You’re packed into a train at rush hour after a mind-numbing day at work, one hand gripping the center pole, the other dangling aimlessly in your coat pocket No, wait, scratch that: the other hand forcing a maniacal little plumber to run, climb, leap, and hurdle across your phone screen, racking up gold coins with a near-insane intensity.
The game, which launched for iPhone and iPad this month (Android’s due next year) is the subtly complex, superfun Super Mario Run. Nintendo’s tweak on the “endless runner” genre, it has, for the first time, customized Mario’s jumps: One tap launches him; pressing or tapping the screen ups his hang time, as all the while he racks up coins and sidesteps fireballs.
There’s also a competitive mode that lets you play friends or strangers. And elite gamers, never fear: There are enough hurdles, like tricky levels and blocks that change the direction of Mario’s jumps, to hook you, too.
Making a game for mobile platforms was a surprise move by Nintendo—after all, five years ago, CEO Satoru Iwata proclaimed that if the company went in that direction, “Nintendo would cease to be Nintendo.”
But that was before Wii U, its latest console, tanked—it’s sold just 11 million units since 2012, and mobile games exploded into a $35 billion industry. Suffice it to say, Nintendo saw the writing on the bright blue wall.
As mindless entertainment goes, Super Mario Run is pretty addictive. So move over, Flappy Birds.