Double Take is a series where we take recent announcements and occurrences in the gaming industry and offer our immediate thoughts on them.
By now, you should know that it’s been 30 years since the now-infamous Italian-born plumber came on the scene. For 3 decades, he’s been charging across screens both small and large, bopping on Goombas, eating mushrooms and facing off against his arch-nemesis, all to save his lady.
Yes, it’s been quite a while since the Super Mario series made its introduction into the gaming world, and since then, its continued to dazzle thousands of gamers again, and again.
With so much time under its belt, Nintendo has made modifications to the formula on several occasions. For instance, try comparing Super Mario Bros. 3 to that of Super Mario 3D World. Wouldn’t you agree that while the core concept remains the same, the two experiences are different? Indeed, we’ve seen Mario go from side-scrolling his way through vistas and castles, to exploring a tropical island, and even adventures in the cosmos, all wrapped around the Z-axis. Mario has had several adventures that all feel very unique.
Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario, recently stated that right now, he thinks it’s time to take the series in a “new direction”. With all of the advancements that’s been made already, that leaves one to ask — what else can they do?
In order to properly analyze the growth in the series, I won’t be including spin-offs such as Mario Kart, or Paper Mario.
Looking at the main formula, from the original Super Mario Bros. to the big change with Super Mario 64 to the latest entry, the hybrid Super Mario 3D World — it’s clear to see that Nintendo used the first game as a foundation, and they’ve simply built on it since.
While Super Mario 3D World features the same core elements as Super Mario Bros., the two games are still very much different from each other. From the changes in power-ups, to even the way Mario and crew traverse the levels, not to mention the level designs themselves — the two titles offer very unique experiences. However, this comparison isn’t completely fair, considering the fact that it’s a 2D-title vs. a 3D-title. But even when you bring it closer to home, the results are the same.
For instance, compare Super Mario 64 to Super Mario Galaxy, and Super Mario World to NEW Super Mario Bros. U. While both pairs are in the same categories, the differences between them couldn’t be more apparent.
To be technically correct, this isn’t really new. With Super Mario Bros. 3, it was quite obvious the formula was modified. Since then, it’s naturally continued to grow.
Super Mario 64 marked the first big change in the series, however it was progressing even before this.
When Super Mario 64 introduced the Italian plumber to the world of 3D, the formula saw its first drastic change. While the core elements were there, everything needed to be modified in order for it to feel ‘right’ in a 3D-space. With the 2D games, all the player had to focus on was making sure they landed the jump properly and avoid the hazards along the way. With 64, now Mario had the freedom to explore open areas. Thus, his running and jumping needed more zest, and as a result, the formula needed to grow.
Super Mario Sunshine expanded upon this with its big changer being the FLUDD-mechanic, which made Mario more mobile. However, it was Super Mario Galaxy that marked a big turning point. Here, Mario was flirting with the laws of gravity and realistic physics. No longer were the areas just flat, spacious worlds. Now, he was confined mostly to small, individual planetoids. This meant everything from his move-set, to enemy interactions, needed to be modified.
With the NEW series, Nintendo took him back to his roots, but even now, it was with a twist. The physics were slightly altered, and the levels were more straightforward. With Super Mario 3D Land and its sequel 3D World, Nintendo decided to merge the two dimensions together and create a more hybrid-style. This combination of both 2D and 3D elements gave levels a new look and feel, and even the move-set was once again modified.
Throughout the past 30 years, Mario has literally been up-down-and-all-around. Each new adventure felt different from the last, not just because it was a new game, but because almost every title marked an advancement in the formula. From subtle changes to drastic shifts, they’re all there. But at the end of the day, one has to remember that Mario is still a platformer after all. So then, what could Miyamoto and his team do for their next big advancement?
I must admit, I find it amazing that despite it being 3 decades, the ideas haven’t stopped flowing. Other characters, like Sonic the Hedgehog, have had a relatively hard time finding proper traction, and yet Mario is still going strong.
Mario’s growth has been amazing, meanwhile his former rival has had a much harder time.
Considering that the formula has been advanced so much, it’s hard to imagine what could be done in the next iteration. While many are crying out for a third-installment in the Galaxy series, there’s quite a few fans who are still waiting for a new game that follows in the footsteps set down by Super Mario 64. As mentioned before, Sunshine already did this, however, there are many fans who don’t consider it to be a proper follow-up. Seeing that it’s such a popular title, let’s focus on the idea of a ‘New 64’.
As mentioned before, 64 literally opened up the gates for Mario, as he was now able to use his above-average agility in a more natural way. Being able to travel in all directions, scale walls, and trees with ease, and just run around a large world felt incredibly right.
With the current level of technological-finesse that exists, there’s no doubt that if Nintendo decided to build on this specific variation of the formula further, great things could be achieved. Many have showed a keen interest in having a true ‘open-world’ Mario game, and maybe, that’s exactly what would be the perfect next step.
The reason why the company has continued to keep the series feeling fresh and innovative after so much time, is simply because the original formula was flexible from the beginning. Despite all the changes that have been made, the core concept is still clearly recognizable. To expand on that with a true open-world would be rather amazing. Miyamoto himself stated that while a 3D-action title is wanted, he’s waiting for the hardware technology to “advance”. What could this advancement be? A more powerful machine? Or, maybe a completely new play-style?
His statement was far too vague to decipher exactly what he meant, but if one thing’s for sure, the formula can be adapted to it.
We’ve seen Mario go from running across the screen, to exploring vast areas, to even planet-hopping in space. We’ve even seen him cleverly merge his 2D heydays, with his 3D freedom. His next step is no doubt a very mysterious one, however, if history is anything to go by, whatever it may be, we can be sure that it’ll be a masterpiece to behold.