“Lego Mario time!”, chirps the voice of Charles Martinet as Mario the legendry video game character and Nintendo mascot from the 35 year running Super Mario franchise, all at once I’m taken back to my youth of pixels, power-ups and bricks and it’s glorious.
Few things sum up my childhood better than Super Marios original 2D adventures on the NES and SNES games consoles, and my vast collection of weird and wonderful Lego sets. So upon hearing Lego was making a Mario set it felt like a long-forgotten wish I’d made as a child had suddenly come true.
These sets, once assembled, look like pixel-perfect reactions of the classic video game world with their bright vibrant colours, Questions blocks, Goombas, Castles, Yoshi… it’s all here!
But these aren’t just beautifully designed set pieces. These toys come to life thanks to the Mario figure himself and clever technology inside him as well as special stickers and blocks placed throughout the sets.
The starter set is a great introduction into what Lego Super Mario can do, as it includes a moving platform, launchpad, baby Bowser and a Goomba – as well as a Question block and other elements.
This set is required to play with any other sets as it contains Lego Mario, who cannot be purchased separately.
This basic course also provides the starting pipe and end flag needed to run the course. The additional sets then provide more obstacles, interactions and foes allowing you to build and customise your very own Mario land.
The Starter set includes a blocky looking Lego Mario in original 8-bit pixel look translating perfectly to the Lego brick aesthetic.
Powered by two AA batteries the electronic Mario is packed with advanced tech.
He features a small LCD screen on his chest that animates and reacts to particular bricks and stickers, a screen in the mouth and eyes that blink gives him an expressive face and adds to his charm. The toy has a speaker that talks saying things like “Lego Mario Time” and “Yahooooo” etc as well as playing music.
He features over 100 reactions based on what he is touching and how he is moving through the world, leading to him to play sound effects from the classic video games.
A scanner on the bottom of the toy is able to read special stickers and some bricks allowing Mario to react to the object, enemy or environment as he would in the video games.
For example, red bricks are read as lava and he yelps while a fire icon appears on his chest and video game lava sounds play while his eyes become crossed out.
He also contains a motion sensor enabling him to react when jumping or in motion and make the appropriate sound effect. Surprisingly the sound effects and yells he makes never got annoying and always elicited a smile from my face.
When he is placed in a warp pipe, the course begins and the iconic 1980s signature music plays, a 60-second countdown begins while you move Mario through the level, collecting virtual coins, stomping on foes and avoiding dangers and get to the endpoint before the clock runs out, just like in the video games.
He also has a Bluetooth button allowing him to connect to the Lego Mario App and receive updates. Nothing was more indicative that I was living in 2020 when I downloaded an update to a toy.
Mario also tracks your progress and number of coins you have collected in the playthrough, this is then stored in the app allowing you to compete with friends to see who can get the highest score.
The sets are pretty simple to build, as they are built as smaller elements like a bridge then enemy, then a patch of grass to be connected at the end and expansions sets then add to further increase their epic scale.
The Lego Mario App for smartphones includes instructions and step by step guide to building your own Mushroom Kingdom.
The Starter set retails at £49.99 with expansions sets ranging from £8.99 for Power-Up packs, £17.99 for smaller expansion like Whomp’s lava Trouble, £24.99 for mid-sized sets like Mario’s House & Yoshi Expansion all the way up to £89.99 for Bowser’s Castle Boss Battle Expansion set.
The character packs which create an affordable, easy way to add to your world are random. There are 10 characters currently available are Paragoomba, Fuzzy, Spiny, Buzzy Beetle, Bullet Bill, Bob-omb, Eep Cheep, Blooper, Urchin or Peepa.
This means of the 10 characters you don’t know which your buying and it’s likely that if you try and collect them all you will eventually double up and need to keep buying.
These Lego sets aren’t cheap and you must own the starter course to use them properly but considering the amount of advanced technology packed into Mario specifically, it seems very reasonable.
The Lego sets feel like a real-world version of Super Mario Maker with the building, playing and experimenting with layouts and course configurations.
Lego Super Mario is a fun and addictive loop or playing courses breaking them down and starting again changing elements here and there. With a host of fun and quirky sets, characters and powerups available to purchase it’s very tempting to pick up just one or two more sets and continue to expand your Super Mario world.
I cannot think of a better collaboration, the Lego Super Mario sets are not only beautiful diorama-like worlds, recreating the most iconic and recognisable video game ever, but fantastic toys jam-packed with incredible technology and they are also a brilliant educational tool too. Teaching children to build and problem-solving while being creative and allowing children to learn through play.
The sets are a great bonding experience, bridging the gap with old gamers who grew up playing the classic games and their children. I genuinely cannot wait to share this set with my son and introduce him to the magical world of Lego and Nintendo games that shaped so much of my childhood and hopefully will shape his too.
Lego Super Mario Starter Set is out from 1 August for £49.99 and is available from the Lego website