So I bought New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe about 8 months ago, right after getting my Switch. At first despite buying it, I didn't really know if it would be fun beyond just playing the latest NSMB game but with better graphics.
It took me a while to really get to it, and in the past few years I haven't really enjoyed Mario sidescrolling platformer games because all the levels end up really forgettable.
However, I have now found a way to make this series go from a series of decent games to really good games of exploration.
For people who are not familiar or need a refresher; NSMB games always have 3 star coins per level. Each level is normally quite short and takes about less than 2 minutes to get through if you just rush to the end. The star coins are hidden in the nooks and crannies and are often a challenge to get, requiring more difficult maneuvers to get to or requiring you to really think outside the box for a second and look in areas where you'd normally just run past.
How I usually tend to play a NSMB game is that I just rush through all the stages and then go back to world 1 and slowly start acquiring all my missed star coins. I have not enjoyed any of these games in the last 8 years very much and I tend to always forget what most levels even had mechanics wise. I also usually end up never getting all the star coins.
However, with this one I decided instead of rushing through all the levels and going for the star coins after, I was going to only allow myself to continue to the next stage or world after getting all star coins in the stage I'm currently at and without using a walkthrough at all even if it takes me a long time to find them all and I can't seem to find a star coin. After doing this for a bit I noticed I was enjoying it quite a lot, and the levels became way less forgettable. I have started feeling like I'm constantly on the lookout for secrets and have become more attentive to the level design instead of just moving forward whilst barely looking at my surroundings.
The most important part here is to keep exploring and not look it up no matter what. It turns it into an exploration game where you know it must be somewhere, but you don't know where it has been hidden. The ways they hide the star coins sometimes is really clever, and the tricks to get them are sometimes also pretty clever. For one star coin for example, the intended way to get it is to carry over a koopa shell from a whole mile away and throw it at it to get it, because it's near the bottom of the screen without ground below.
Playing this game like this and taking it slowly has made this game so incredibly enjoyable. I have gained an enormous appreciation for stages in the game that I would have otherwise just gone through once and then forgotten about forever. There were a few stages I hated until I cleared them once and then revisited them at the end of the world's castle to get the star coins. It's amazing how well hidden some of the star coins are and you really have to carefully examine the stage's environment and try to think where the devs could have hidden something. It turns a 2 minute stage into a 7 to even 15 minute long one sometimes if you really have to look around.
The game indicates what star coin you just got out of the 3 star coins, with the third star coin always being the furthest into the stage and the first star coin always being the first you can get.
Sometimes I find the third star coin as my first one in a stage and I'm utterly surprised and have no clue how I'm this close to the end and only just found the last one. That's how well hidden the star coins are sometimes and how much they really make you look around everywhere.
The experience is seriously akin to the Mario 3D games like 64 and Odyssey where the whole goal is to explore and find carefully hidden collectibles and solve puzzles. Without a walkthrough it's such a joy and I really feel like I have to explore.
If you've tried the "New" SMB series and haven't enjoyed it I seriously encourage all of you here to revisit these games and play them like 64 or Odyssey with star coins as your main goal and most importantly without a walkthrough. Even if you really can't find one just keep trying, the feeling when you finally do find it makes it all worth it. It breathes so much life into an otherwise 8 hour long game and turns it into a patient game of exploration.
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