Dec 20th, 2012

I’m on the edge of my seat, my eyes fixed open. Sweat drips from my forehead, and my palms are soaked. Alas, my grip is firm and steadfast, clutching the control while excitement and fear are held in equilibrium. I’m nervous, shaking. Whatever spawn of hell awaits me on the other side will no doubt test every muscle, every vertebrae, every hit point of my gaming finesse. Dare I deem myself ready?

As the door yawns open, the tension is palpable, exhilaration and trepidation unrelenting in their poise. That last stage… that one life remaining, I… I don’t know if I’m going to-


A black screen. A peak of anticipation.

If only.

The release of New Super Mario Bros. U was no shooting star, I’ve come to realise. And it being the fourth iteration of new 2D Mario, I find myself asking, will my wish ever come true? This wish, let it be known, was that the bosses in New Super Mario Bros. U would be more challenging than those of Marios past. Oh, have I jinxed it now?

Don’t go confusing this shooting star with an actual star. You and I both know that Mario is far more than a star. I mean, he collects stars, and then feeds them to his starship, in space! But star-quality level design touched with star-bursting resolution aren’t enough to bear the weight of those red double-doors, which all but signify a ten-second boss fight. Those doors, they’re a symbol: a symbol of fear, of danger, of impending doom. The gradual open-and-close, the eerie moan on rusty hinges, and that sinuous red: they’re all part of the same build up.

But the build up… to what, exactly?

Kamek doesn’t help, what with her cackling and zooming across the arena, sprinkling magical dust over Boom Boom, the same dust that turned Baby Bowser into a monster half the size of Yoshi’s island yet now does next to nothing.

And then there’s the introduction, with the Koopalings having this time taken the helms of ships whose bows are giant faces of their very selves! As they perpetually circle their castles, they too cackle and giggle, as if they’re sure they can squash Mario the same way he squashed them in all confrontations past. They’re bound to prove troublesome this time around.

Or not.

The castles are teeming with pitfalls and traps, and they’re crawling with enemies. But at the summit of all this is a hyperactive Koopaling who takes exactly three hits to overcome. Having the top of one’s scalp as his primary weakness is well enough. But three hits? Blimey, each boss is a mini-game that takes more effort to retry than it does to move on. (I kid you not, I often find myself not stomping on my adversary just to witness what havoc his attacks can actually wreak. Not much, it would seem.) With their very own castle and airship, Bowser’s henchmen must have at least considered an armor upgrade, right?

In other words, it’s all build up and no finale. At least, no proper finale. This tradition of making everything in the game challenging except the bosses is eating away at me. Every time, I tell you, suspense gets left hanging, anticipation stripped bare, the excitement, the thrill, withering in the darkness.


Perhaps I should reiterate: I love Mario. In fact, my Koopaling clobbering wouldn’t be so if each boss was a nuisance, a menace, an incessant blow fly begging to be splat. But they’re not. They’re fun! Fun like the magic-imbued bosses in Yoshi’s Island; fun like every boss in Donkey Kong Countries 1, 2 and 3, each of whose looming presence made me cower in fear, too panicked to jump on queue.

Hyperbole aside, I’m older and wiser, and over the last fifteen years, these emotions have waned significantly. But the joy and the fun haven’t; and for the bosses of platformers past, much of this fun came from knowing that I very well could die. It’s a fine balance, to be sure, but I long for this fun, and if anyone can craft it, it’s Nintendo.

When I think back, I’m not surprised that New Super Mario bosses aren’t very challenging. Be it in Super Mario World or any Super Mario Bros. game, almost all bosses were downed in three hits, and none of them were particularly hard. All the while, however, they imposed a special kind of intensity. While three hits seemed an easy task for me, it was just as likely that I’d foil and die. Perhaps it was the unfair odds: one hit, and Mario would be stripped of fire flower and mushroom all at once. Now, the playing fields are even; you too can stack up to as many as three hits.

In any case, the three-hit tradition is what it is: tradition. New Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, Wii and U all adhere to it. They’re new, but they’re still Super Mario Bros., and three hearts to a boss is part of that Super Mario brand.

Fair enough; I like tradition, too. I love the side-scrolling levels and the power ups; I love the cheep cheeps and the goombas; and I love the classic sounds and the age-old flag pole. But the bosses? You might as well replace them with flag poles! After all, they’re over almost as fast as that end-level hurrah.

