For many, the name Mario is synonymous with platform gaming and console gaming as a whole. Nintendo’s mustached mascot has become a global icon over the past couple of decades, and his self-titled platformers seem to show no signs of slowing down any time soon.
With the release of each successive proper Mario title (let’s just exclude Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario Sunshine, shall we?), Nintendo has found ways to up the ante, building on the formula and shaking it up enough to make it new and exciting.
SMB3 added super suits and a huge world where players could explore new areas by choice, Super Mario World expanded the exploration and included new platforming elements, Super Mario 64 blew open the Mushroom Kingdom into three dimensions and Super Mario Galaxies stretched those dimensions upside down and around curved planetoids.
So what now? As Nintendo has proved, nothing is off limits in terms of creating new Super Mario gameplay that builds on the predecessors. If that holds true, then there are a number of ways that the gaming behemoth could possibly enrich the experience that we’ve all come to know and love.
To fully dive into this idea, I’ve put together a little wish list for what new gameplay elements and features Mario could add in this gen, the next and beyond…
5. RPG Elements
No, I don’t mean Mario with a Buster Sword or Summon Espers, I’m talking about gaining new abilities and perhaps different collectible items. I mean, part of the game has you collecting coins and other trinkets, so why not expand on this idea and give Mario the opportunity to buy certain power-ups or items that can lift him to new, previously inaccessible areas.
Personally, I find Crackdown to be this gen’s greatest platformer to date, and I think a big portion of that had to do with the progression of your abilities. I know some would say this might not have a place in the Mario universe, but hey, anything’s possible.
4. The Cavalcade of Power-Ups
While I enjoy that the Mario franchise is constantly trying to move on and find new, more exciting power-ups (Boo Mario and Metal Mario come to mind), what’s wrong with giving Mario the full gamut of all of the power-ups that he has enjoyed over the course of his many games?
Why not build a game that highlights the tanooki suit or the metal cap in a way that ties into the gameplay and the world more significantly? Where’s the beloved Fire Flower and the Wing Cap? Bring ’em all back and use them, I say. It could even tie into a “story” that Mario games seem to lack, but more on that later…
3. A Whole New World
Part of what makes each Super Mario game so exciting is the sense of exploring each unique environment. This began way back in SMB3 and continues in some form in Galaxies with the planetoids. Why not go all out then and give Mario a living, breathing open world to explore? Imagine the whole of the Mushroom Kingdom open before you as you step out of the castle, ready for you to discover its secrets. Link got an open Hyrule, so it seems fitting that Mario could get an open Mushroom Kingdom.
2. Less Waggle, More Options
While I can’t deny that Super Mario Galaxies made decent use of the Wii-mote, I have to say that waggling every fifteen seconds to perform a spin attack got really old really fast. In future motion-controlled Mario titles, players need to be given a choice to go to the classic controller or something like it. This becomes especially true if the motion control can be performed with a simple button press, like the spin attack from Galaxies.
To me, Mario has so many more options available to him for motion control than just a spin attack. Picture flying over wide open grassy fields with the wing cap, using the Wii-mote to direct Mario’s flight. Or throwing fireballs with a wave of your hand. There are plenty of design choices available, so I hope we see more of those explored.
It’s been said before, but it needs saying again: Mario needs a story befitting of the plumber’s great gaming legacy. Sure, part of what makes Mario great is his simplicity, but after 20 plus years of Princess Peach being kidnapped by Bowser, let’s think outside of the box, Nintendo.
There’s no reason that the next Super Mario game can’t have a superb story set inside of the iconic Mushroom Kingdom, spanning across mountainous terrain, underwater fortresses and even the starry sky. It doesn’t need to be some angsty Square story, either.
If the Mario RPGs have proven anything, it’s that our favorite plumber can be involved in some epic, magical storylines that still have the humor and whimsical nature of the other Mario games. Play the Thousand Year Door if you don’t believe me.
What do you guys think future Mario platformers need? What elements would you like to see explored?