In the nearly 25 years since the first Super Mario Bros., the series has remained the Platonic ideal of the single-player platforming game. Sure, you could always hand the controller off to a second player in-between levels or lives, and Super Mario Galaxy added the ability for a second player to use the Wii Remote pointer to assist as a helper, but the Mario games were always primarily a solitary experience. Even as the industry shifted more and more toward a multiplayer focus — first with the popularity of one-on-one fighting games and more recently with the perfunctory cooperative and deathmatch modes that seem to be infecting and overtaking the cinematic single-player scenarios they’re built around — the Mario games were still tales of a man against his environment, of the struggle to get from point A to the princess at point B while avoiding the varied and imaginative pitfalls in between.

But even a series as old as Mario isn’t immune to the winds of change, and so we get New Super Mario Bros. Wii — a game that finally adds a man-vs.-man element to the man-vs.-environment simplicity, with support for “UP TO 4 PLAYERS!” as the box screams. The results are far from awful, but more than anything, New Super Mario Bros. Wii proves that when you mess with a Platonic ideal, the results may be less than ideal.

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