Nintendo has long been a household name in the world of video games and consoles.
With how popular the Nintendo Switch has been, it’s no surprise that Super Mario is still around. You might notice a change on your Google maps this coming Saturday. That’s because March 10th is Mario Day. We thought we would dive into the Mario family history.
Moreover, what is next for the mustached Italian plumber and his friends?
Super Mario Odyssey is one of the Best Games of 2017
The power of Nintendo lies not in its big budgets or even its legacy of great games. The attention to small details and their commitment to their ideals makes them unique.
Super Mario Odyssey redefines the platformer genre and expands the lore for our favorite Italian plumber. It also comes with a totally rocking theme song from the original princess, Pauline. It also includes a sentient hat kingdom, among many other unique worlds and peoples.
This latest installment in the Super Mario dynasty also employs some of the same frustrations of old. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent struggling through various levels on my SNES. I literally threw my controller a couple of times, but that was mostly on Castlevania titles.
Most of the frustration surrounded the moon collections, as a favorite YouTuber of mine, ProZD, illustrates here. Some even went as far as the to make a Dark Souls/Super Mario Odyssey crossover parody.
But, since it is Mario day today, what do we know about the character that is Mario Mario?
The Mario Family Tree (Or At Least His Last Name)
People give the original live-action Super Mario Bros. movie a ton of flack for being cheesy. But, I watched that movie SO MUCH when I was a kid. Seeing one of my favorite two-dimensional characters in real life was insanely cool.
The fact that Bob Hoskins (from Roger Rabbit fame) and John Leguizamo (who I always had a crush on) portrayed the brothers helped a great deal. It also confirmed that Super Mario’s name was…. “Mario Mario”. They are the “Mario Bros.” after all….right?
To be frank, the jury is out on what our favorite plumber’s full name actually is. Shigeru Miyamoto, the famed Nintendo game designer, said in 2012 that Luigi and Mario “don’t have last names”. In 2015, however, he said that their last name was “Mario” following a Japanese naming convention.
No matter what their names might actually be, the live action movie sticks out in my memory. Just as much as playing Mario Kart or Super Mario 3, I remember the movie.
Even though it was widely panned, it helped to establish more of a story for the Mario Bros. Or at least, it opened the door for more background and future story development. Previously, it felt like the story was secondary to mechanics in many Nintendo games.
It might not at first, but think about it: there are many unchanging factors. You always fight Bowser and you always rescue Peach. It’s similar to the Legend of Zelda in that regard: Link and Zelda always fight Ganon.
But in the year that we got a reimagined Zelda game, we got a totally unique Mario game, too.
How Did We Get to Sentient Hats from Barrel Throwing Gorillas?
The first ever Mario game was actually…a Donkey Kong game.
Beloved by many, Kong debuted as a character in 1981’s arcade game Donkey Kong. The ape faced off against a carpenter known as “Jumpman” over a distressed damsel. That damsel, as many discovered in Super Mario Odyssey, was Pauline and not Princess Peach.
The lexicon of Mario characters evolved to include more over time. The introduction of both Wario and Waluigi spawned even more games and lore. Princess Daisy, though often forgotten, was the main princess in the movie. And, of course, there is the indelible Yoshi.
Luigi’s Mansion and Yoshi’s Island were mainstays of my childhood video game routine. All of these spin-offs mean that Mario, as a character, has appeared in more than 200 games.
Super Mario Odyssey is the culmination of all of these games and appearances. It fuses classic platformer mechanics with a giant sandbox world. And when I say “Sandbox”, I meant that in the literal sense, too. There is a beach volleyball mini-game — what a time to be alive.
But no matter how frustrating the game gets, it rewards your curiosity and hard work. There is a fine line between difficulty and reward that the Mario franchise perfects, every single time.
That’s more than some games can say like I am Setsuna. I had almost beaten the game, then died toward the end because I’m a Filthy Casual™.
The game reset at the beginning of the dungeon where the last save point was. It was probably 30 minutes to an hour’s worth of monotonous monster fights. I ALT+F4’d and uninstalled almost immediately.
Super Mario, in its own way, has always rewarded players for hard work. It also rewards curiosity. Just think of the original game with the “portal cheat” in the FIRST level of the game.
Did the Nintendo Switch Influence Super Mario Odyssey?
Some people have suggested that the development of Nintendo’s new console affected Super Mario. Being the owner of a Nintendo Switch, I can tell you that it is a game-changing console.
Between the incremental improvements of the PlayStation and the XBox, the Switch is…unique. It can be a handheld console or something in a living room or bedroom. I have ports for both rooms because I’m a tryhard.
There are tons of games — both Nintendo and otherwise — to play. There is the Wii-type game 1-2-Switch and, of course, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. With many other indie games releasing all the time like Nine Parchments, the Switch has some considerable staying power.
But, if you look at the Switch’s capabilities, Super Mario Odyssey is the perfect game for it. Considering the simple fact that it can switch from handheld to tv, it evokes nostalgia instantly.
It also shows off that the game is a unique platformer because of the “sandbox” update. You can just bop around, throwing your hat (Cappy) places, and completely skip bosses. It also merges the different levels we remember from classic games like Super Mario 3.
Instead of “the water level” (which I hate), you have different locations and cultures. The food realm has to be my favorite; the music is so good! Pro-tip: it is also a take on a “lava level” if you think about it.
In the same way that the console serves multiple purposes, the game mechanics do, too. The console and the game were in development together, so it made for a perfect pairing. That’s why many of the native controls in Super Mario Odyssey pair so well with the joy-cons (controllers).
What is Next for Our Fine, Mustached Friend?
While a new Super Mario game may not be in the works yet, you can bet there will be one. Just like the Fallout series, this franchise is here to stay.
What makes Mario or his Master Sword-wielding Nintendo cohort Link have such staying power? Is it the imagination in the game development or the simple story setup? Perhaps it is just the endearing spirit of Shigeru Miyamoto.
But the director of the game, Kenta Motokura, told GQ that there are three key things to Mario. Those things are: fun, choice, and challenges. With the perfect combination of all three, we get games like Super Mario Odyssey.
In a way, it informs all of the Nintendo games we have gotten for the Nintendo Switch. Splatoon 2 is great for kids and Kirby Star Allies launches on March 16th. While I am not about that Bayonetta life, you can also play Bayonetta 2.
Regardless of title and target audience, Nintendo titles, including Super Mario, remind us that games can be fun. Moreover, they remind us that not everything needs to be so serious all the time. Sometimes, you just partner with a talking hat and save a princess from a giant dinosaur.
Would that it were so simple….at least we have a new Smash Bros. confirmed!