Mario: Where Does Nintendo Go From Here?
We take a stab at what's next for Nintendo's celebrated mascot.
To remain relevant, a video game character must be in a constant state of evolution, and no company knows this better than Nintendo. The publisher's cash cow, Mario, has enjoyed a superb 25-year history, starring in well over 100 games across multiple platforms.
As most Nintendo fans know, the plumber's worn many hats, from all around hero to doctor and tennis star. To say the guy has a few hobbies is a colossal understatement.
That said, there will be no shortage of Mario titles moving forward, especially on 3DS, where Nintendo plans to release new entries in Mario Kart and Paper Mario.
There's also a new adventure planned, and this game is by far the most mysterious. Nintendo hasn't said much, aside from it being a fully 3D adventure and the hope of releasing it before the end of the year.
With this in mind, we have to wonder what designer and Mario's creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, has up his sleeve. The pudgy mascot has appeared in so many different games that it must be difficult conjuring up new material.
While it's true that Mario doesn't need a makeover (fans love the classic Super Mario Bros. experience), Nintendo still needs to keep its biggest asset fresh and exciting for old and new audiences.
On that note, we decided to speculate what this game could be, but first, let's eliminate the obvious.
The new Mario 3DS game won't...
...look and play like Super Mario Galaxy
We love Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel, both of which were game of the year candidates, but the concept's become a bit old. It seems like we've discovered hundreds of planets and collected thousands of star bits. Time for something else.
...be a Super Mario Bros. reboot
Why? Because Nintendo's already done that. Twice, with New Super Mario Bros. on DS, and then New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Been there. Done that.
...be a dramatic departure from the successful formula
Although we expect the game to include a hook, something we've never seen before, the basic principles will still involve collecting gold coins, stomping goombas and snagging fire flowers. He won't solve Professor Layton style puzzles, for example.
With that out of the way, it's time to identify what this promising (and potentially million selling) game could/should be.
A Mario & Sonic the Hedgehog crossover
Unless 3DS continues to sell below Nintendo's lofty expectations, there's little need to push Mario out the door before the end of the year, not with Super Mario Kart on the horizon. In fact, with the next console, Project Cafe, rumored to launch late 2012, now would be the perfect time to collaborate with Sega on the Super Mario & Sonic crossover game fans have demanded for years. Nintendo teased us by including Sonic in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Sega managed to sell millions of Mario & Sonic Olympics compilations. Both of these worlds should collide in the biggest launch title of all time, with a 3DS version, of course.
Feature a brand new environment
No offense to the Mushroom Kingdom, but it's old news. Nintendo should set this new Mario in a drastically different location, ala Isle Delfino in Super Mario Sunshine, or in the case of Super Mario Galaxy, outer space. That'll keep things interesting.
Make better use of glasses free 3D
We know that Mario's upcoming game will utilize this feature in some fashion; it's on the 3DS, after all. We just want it to harness this impressive tech in a way the gaming world hasn't seen before. At this point, no game has been able to do this, and the 3D effect comes off as a gimmick. With Mario, it should play a huge role in the gameplay.
Feature multiple and playable characters
At the end of the day, everyone wants to play as Mario; we still remember the public outcry when Nintendo released Luigi's Mansion, starring Mario's less appreciated brother.
Mario will play a huge role in this new game, but as the saying goes, variety is the spice of life. Character switching could prove enjoyable, as players cycle through a huge list of heroes and villains, including Shy Guy, Bowser, Toad and even Wart from Super Mario Bros. 2. Just transform this title into a Super Mario Universe style game where everyone's involved.
Include a level editor
Every single Nintendo fan would flip if the next Mario let them build their own levels and share them with others online. We don't know if this will happen, but come on. It seems like the next logical step.