Is it Time for Mario to Take a Break?
Nintendo has spent the last few decades supplying us with excellent entries in their series, and their most profitable franchise, the Mario games, has been no exception. However, after several Mario games were revealed at E3, I have to wonder if the economy and Nintendo’s lackluster success with the 3DS have gone to their heads. The Mario games shown or revealed at E3 seemed to show more of a greedy, money-driven side of the company than usual—and it’s not because of the huge amount of coins.
The company has a past of shelling out Mario games on a conveyer belt—with fourteen games featuring Mario in 2005, and only two of those games featured him as a passing cameo. Larger console releases less frequent, but still common enough to see one each year. This year we have a total of six Mario games slated for release (the release date of New Super Mario Bros. U remains unknown, but it is also on its way). While not fourteen games, looking at the quality of these games still worries me.
The only two games that stand out among them are Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and Paper Mario: Sticker Star as two highly anticipated sequels to spin-off games. However, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon does take away a few elements that made the first game great, namely by changing the way the flashlight works and making capturing ghosts more like an Alan Wake game. Mario & Sonic at the London Olympics and Mario Tennis Open both cater to the same niche, and the games might feature plenty of gameplay, but I expect that gameplay to be lackluster. Mario Party 9 also pitches itself to a casual crowd, but that crowd has been gradually losing interest in games as the Wii loses steam after its strong launch.
You might have noticed I was silent about New Super Mario Bros. 2. New Super Mario Bros. 2 represents a game where they went wrong—the coin gimmick is just that, a gimmick, and Nintendo missed a much more fitting chance to feature Wario in a game, rather than Mario. Despite being marketed as a sequel to New Super Mario Bros., the title is only ripping old settings from the original and slapping an entirely new mechanic over it. The gameplay will not play similarly to the original, and I doubt the amount of old scenes is an homage to the old game.
Rather than focusing on pushing out a multitude of games, it would probably be better for Nintendo to focus on releasing quality games. Quality has always been better than quantity, and this would prevent their main cash cow from sinking into a similar rut to the Call of Duty series. It’s true that plenty of their upcoming games do have some potential—in particular, Paper Mario: Sticker Star brings in quite a few new elements—but it seems like Nintendo has lost a bit of their spirit in the current economy. Their recent games seem a bit rushed and, in the case of sequels, have lost some of their original elements. Focusing on quality over quantity might be better than trying to push out new games, so perhaps it is time for the series to take a break—or at least Nintendo could spread out their releases a little more.