Game Review: Super Mario Bros. Monopoly

super mario bros for NES, original box packagingYou have to go back a long way in video game history to understand the appeal of the new Super Mario Bros edition of Monopoly from the team at USAopoly. In fact, it was 1983 when a game called Mario Bros was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. And it was a monster hit. So much so that it spawned a sequel (of sorts), Super Mario Bros. The hero of the Super Mario Bros series is a little plumber called Mario who travels through the Mushroom Kingdom to rescue Princess Toadstool from the angry bad guy Bowser. Add a second player and Mario’s brother Luigi shows up too.

In fact, IGN fans voted Super Mario Bros as the greatest video game of all time and most people credit it with resurrecting the American video game market. The franchise certainly spawned a lot of spin-offs, including a (horrible) live-action movie and many other games for different platforms that feature one or more elements of the title, notably the warp pipes.

So what does all this have to do with the simple family board game Monopoly, first published back in 1933 in essentially the form we have today? That’s a good question!

As a popular game worldwide, Monopoly has been grown into a huge, extraordinarily successful franchise and now companies – notably USAopoly – publish “collectors” editions where they apply a different theme to the game, a theme ranging from the streets in a major city to players on a sports team to fictional characters from a popular movie or TV show. Or video game. In fact, we already have and love the USAopoly Nintendo Monopoly and play that much more often than any of the other versions we own.

Nintendo Monopoly broadly includes characters from all the major Nintendo franchise titles, but Super Mario Bros Monopoly is really just focused on the one title from the 80’s. Here’s what the game looks like, part way through a game:

super mario bros monopoly by usaopoly review board

Bright, colorful and very thematically designed. In fact, the graphics are all great fun and since I still have fond memories of the original NES game, I can’t but smile when I see the “?” block, the crude bricks and rather goofy clouds in the center, as well as how they’ve applied the theme to individual property spaces.

A closer look shows that “houses” and “hotels” have now been updated to be “goal poles” and “castles”, and that the play tokens themselves are really incredibly well done:

close up super mario bros monopoly tokens board game

Even “Chance” and “Community Chest” are updated and are now “? Block” and “Warp Pipe”.

Heck, even some of the cards seem to be a promise of more rebranding, though disappointingly this card doesn’t, in fact, mean you have instantly won the game, whatever it suggests:

? block card, super mario bros monopoly

The real Achilles heel of this game is the fact that the different lands in the original game didn’t have names or even nicknames, but just numbers. You had to finish off a “level boss” to get from 1-3 to 2-1, but when these names are applied to the Monopoly properties, well, it’s alarmingly boring:

property cards, super mario bros monopoly from usaopoly

On the plus side, USAopoly knows better than to mess with the color scheme of the Monopoly board, so the property colors are exactly as expected for more experienced players. That was my biggest criticism of Fantasy-opoly if you’ve read my earlier review of that title…

But while I’m complaining about aspects of Super Mario Bros Monopoly, can I just say that I first though that the storage tray was a great addition to the game and would definitely keep things neatly organized. Except for one little problem…

storage bin for super mario bros monopoly

Can you spot what’s wrong?

There are seven denominations of money: 1 coin, 5 coins, 10 coins, 20 coins, 50 coins, 100 coins and 500 coins. But the box actually only has slots for six currencies. That’s why the 500 coin bills are sitting face-up. A very odd mistake, particularly given that there’s plenty of space in the inlay design for one more slot.

Still, if you know the original Super Mario Bros game, you’ll absolutely love the collectible tokens:

super mario bros monopoly collectible tokens

Other than the money slot glitch, the designers had to work with what they had, so maybe properties called “World 3-1” and “World 6-4” are the best they could do. It’s just rather flat on a game that otherwise offers a fun, nostalgic take on the Super Mario Bros world.

And gameplay? Well, it’s Monopoly. ’nuff said.

Super Mario Bros Monopoly, published by USAopoly. $44.95, reduced to $37.73 at Amazon.

Disclosure: USAopoly sent me a copy of this game for review purposes. It doesn’t change the fact that, yes, I actually like playing Monopoly.

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