Plumb out of ideas?

Mario is love. Mario is life. It’s hard to imagine a world without the paunchy plumber; the mascot largely responsible for ushering in the vast popularity of console gaming. Since the NES, each “main” Mario title on each generation of consoles has innovated, surprised and is cherished in some form or another. As such, millions of Nintendo fans constantly look to the future, and what the next Super Mario game could possibly have in store for us.

From the blocky browns and blues of Super Mario Bros. to the lush, tropical hues of Super Mario Sunshine. The Yoshi-centric mechanics of Super Mario 3D World to Galaxy’s gravity defying platforming ordeals. There may be an abundance of sport and party games in the franchise, but it’s hard to argue that each main Mario entry brings something completely new to the table.

So with Nintendo NX details on the horizon, can we expect a new Mario announcement in tandem with the new console? If so, what should the next big leap be? What features should the next Super Mario game include to keep the beloved Italian in the limelight? Well, first of all…

Bigger isn’t necessarily better

First it was two brothers. Then it was a land, followed by a world, then a double digit number, a type of climate and most recently an entire galaxy. What scope of frontier could Mario possibly traverse next? Well, you can’t really get much bigger than a galaxy, so perhaps it’s time to dial things back once more.

While Super Mario Galaxy was insanely fun as a platformer, effortlessly pulling off what it set out to do, there wasn’t a ton of detail in its environments. Levels were certainly imaginative (the iconic Freezeflame Galaxy comes to mind) but there weren’t many where I’d consider stopping to take in the sights.

super mario freezeflame galaxy

Super Mario Galaxy sure was a looker, and the Freezeflame Galaxy epitomised its beauty.

What I propose is a Mario adventure set in the Mushroom Kingdom, as we’ve never seen it before. Because really, what do we actually know about the place other than its eternal power struggle between turtles and weird little mushroom men? In terms of the Mushroom Kingdom itself (and outside the superb RPG games in the series) we’ve barely explored beyond Peach’s portrait-filled castle. In fact, I’d argue we know more about the Mushroom Kingdom from the Mario Kart series than in any of the main games.

Sunshine whisked us away to Isle Delfino, and Galaxy literally launched us into space. So next time, why not feature a fully explorable Mushroom Kingdom; the opportunities for additional lore, sidequests, easter eggs and of course, the potential to create one of the most gorgeous worlds in gaming is surely too good to pass up.

Mario’s Mates

Mario is naturally the star of his own games, and while his decidedly fitter brother Luigi pops in to help out in the replay value department from time to time, we barely get to play as others in the Super Mario cast outside of the numerous sports and party games. This is partly why Super Mario 3D World was so enjoyable; being able to play as Luigi, Toad, Peach and (eventually) Rosalina provided fun, alternative ways to complete each stage. I also enjoyed the shift in focus of Super Mario 64 DS, which featured Yoshi as the main character, able to transform into Mario, Wario or Luigi by obtaining their hats.

super mario 3d world characters

In identical fashion to Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario 3D World gave us options beyond the portly plumber.

We know that the various worlds in 3D Mario games are not necessarily designed exclusively for Mario; whatever he can do, Luigi can do just as well, if not better. Later games proved that characters like Toad and Peach could also hold their own via slightly altered playstyles. So why not offer other Mushroom Kingdom (and beyond) denizens to be playable in Mario’s next fullblown quest? Could we have Donkey Kong swing round to (for once in his life) provide Mario with a helping hand? Maybe party animals Waluigi and Daisy could stand in for the more familiar Wario and Peach?

A Proper Story

Remember when Super Mario Galaxy wowed with its heartwarming storybook narrative? When the RPGs had stories on par with the likes of Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI? Nintendo have proved time and again their ability to tell incredible stories; just look at Earthbound or any one Zelda title. All this storytelling ability and the most we get from most Mario games is “rescue Princess Peach… again.” Otherwise known as Princess Toadstool, she’s proven herself to be more than a pretty face on several occasions, so I think it’s high time the old damsel-in-distress moniker needs to go. Forever.

paper mario peach

Peach got tons more screen time in the Paper Mario games, as well as (finally) a personality.

Nintendo love lore. They love hiding it in their games, they love witnessing fan theories spread across the internet. What’s more is they love sprinkling seemingly innocent games with dark, menacing undertones. You know, like how Splatoon is set in the aftermath of humanity’s self-destruction, or how Majora’s Mask quite possibly tells the story of Young Link’s ascent into the afterlife. I’m not saying Nintendo need take the path shrouded in black fog and the sounds of crying children, but how great would it be if we got the answers to some decades-old Mario myths?

Who is Birdo, and why was Mario dreaming about him/her during the subconscious events of Super Mario Bros. 2? Why exactly is it that easy for Bowser to kidnap Peach? And just how do Mario and friends find the time to play sports, race and party with each other in the midst of seemingly eternal warfare?

Hmm, on second thought, maybe Mario should walk down that shrouded path after all…