To be fair, bosses don’t get their own stages. Nay, each boss resides at the end of a level, and this could very well dampen the bosses’ difficulties Nintendo may have otherwise imposed. But why strip a boss of its powers when you could add a second checkpoint? It confounds me, this structure. They make each boss more of a treat than a challenge. I get it; the castle was hard. Yet it was not the castle but the boss that got hyped up with all his giggling and sneering and koopa-fied airshipping! Naturally, after all this build up, I expected a fun challenge at the end of the fortress. And it was fun, you know, until I moved.

With every release of a New Super Mario Bros. game, I’m both excited and disappointed. Excellent platforming and timeless nostalgia always abound, but so do the fish in barrels known as bosses. I long for those close calls and those near misses, those bosses where each hit to them is an accomplishment all in itself.

Perhaps it means breaking tradition, giving them six hits instead of three. I don’t mind. Each boss is as fun as the rest of them, but each boss, without fail, is overtly short and simple. New Super Mario Bros. U is the fourth new 2D Mario, yet convention remains unchallenged.  My expectations for the bosses in future Marios are aptly low. Still, in all this kerfuffle, I cling to hope, for if there’s ever a time where a shooting star can grant a wish, it’s now… right Santa?

What are your thoughts on New Super Mario Bros. U’s bosses? What do you hope for in future 2D Mario instalments? Let us know in the comments and be sure to visit the New Super Mario Bros. U Forum!

local_offer    New Super Mario Bros U  Nintendo  super mario  wii u  
  • Laud

    I thought the entire game was easy, but that doesn’t make the game boring, it’s still fun.

    If you want a challenge there are challenges and other stuff, I also bet they’re going to announce DLC or something for a tougher challange, who knows.

  • i haven’t played nsmbu yet, but base on the videos i have seen so far, yes. and based on my experience with the other nsmb games, definitely yes. i don’t mind the three-hit system (in fact i think it keeps things simple and straightforward), but would it kill them to add a little variety to the battles? make them puzzle bosses at least, so that you have to complete some kind of test or figure out an opening to get each hit in.

    • manowaffles

      I was thinking the same thing, perhaps some having armor on them that needs to be knocked off using a bob-omb or Koopa shell.

      I would love to see some DLC for this game though, perhaps with some harder bosses mixed in.  I’m also hoping for an update to enable Pro Controller support.

  • Jeffery02

    I have to admit that this is one of my criticisms as well. More hits would just make the bosses that much more tedious. They always seem to do the final Bowser battles extremely well, but all of his nieces and nephews are always just barely above a normal Goomba. The giant Piranha Plant has given me more issues than them. The level design I feel is just right. It’s not incredibly easy, but not incredibly difficult either. Maybe they need to have random enemies spawning during battle, or maybe they need to make it more fast paced. Anything to increase the difficult without having to make it more repetitive. The first couple bosses are excused, but when you’re in worlds 6 or 7, maybe have multiple bosses or something so that it’s something more than the bosses 5 worlds ago. I need some kind of increased difficulty to at least feel like I am becoming a better player as I get further into the game. I definitely feel like parts of this game was made for the younger players. I am a huge Nintendo fanboy, but I am starting to feel like Nintendo is leaving out the “core” gamers from the Mario franchise which is what the Wii U is being aimed at. Sure they added more challenging modes outside of the story, but I still want to feel like I accomplished something by actually rescuing the princess. I don’t want to do things just for the sake of a challenge. Make it difficult for kids, how do you think MY generation became skilled gamers? I’ll tell you that it wasn’t by being handed the ending like spoiled brats. For those who read my rant, I apologize for using so many words and thank you for letting me get my thoughts accross.

    • bizzy gie

      Your second-to-last sentence reminded me of the Luigi Super Guide you can use to get you through levels if it gets too hard, show you how to beat the level, or both.

  • I agree, the bosses are very easy.  I suppose I didn’t think about it because 1) I am used to it, as the article said, the boss battles are pretty much the same as they have been for generations of Super Mario Bros games 2) I have been looking to the levels themselves, gathering all the star coins, and the challenge mode to keep me engaged, not the boss battles.

