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Is Nintendo running Mario into the ground? [roundtable]
 
In the last five years there have been four Mario platformers, across the DS and Wii. New Super Mario Bros. (2006), Super Mario Galaxy (2007), New Super Mario Bros. Wii (2009), Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010). Super Mario 3DS could be the fifth Mario game in five years, if it releases this year.

Now, Mario games are, arguably, of better quality than ever. I think we can all agree that SMG 2 and NSMB Wii are some of the best 3D, and 2D platformers ever made. But, while Nintendo always used to reinvent the gameplay with each iteration, we have now gotten two direct sequels that reuse gameplay assets. Of course, the creativity in level design is still unparralleled, but the feeling of playing a completely new Mario game seems to be escaping us recently. Super Mario 3D promises to mix things up with a mish-mash of 2D and 3D Mario staples, with a little bit of Super Mario 64 throw in for good measure. But, I can't help but feel that the excitement level for Super Mario 3DS is pretty low. Is it because it's on the 3DS, a new platform, or is it because we are growing slightly burnt out on all the Mario games?

And, after Super Mario 3DS, what's next? People will be clamoring for "Mario HD" on the Wii U, and you know Nintendo will not abandon the NSMB line of games, as they have the biggest sales potential. I mean, they basically already showed off NSMB Mii, and though I know it was a tech demo I sincerely hope they inject more creativity into it than that. Something like NSMB 2 that plays like Doki Doki Panic. Or something out of left field like Super Mario Sunshine. I'm going to conclude by saying that Nintendo needs to shake up the Mario series just a bit more, if it's going to keep pumping them out at this rate.

What say you?

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Posted: 07/05/11, 00:48:11
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Yes and no. A bit of the Mario magic has dissipated recently but that doesn't stop me from really wanting games with him in it. I'm sure Mario HD will usher in a new era of Mario games though, so this is really a non-issue.

I think Mario 3DS will be the last Mario to share similarities with Galaxy (for now). I could see them returning to something a lot more like Mario 64 or something newer like a true Mario WORLD in 3D. I'd love one cohesive world for a Mario game in 3D. It's basically the only thing they haven't done yet. Last box to check is that one.
Posted: 07/05/11, 10:14:55
You're adding up DS, 3DS and Wii titles to come up with all those Mario games. This doesn't strike me as running him into the ground when you spread five titles across three platforms. Plus, its good to see Mario getting back into PLATFORMING again.
Posted: 07/05/11, 16:34:16
Just platformers? In a way, they're churning out the games faster than I can play them. But NSMB and Galaxy are totally different beasts, in my mind. Super Mario 3D looks to be yet another divergent path for the Mario platformer. And all three series are fun and consistent. So I don't mind them pursuing all three for a while. It would be almost stupid to not continue the NSMB series.

I wouldn't mind a wacky sequel, but that kind of craziness could come from another franchise or a new IP, and it HAS, in games like Jungle Beat, Yoshi's Touch and Go, Kirby's Canvas Curse, Epic Yarn, etc. Nintendo has a hell of a lot of platformers these days. Mario can be the 'traditional', conservative standard for a while.

That said, I wouldn't mind if they were spaced out a bit more, perhaps with some 2D Metroid spaced IN.
Posted: 07/05/11, 17:04:26
The only one that really bums me out is New Super Mario Bros Mii. They are using that generic art style once again and I personally don't think it's acceptable to put Miis in a canon Mario platformer... it really actually pissed me off when I was watching E3 footage and the people at Nintendo were telling those who they were demonstrating the game to that they had to play as a Mii. Yuck.

I wish they would come up with a creative artstyle and mix up the gameplay a little with the next 2D Mario... but if the game is as fun as NSMB Wii, I'll love it anyways.
Posted: 07/05/11, 20:36:22
It's odd that in the GC era we had just 1 mario game and it was one of the least well-received of any. I personally was not a big fan of Super Mario Sunshine.

And now we're getting extremely good Mario games too fast for many of us to even play them.
Posted: 07/06/11, 08:50:49
If they use a shit art style for ANY game next gen I'll bite someone's throat.
Posted: 07/06/11, 11:19:02
@siciliangamer

Haha, good point.


Though I popped NSMBW back in the Wii earlier this week, played through the first world, and was a bit bored. When does the game get exciting' again?

I think that's that game's problem: it really is a little generic. Other Mario games have tons of cool stages that people remember fondly. SMB3's giant world! SMW's Star Road! But I don't really remember anything about NSMBW save perhaps that rollercoaster level.
Posted: 07/06/11, 16:38:22
@Guillaume
I'd say the challenge (and excitement) picks up at World 2. World 1 is always a cakewalk in Mario games.
Posted: 07/06/11, 17:08:59
I just want to know where my Mario Golf Wii is.

