and leave kicked turtles shells and flattened Goombas in their wake, whether alone, or by linking up for some brotherly co-op action.

The twist this time is that the Mushroom Kingdom has apparently gone through some sort of economic boom, because coins are everywhere. New Golden Fire Flowers turn blocks into coins or cause enemies to yield coins when defeated. Golden turtle shells leave a path of coins in their wake for Mario and Luigi to collect. The brothers can even carry around golden blocks that drop more coins as they jump, run, and fly through eight more worlds based in familiar Mushroom Kingdom locales. Along with these new items are the returning regular Fire Flower, Super Mushroom, Invincibility Star, and Raccoon Leaf. With the Raccoon Leaf, we also see the P-Meter return—which, when full, allows Mario and Luigi to temporarily fly through the skies of a given stage.

Aside from the new items, New Super Mario Bros. 2 does offer something that’s been critical to all Mario games, side-scrolling or 3D: tight controls and intricate puzzles that can be solved using Mario’s bevy of jumps and other abilities like the butt-stomp. This platforming perfection is what makes Mario games so fun, and in that regard, New Super Mario Bros. 2 definitely succeeds with its own share of secrets, collectibles, and branching pathways that can be unlocked depending on how you should advance through the game. The more time you put into practicing your jumps, the more you should get out of this Mario adventure.

It’s also nice to see the Koopalings gimmick taking a necessary step forward to provide us wily old Mario veterans a little bit of a challenge this time around. Not only do the Koopalings have their trademark magic wands that allow them to blast fireballs at Mario, but each one also has a lair uniquely designed to their strengths, requiring Mario to overcome extra obstacles he’s never seen before from Bowser’s seven brats. This adds a tinge of excitement to reaching the end of each level; you never knew what to expect next, as the lairs are definitely brand-new experiences.

And speaking of new, the newest game mode, Coin Rush, is probably what will help keep New Super Mario Bros. 2 fresh in people’s minds more than anything, as it provides an arcade-like replayability we haven’t seen in a Mario game in decades. Traversing through three random stages with one life and trying to set a coin high score to share with your friends via StreetPass not only keeps in line with the theme of the game—which promotes you to try to collect 1 million lifetime coins—but also gives you a chance to readily compare scores with your friends like you’d see with online leaderboards.

All in all, not much has changed since the last New Super Mario Bros., but not much really needed to change in the first place. The controls are still as tight as ever, the look and sound drips classic Mario, the platforming puzzles are expertly designed, and even the Koopalings have seen a bit of a facelift. The new Coin Rush mode adds some needed replayability, and the StreetPass leaderboards can become addictive if you’re into that arcade style of play.

The only thing you might not enjoy is the fact that the Princess still hasn’t figured out how to keep out of Bowser’s clutches, but then again, it wouldn’t quite be a Mario game if she did. New Super Mario Bros. 2 succeeds in finding a way to stay entertaining using a formula first used 25-plus years ago, and fans old and new shouldn’t wait to jump into the world’s most famous plumber’s latest adventure.

SUMMARY: Though we’ve seen this formula before, New Super Mario Bros. 2 finds a way to keep itself just fresh enough while still hitting platfroming perfection.

  • THE GOOD: Still the tightest platforming out there.
  • THE BAD: We’ve seen this formula before.
  • THE UGLY: The Mushroom Kingdom’s imminent economic collapse.

SCORE: 9.0

New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a 3DS exclusive.