Super Mario Run is a modern classic for iPhone

I missed out on the early wave of home video game systems, Pong, Atari, and ColecoVision. NES, the Nintendo Entertainment System, was my first. I still remember going with my father to the store, grabbing the box, racing home, and setting it up. And then all I remember after that is Super Mario.

I'd played as Mario before in the coin-op arcade games that, back then, were plentiful around town. But having him at home, in a game so ingeniously designed for the system and the living room, was something else entirely. It was the beginning of a new era.

Over the years I bought every Nintendo system that followed, and every Mario game released for them, up to the Wii. I was with Mario as he leaped from platformer to 3D explorer, and from gamepad to motion controls. And now I'm with him as he makes his biggest leap — from Nintendo hardware to Apple's iPhone.

Run, Mario. Run!

Super Mario Run is glorious. Announced back in September at Apple's annual iPhone event by the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto himself, it hits the App Store today, and it does so in spectacular fashion. One of Nintendo and Miyamoto's greatest gifts is the complete mastery of matching gameplay mechanics to platform and controls, and they've done that once again with Super Mario Run.

Super Mario Run: A fresh, super fun, super approachable take on the classic characters for the modern iPhone age.

Some of the start-up interface work is crude, ranging from Wii-like candy buttons to raw text, but once the game starts, it's magic.

It's also incredibly simple. Nintendo, smartly, chose to make Super Mario Run an endless runner controlled not by tricky virtual gamepads but by native multitouch. You tap to jump and you tap longer to jump higher. In a world of console games dominated by thumbsticks, triggers, and wands, it may seem simplistic but it feels just perfect.

Not like a Gameboy game ported or transplanted either, but something fresh and new for iPhone. Something that melds the best of Mario with the best of mobile.

I've been playing a pre-release version for more hours than my sleep cycle is happy with right now, but I just don't want to put it down.

Let's go!

If all you want to hear about Super Mario Run is how to start playing, beat the bosses, and collect all the coins, then I'm just going to get out of your way and let my colleague, Lory Gil, and her amazing game guides take over:

Super Mario Run is free to try with a one-time $10 in-app purchase to unlock the full game. It's totally worth it. In order to reduce piracy, you do have to be online to play. That's a pessimistic choice, and one that's likely to impact paying fans who can't get online more than malicious downloaders. Hopefully Nintendo will figure out an offline mode that'll make everyone happy.

What's next?

Nintendo isn't giving up on hardware. The company has already announced the Nintendo Switch. Super Mario Run feels more like an experiment — can they have multiplatform and their own hardware too?

I think they absolutely can. They could own hardware for the console and dedicated handset market, and iPhone games for the masses. Because that's what they've nailed here. Hard.

Super Mario Run feels completely at home on iPhone, and so would MarioKart, Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong Country, Metroid, and more. All of them could still have versions on Nintendo's own consoles and handhelds but also optimized experiences for the hundreds of millions of iPhones on the market. (And, of course, Android phones.)

In other words, I very much hope this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Super Mario Run is spectacular achievement by Nintendo and terrific addition to iPhone. I look forward to playing it for countless hours to come, to recapture the memories of my childhood on the NES, and remind myself why I love iPhone gaming so much now.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have coins to catch.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.