Make it happen, Nintendo!
Posted: 07/06/11, 17:55:32
New Forms said:
I just want to know where my Mario Golf Wii is.

Make it happen, Nintendo!

Abso-friggin-lutely. I want this also. I don't even care for wii-controls. I just want my arcade mario golfing back!
Posted: 07/06/11, 18:25:21
@Guillaume
Yeah, I've felt this way for awhile about both NSMB games. Personally, I don't really see how NSMBW is THAT much better than NSMB DS, although I do think it's a better game overall.

They're quite fun and well-designed, but ultimately somewhat forgettable in my eyes. I can easily remember the rollercoaster, the final fight (although it's more of a platforming stage than anything), and a couple nifty stage ideas like the ones where you use fireballs as torches...but that's kind of it. And the tepid visuals and sound don't really help.

Personally, I've always found DKCR to be the stronger 2-D platformer, even with its wonky motion controls. There're so many intense setpieces in the game, memorable sequences, and ambitious stage design that it strikes me much more as an evolution of the platforming genre, while something like NSMB could pretty much be done on the SNES (minus the 4-player/camera scaling). And when I think about DKCR's coolest parts, I'm remembering silhouetted stages, the music-based factory, running from a wall of spiders, blasting into the background, platforming in front of a massive tidal wave, evading a pervasive, giant octopus, waking up a family of ornery bats on the rocketbarrel, riding the mine cart on top of an egg, battling a family of moles in a mine cart, and dealing with the super-hard Temple stages.

I'd prefer the NSMB Mii demo to just be scrapped and Nintendo to start from scratch with 2-D Mario. NSMB sold well because they're quality games and they're fun, but it doesn't mean an even better 2-D Mario won't sell well. I've always felt that the series plays it way too safe, and even then, they don't bring enough of the classic elements of the Mario series with them. So my hypothetical wishlist for the next Mario...

1) More ambition, for everything! Stop with the same old SMB3 themes for each world (which they used in both games!). Look at how Galaxy 1/2 unveiled new ideas. Or for a non-Mario game, Kirby's Epic Yarn. Have crazier, more memorable occurrences within each stage.

2) A better look! I've never bought the whole "it has to look like this for simplicity's sake." No one has trouble telling where things are in games like Wario Land: Shake It, Kirby's Epic Yarn, DKCR, or (to give an example of a 4-player game) Kirby Wii. Look at the beautiful stuff Rayman Origins is pulling off! It's time to drop NSMB's bland visuals and remind us of how colorful and fun the Mushroom Kingdom is.

3) Better music! Quick--hum any piece of original music from either NSMB game that isn't the main theme or one of the castle themes. It's not easy.

4) A cohesive world map, and more secrets! This one's not quite as important, but it's definitely something I loved about SMW. We need a buttload of alternate exits, secret stages, and more. Warp Zones are somewhat similar, but there's just not enough of 'em. No more boring maps!

Wow, it sounds like I'm kind of tearing into the games, eh? Perhaps in some small way, I kind of agree with stinky old IGN on this one after all. Well, not about their lame assessment that game x has more levels and is therefore better, but about NSMB/W playing it way too safe and sterile. The games are still a lot of fun, but I think Mario has gotten to the point where we hold him to a ridiculously high standard because of what he's done in the past. And frankly, when I was a kid and wondered where the series would go after SMW, it wasn't anything like NSMB. I just want something completely magical, something that really shows what the platformer genre is still capable of. With games like KEY, DKCR, and Rayman, NSMB can't really coast on the novelty of being a 2-D platformer in a modern world anymore. The genre is moving forward without it, so it needs to step it up for the next game!

*equips Flame Shield*
Posted: 07/06/11, 18:34:40
@TriforceBun
You know, I agree with a lot of what you said. The music would probably be my biggest complaint as well, definitely not as memorable as games of the past. But the art style, while very simple, pleases my eyes every time. I could not imagine a Mario platformer with a busy art style. Looking back, SMB games have always played it relatively safe, while DKC games are more out-there in their level design. NSMBW has very comforting level design, with ample challenge and opportunity for speedy runs. Not to mention that the stages can accomodate up to four players simultaneously, while DKCR's co-op mode felt a little tacked on and unnatural. I know a lot of people dismiss the multiplayer component of NSMBW but it's a huge reason I loved the game.

Nice insight. I also hope NSMB Mii is reworked to have a look that is distinct from the DS and Wii games. Can't wait to see what Nintendo can do with Mario on the Wii U hardware.
Posted: 07/06/11, 18:55:01
@TriforceBun
I think Nintendo genuinely believes that more generic aesthetics/design result in more mainstream accessibility. And, given the incredible success of Wii..., New Super Mario Bros., and Mario Kart DS/Wii, it's tough to argue the point.

I actually started humming the NSMB main theme the other day. A day after I had downloaded it on Jam With the Band.
Posted: 07/06/11, 21:59:33
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