Nintendo’s Super Mario Run, which launched today for the iPhone in 150 countries, is the most anticipated game of 2016. (And considering that Pokémon Go launched just months ago, that’s saying something.) With this release, Nintendo is finally joining the mobile revolution — after years of avoiding making smartphone games using its iconic characters.
Super Mario Run is largely a paid game, though it is free to download and parts of the game can be played for free. Beyond that, it’s a one-time $9.99 purchase — unlike other games like Pokémon Go or Clash of Clans, where avid players can end up spending hundreds of dollars on in-app purchases.
That might mean that Super Mario Run won’t make as much as the highest-grossing mobile apps, but is also good for players (and parents) who don’t want to spend a fortune.
How you play:
Much of the gameplay is similar to past Mario games: You run through a virtual world, collecting coins and avoiding enemies. But Nintendo has added several tweaks to make it more friendly for those trying to hold a phone and play one-handed. The most notable change is that Mario runs automatically — just tap the screen to make him jump. And because it’s for a phone, Super Mario Run is designed with a vertical screen orientation in mind, rather than horizontal.
"We felt that by having this simple tap interaction to make Mario jump, we’d be able to make a game that the broadest audience of people could play," Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto told The Verge.
Super Mario Run has three modes. In the most familiar mode, known as World Tour, you collect coins and head for a goal. Another, Toad Rally, lets you compete with the performance of the other people who have played, aiming to both collect the most coins and do it with the most style.
A third mode, Kingdom Builder, lets you create your own Mushroom Kingdom from more than 100 different buildings and elements. You can use coins collected in any mode to acquire the various elements.
Nintendo also says "there will be periodic events based on the main modes that will offer players challenges and rewards."
While Mario is the star, according to Polygon, other familiar characters can be unlocked within the game, including Luigi, Toad and Yoshi.
One of the big initial surprises/gripes is the fact that Super Mario Run requires persistent internet access during game play. A Nintendo representative said this was for several reasons, including limited-time in-game events, allowing players to share data across multiple devices and allowing access to other users’ data and scores to create the challenges in the Toad Rally mode.
Why it’s a big deal:
Nintendo, while having largely missed out on the smartphone gaming revolution, is still a big player in games and has a number of popular franchises, with Mario chief among them.
Super Mario Run is the first Nintendo-created game for the iPhone. (The company had an earlier mobile effort, Miitomo, but that was more of a social network. Meanwhile, Pokémon Go was a joint venture of Niantic and the Pokémon Co., in which Nintendo has a stake).
With Super Mario Run, it was Nintendo itself that did the game design, though it did get some assistance from Japanese mobile-gaming firm DeNA, which is helping on the internet services side of things and also helped create Kingdom Builder.
And Nintendo has been very judicious about bringing Mario to non-Nintendo devices, preferring to use him as a lure to buy its hardware, which makes his arrival on Apple’s iPhone a big deal.
Some more fun facts:
In various interviews, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto revealed a few more details about the game and its origins. For example, while Super Mario Run mostly resembles past Mario titles, Miyamoto took some inspiration from Japanese cat-collecting game Neko Atsume, especially the mode that lets you build your own Mushroom Kingdom.
Who is getting my $10?
It’s being split between Apple, Nintendo and DeNA, though the exact economics aren’t being disclosed. (Apple’s typical take is 30 percent.)
What’s next for Nintendo and Mario?
Though it is iPhone-only for now, Nintendo plans to bring Super Mario Run to Android next year. And Nintendo isn’t stopping with Super Mario Run. The company plans to deliver two more games for mobile, titles in its Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem franchises, before the end of March 2017.
As for Mario, he would appear to have a strong future, although just what path he takes remains to be seen.
"Super Mario Run is going to introduce millions of more people to the fun of Mario, and it’ll become the entry point for them," Miyamoto told The Verge. "And then the question becomes, once you’ve gone through that entry point, then what comes next? Is it a more traditional Mario experience? Is it something like the Mario Galaxy games? We’ll then have to look at what it is these new fans want from a Mario game, and we’ll continue to see Mario evolve in that way."
What do people think of the game?
I am a decidedly non-serious gamer, but have been giving it a brief whirl since its release less than an hour ago. In addition to reminding me of my very awkward elementary and junior high school years, it seems like a good time-waster, though I am not ready to give up on my beloved Pokémon Go just yet.
I’m somewhat tempted to give it to my almost-4-year-old son, but also worried I will never see my iPhone again. Plus, because it requires a constant internet connection, I can’t just put it on his iPod touch and expect it to work everywhere.
My co-worker Amy Keyishian, who shares my enthusiasm for Pokémon, also tried it out. "Well, I’m as terrible at this now as I was 20 years ago," she said.
Meanwhile, here’s late-night host Jimmy Fallon giving it a try on his TV show:
What if I want to know even more about Super Mario Run?
Here’s an in-depth look at the game from our sister site, Polygon. And here is Miyamoto talking about the game in a 40-minute podcast with Apple. If what you are really looking for are some tips on how to play better, The Verge has you covered.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.