Mario Run

Nintendo’s level-based runner, Mario Run, is a fantastic foray into the the iOS ecosystem. We’re going to dive into some of the design decisions they made and discuss them in short order.

Single Player and Competitive modes

These two modes are present from the start, and have synergistic relationships.

Competitive play (Toad Rally) lets you compete against a previous runner’s score and rewards you with differently colored Toads. These Toads allow you to unlock new characters, such as blue and green Yoshis, initially.

Single Player (Tour) allows you to unlock new Toad Rally levels.

Players are therefore encouraged to play both game modes.

Short levels

Other “infinite runners” are comprised of an long, stitched levels and last until you die by making a mistake.

Mario Run’s “Toad Rally” levels are indeed stitched from level segments but the short time limit and tolerance for mistakes, means you aren’t trying to survive, you’re going for a high score. This is a much different feeling, condensing the “fun” into a shorter time span. High scores are more about utilizing the map better, than living until the levels get appropriately challenging.

Multi-Tiered Challenges

Each “World” in Tour is composed of 4 levels. Each level has 5 special coins. Finding all 5 coins in a world allows you to try the world at a harder difficulty. There are 3 sets of coins, pink, purple and black. The black (most difficult) coins can be very difficult to get on a single run.

Nintendo designed their levels for being played at 4 different difficulty levels. Simply completing them unlocks the next level, while pink, purple and black coin runs are progressively more challenging.

Additionally, unlockable characters bring unique character packages into these levels and come with their own pros and cons. Each character can collect all the coins, but some will have advantages so you’ll want to unlock more characters for strategic advantages with some levels.


Nintendo skipped ads and other common monetizing strategies. They give free access to competitive play and World 1 levels. Players are shown a paygate for 10 dollars when they try to move on to world 2.

This takes guts. World 1 has enough content that you, dear player, must convinced to pay out for the next 7 worlds.

This tough, and unconventional decision, allows them to make a very uncompromised game.

Other runners, typically monetized by showing advertisements between levels, feel “cheaper” compared to Nintendo’s very “Apple” and very “premium” model.

Game Design

Finally, Nintendo’s game design here feels… simply, like it was present.

Other runners feel as if a team of micro transaction experts tuned the levels in order to encourage players to pay for upgrades.

Nintendo’s design feels like it was primarily controlled by level designers who constructed levels with love and fine attention to detail. It feels very much like it was made by their “first string” players who were trying to make a game worth purchasing for 10 dollars, rather than a game which is trying to sell upgrades and monetize the players as advertising targets.

Final Conclusion

Great game of which I have only positive things to say.