The Need for Greed in New Super Mario Bros. 2

I had a pretty busy week with not much time to think about anything, so the only thing I can put into words at the moment (without breaking any NDAs or discussing the inner minutiae of Cape Comic Con) is New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 3DS. It’s a traditional 2D Mario game, but there’s an added catch: it’s important to collect as many coins as possible. I’m not sure why it’s important, or perhaps I’ve forgotten why, but there’s a running counter in the corner of the map screen that displays the total number of coins collected. I have 15,000 so far. If I get to a million coins, I’m pretty sure something important happens. Perhaps it allows Mario to buy Princess Peach’s freedom from Bowser. Or perhaps it allows Mario to pay off a tremendous debt to the Mushroom Kingdom—he has caused a lot of collateral damage, for instance, what with all the blocks he breaks. Anyway, I’ll find out when I get a million coins.

This has been a great game to play during a busy week because I’ve been able to play it for 30-45 minutes a night before bed to wind down, and even with limited playing time and in short spurts, I’ve made pretty good progress. It’s also on a portable console, so I can play it with great convenience and from my bed if I want.

When I first heard about this game, I wasn’t very interested in it because I thought the emphasis on coin-collecting was gimmicky and uninteresting. However, when I can get a Mario game for 15 dollars on a Black Friday sale, it instantly becomes much more appealing.

Coins coins COINS!
Coins coins COINS!

It turns out this is the perfect game for me. I’m the kind of gamer who takes unnecessary risks—jumping two or three perilous gaps, for instance—just to collect a 1-up mushroom (even if I already have 99 lives) or an extra handful of coins. New Super Mario Bros. 2 has coins in perilous locations everywhere, and I’ve probably lost fifty more lives than I normally do in a Mario game trying to get them. The level design is excellent and the coin placement enticing—coins aren’t just slap-dashed into the levels. They feel as though they are meticulously and purposefully placed despite the fact that there are so many of them. As such, it makes it difficult to leave any of them behind.

The game’s running total of coins gives fresh incentive to collecting them. In previous Mario games, the primary purpose of collecting coins is to earn extra lives, but I’ve gotten good enough at Mario games that lives are rarely an issue. I still like to collect the coins, and I will take unnecessary risks to get them, but if time is short or I’m just goofing around, I know I don’t need them. New Super Mario Bros. 2 has so many coins that I’ve built up hundreds of lives, yet I can’t stop collecting them. Playing the game is not only fun and relaxing, but it has also become an intriguing psychological study.

Just when I think I have all the answers, Nintendo changes the questions.