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A Bold Suggestion for the Next Mario Game
Within the last month or so, Nintendo confirmed they were working on a new 3D Mario title, to the surprise of no one. The announcement came low on details – we don’t know whether this new game will be for the Wii U or the 3DS, and more importantly, we don’t have any ideas on what to expect as far as game design goes.
It’s only natural we’re getting a new Mario game: I wouldn’t expect Nintendo to give up on its most famous franchise, especially on the heels of the wonderful Super Mario 3D World.
That game carried on what the earlier Super Mario 3D Land did – it applied the mindset of the 2D Mario titles into a 3D style, creating focused levels with plenty of interesting ideas and the uncanny ability to not overstay their welcome. This is why I place both games high on my list of must-play Wii U and 3DS titles.
Now, the Mario series has never been one to stay comfortable for long. Sure, we’ve seen Nintendo stretch the New Super Mario Bros formula one game too far, but I believe that came out of a necessity to try and sell the Wii U in its earliest stage.
After the resounding success of New Super Mario Bros Wii, it wasn’t too farfetched an idea that a Wii U version would sell well – but at the same time, it has sold significantly less than any other New Super Mario Bros title. Stagnancy is not effective for any game franchise, but for the Mario franchise, it goes against everything we’ve come to expect from it.
Will Nintendo come out with another game like 3D World, or is it time that Mario returned to his three-dimensional roots?
I think everyone that enjoys a Mario game will have fond memories of Super Mario 64, and how it got down to business. The use of Princess Peach’s castle as a hub world that provided some form of connectivity between varied worlds was a major innovation. The expansion of each world into having a set of goals engaged players much more than a short, singular level could in those days.
Super Mario Sunshine took the concept further, with the hub world of Isle Delfino providing gateways to other areas while at the same time showing the player how everything was connected. One area of the island may be visible from another, creating a cohesive world.
However, it wasn’t a seamless one. The only access point for each area of Isle Delfino was the main hub, Delfino Plaza. Sunshine also set itself apart from Mario 64 by introducing F.L.U.D.D, a water spraying backpack that added a new dimension to Mario’s typical platforming abilities.
Perhaps, if Nintendo were to return to this style, a truly seamless world would be an impressive way to do so. You’re probably thinking I’m a bit crazy at this point – after all, a Mario game benefits from the structure of its levels.
Even wider areas like Bob-omb Battlefield in Mario 64 and Bianco Hills in Sunshine aren’t without boundaries and a clear sense of the right way to go. However, since the first Super Mario Galaxy came out, I’ve considered the possibility that a Mario game could work without the typical parts of its level design: beginnings, ends, etc.
Even when given more open levels, a Mario game still defines where a level begins, and what exactly will cause it to end (either grabbing a Star or Shine Sprite). Mario Galaxy was a missed opportunity to change that formula around – don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed both Mario Galaxy games.
But when you offer me the universe and find a way to only give it to me piece by piece, that’s disappointing. If Mario Galaxy had found a way to tie each individual galaxy together, leaving the player to discover how to traverse from one to the next, it wouldn’t have just been another great Mario game – it would have been a revolution.
We’re living and gaming in a time where an open world attracts attention to a game. A Mario title, if done properly, could feature one of the most interesting open world designs I could think of. Mario’s various abilities and power ups could all be at a player’s disposal for reaching a new area, and with it, new challenges. The Wii U could easily be the console capable of giving us this sort of game.
I know that my idea for a new Mario game isn’t incredibly likely, but I’m trying to suggest that Nintendo’s best step may be to give us something completely unexpected.
If they simply want to make another Super Mario 3D World, so be it. The formula is already extremely solid, and with a little tightening up, I can’t imagine a person not wanting to play it. But it’s about time Nintendo gave us another surprise, and a truly open world Mario title would surprise us all.