Mario's had a lean 2012, and we have the facts to prove it.
Recently, members of the video game press have been obsessed with the notion of Nintendo threatening to damage Mario's appeal by releasing too many titles starring its fictional plumber, where somehow, the fact that Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7 and New Super Mario Bros. 2 (with Paper Mario: Sticker Star November 11, New Super Mario Bros. U November 18) debuting in less than a year will cheapen the brand and wind up hurting the publisher's bottom line. The result has been articles calling Nintendo desperate. It's the sort of thing that makes us wonder if our peers pay attention to history at all.
Here's a fact: when you consider both the U.S. and Japan, Mario has appeared in at least one video game since 1981, starting with the original Donkey Kong, when he was known as Jumpman. Granted, he made a few non-playable cameos along the way (Punch-Out!! for NES comes to mind), but for the most part, he's cropped up in several titles per year. This includes a whopping 14 in 2005, a list that includes Mario Superstar Baseball, Mario Kart DS, Super Mario Strikers, Mario Tennis: Power Tour and also games where he had bit roles, like NBA Street V3 and SSX On Tour.
Our memories are a bit fuzzy, but we don't recall an outcry over Nintendo repeatedly going to the well back then. The same can be said of nine games in 2007, five of which debuted on the Wii: Super Paper Mario, Mario Party 8, Mario Strikers Charged, Super Mario Galaxy and Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. Where were the critics that year?
If anything, Nintendo hasn't released too many Mario games in 2012. More like, it hasn't released enough.
We also have sales to consider. Over a million copies of New Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan alone. Super Mario 3D Land? Over 5.8 million worldwide and counting. Mario Kart 7? Well over four million worldwide. Mario doesn't hurt Nintendo. He helps, considerably. A better conversation would involve Mario sales over time, and the impact of rival games. Is he still as effective today as he was in the early 90s? Seems like a fun debate.
That said, we feel it's both ridiculous and shortsighted to complain about "too much Mario", or repeatedly bringing it up to Nintendo executives during interviews. Is there such a thing as Mario overkill? No, apparently, and if it's all the same to you, the press needs to choose a better (and more researched) topic of conversation.