    Still, I think the bosses can be made more challenging in future Super Mario games, and not by letting them take more punishment.  I’d make them faster, give them more varied and less predictable attacks, have them become increasingly aggressive after each successive hit, and make Mario lose a life to them with a single hit despite any power-ups.  At the very least, give Super Mario Bros titles a difficulty setting so that more seasoned gamers have the option of being challenged while allowing the game to remain fun for more casual or newer Super Mario Bros players.

    Those are just my thoughts.  For what it’s worth, I loved the game, and overall I can’t find much to complain about.  But this article made a good point, and everything can always be improved.

  • Jeffrey Debris

    To be honest I don’t see much difference between the bosses in Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros U in terms of difficulty…

    • Jeffery02

      Yeah, but in NSMBU, you can jump off of walls and to avoid the bosses and if you play 2 players, you can die at the boss and still continue fighting

  • yes they are but it’s still a good colourful fun game.

  • Mauricio Guaura


  • Arthur Jarret

    Actual boss levels. Which is basically a level with the boss raging invincible while you have to run away similar to the giant bowser level in NSMB-whichever it was… DS or Wii, he turned giant and you had to run all the way to the right… START a level like that and make it longer, then have some kind of stage action set to strip him of his power and let the boss fight begin proper. Three hits tradition, but do add two more three-hit stages to the battle.

    • Arthur Jarret

       They actually did this, kind of, in the final levels of NSMB2 and U… I just wish every boss level was like that – each using an original idea.

  • Duncan Ingram

    A really well-written article.

  • RyuNoHadouken

    this game was so wack…i sold it to some kid down the block after I beat it…ill probably never buy another mario game again…Difficulty: 1

    • Rob Lucci

      Smells like a troll.

      • RyuNoHadouken

        if you really believe what you typed, you must be more dumb than a drunk cock

        • Rob Lucci


  • Bosses have always been easy in these 2D mario games going back to the original. Difficulty in these games mainly rested on experience and age. As we got older and more experienced as a gamer it seemed like the games are too easy, when in fact they’re all the same.

  • Marine Aquatic

    The bosses? Hmm… I think my toughest was Morton. I mean, how can you formulate an effective plan of evasion when he whacks Pokeys that hit different areas? It took me 3 tries before I finally beat him for the first time. The other Koopalings presented their own problems, but I managed to get by them. Bowser Jr, on the other hand… He is mighty tough, in that level where he tosses down Bob-Ombs and extends boxing fists to pulverize a fragile battle field. I always have to be armed with a Fire Flower’ using the fireballs to send the bombs back to Bowser Jr. via the arms before they explode. Bowser’s final battle was truly a masterpiece in platforming. Although that means I won’t be facing problems in battling him.

    All in all, exquisite game. If anyone thought that game was really easy, they should try some stages in the Superstar Road. I went through Pendulum Castle, unlocked after getting all the Star Coins in Peach’s Castle. You don’t wanna know how hard it is… I had to attempt the stage umpteen times before getting all the Star Coins! And I had to use 2 power-ups to do it.

  • Graham Gillman

    The Game was much, much, much better.

  • Henry Hotspur

    Regarding pretty much every single main Mario title, all the bosses are free as hell.

    Remember Sunshine? Oh man, GETTING to Bowser in the end was filled with blood, sweat, and tears. It was ridiculously frustrating! Once you get to him? Durr hurr pound the ends 8 times while he does practically nothing and YOU WIN. Yeah, great boss.

  • Noah Linderer


  • Noah Linderer

    Im also sick of the bosses ALWAYS being the same 7 koopalings!

  • Pameliza

    Yes… No… Maybe…. Who Cares!?!?!?

  • Kristopher Will

    Try 4 players (no GamePad) with family and not-so-core-friends. Bosses will be hard enough. 2D is limited so they can’t do much about it unless they change the Mario (or platformer) formula which would make the levels senseless when the bosses work differently to the core game.

  • Paul Shipper

    Boss battles were never the highlight of Mario games.  

    From what I can tell, New Mario U was Nintendo trying to get the best out of all the mario games and leaving out contradictory elements.  They weren’t really trying to give us anything new, but use the right mixture for a quality product.

    Nintendo could raise the difficulty of the boss and make you have to hit them a hundred times, but they’re trying to make the game possible to win for little children.. not just the kids that grew up on their games.