In a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Where should the Mario games go next? Robin has a few ideas.

By Robin Wilde. Posted 02/06/2014 09:00 4 Comments     ShareThis

With the exception of 64 and Sunshine, the Super Mario series has followed a logical progression of naming. Land to World, World to Galaxy. But that sequence has always had an upper limit, which we’ve already seen demonstrated with Super Mario Galaxy 2. There is of course the possibility of having Super Mario Universe, but that’s really only delaying the issue.

That’s not to say, though, that Nintendo’s mascot is out of places to go or things to do. It would be quite naive to think that a series that has been running over thirty years won’t be able to sustain itself for at least a little while. Nintendo has shown this kind of ingenuity before, with Super Mario Sunshine. Instead of merely expanding the concept of Super Mario 64, the company shunted the concept sideways and introduced new gameplay mechanics, enemies and a tropical island theme. This worked not because the idea it came up with was particularly original– vacation episodes in fiction have been done before, and arguably better– but because nobody expected it for that particular property.

The Mario spin-off games have been much more effective in this regard– the dual-world mechanics of Super Paper Mario and the idea of neighbouring nations to the Mushroom Kingdom in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga were reasonably fresh and helped players become aware of the context of the world in which Mario exists.

What Nintendo should be doing is scrutinizing the locations and gameplay elements which haven’t been explored at all in any of the existing games, and finding a way to make them fit. This won’t be easy by any means, but it makes the difference between refreshing new installments in the franchise and treading water with tweaked rehashing of existing worlds.

A factor which compounds the company’s difficulty somewhat is the fact that a lot of different worlds have already been explored, thanks to the flexibility of the Galaxy games in providing a multitude of radically different locales to explore. Such different environments as Gusty Garden Galaxy and the level-of-which-we-do-not-speak, the Luigi Purple Coin Challenge, could come from games that don’t share the same premise, but now the idea of “beach level” and “precision platforming challenge” have been kind of used up.

One route, therefore, would be a continuation of the Galaxy series, simply updating the number at the end and throwing in a mixture of levels which, while using rather unique ideas, don’t on their own warrant a full game. This allows Nintendo to flex its creative muscles in a controlled environment, allowing a lot of Mario games to be made relatively cheaply but with the inherent risk of boring the audience.

Another option is to go the Sonic route and start setting games in different time periods or common fictional environments, like a 3D Mario game set in a medieval Mushroom Kingdom, at sea, or in an ancient Egyptian environment. These themes have been explored before, but allow for both back-story development and a unique selling point to use in advertising as well as more interesting gameplay mechanics that relate to the game’s theme. However, in pursuing that route it automatically places constraints on the variety of levels possible while sticking to the theme. This is a limitation that the Mario Galaxy games managed to avoid by making a universe your explorable world, full of diverging and often wildly different worlds.

So the dilemma is reconciling the scope of creativity with direction and a particular raison d’etre. There is a third option, which may be worth considering for future Wii U games. There is no reason Nintendo could not develop a Mario game with complex but easy-to-grasp level creation tools along the lines of LittleBigPlanet. It’s the sort of purpose for which Miiverse would be well suited, and would ensure that an enormous amount of content was always available.

The core gameplay of this title would not necessarily diverge hugely from previous titles, but, like Media Molecule’s title, could allow the development of players’ own gameplay styles according to taste. Creative tools that would allow the development and uploading of individual levels or even entire stories would not be overly difficult to implement, and the idea could even spread to other games– customised Pokémon worlds or Zelda dungeons.

The idea of the public domain is that when a property has run its course, it should be turned over to the public, so that those who liked the original work may build on and make derivative works from the original. By granting the ability to do this, it ensures that a work will live on, constantly reinvigorated and revised by those who care about it. If the Mario games have run out of steam, then perhaps it is time to let the fans try their hand.

4 Responses to “In a Galaxy Far, Far Away”

  • 1396 points
    penduin says...

    I’ve longed for a Mario game with a built-in level editor since 1986. I really hope that’s what the “New Super Mario” series becomes.

    On the other side, I think there are all kinds of things left to explore in the 64/Sunshine/Galaxy progression.

    My favorite idea, and I forget where I read it, was inspired by the original Nintendo Power cover – Clay Mario! (We have paper Mario and yarn Kirby/Yoshi, so why not?) Think Mario 64 meets Gumby. Chunks of level structures come to life, Mario rolls up enemies into a big messy clay ball, and if he falls too far, he’ll splat into a flat shape able to squeeze through narrow gaps, all in 3D simulated clay animation. Revisiting garden/water/castle etc levels becomes all new yet again, due to new mechanics and a fun new style.

    I’d like to see a Mario title that mixes 3D platforming with Mario’s huge history of cameos and spinoffs. 3D World has a Mario Kart level, but let’s not stop there! What if pipes and goombas sprouted up along an 18-hole golf course? There are even flagpoles at the goals already. How about finding yourself in a dark sewer lit only by red lights, tossing koopa shells across wide chasms? Or fighting a boss by chasing him around a tennis court or boxing ring, where you have to pay attention to the match and stomp on “in”/”out” tiles or a KO counter? Carry a large paddle around and keep a giant bouncing, block-breaking ball up in the air. Take a hammer to structural points, ladders, and walls of a building to demolish it safely and rescue the trapped Toads inside. Climb and jump and hit switches in a cement factory. Run through obstacle courses while giant dice roll and change the world around you. Find a star hidden in a soccer ball or basketball by managing to get it into the net or hoop. Solve Picross puzzles by butt-stomping tiles. Grab and toss correctly-colored pills to defeat giant viruses. A Mario game could pay homage to other Mario games at this point. :^)

    I’d also like to see Wario as the villain. He now has a running crew who could serve as mini-bosses of themed worlds. I want to see what kind of platforming challenges Dr. Crygor, Jimmy T, 9-volt, Orbulon etc would throw at Mario!

    For that matter, where the heck was Tatanga during the Galaxy games? 3D World goes a long way towards Mario Land-style craziness, but a Galaxy 3 or other space-themed game could still borrow a lot from the old Game Boy titles.

    Thumb up 0
  • 1249 points
    Robert Marrujo says...

    Very good. I don’t know if thematically naming the games is all that important, myself. I mean, the Galaxy games have a spacey vibe, but the environments are really all over the place on each planetoid, and even from stage to stage therein. I think the gameplay hooks are what really matter, and it’s in that regard that Nintendo should be most concerned. The fan in me wouldn’t oppose a level editor/creator tool in a Mario game, but I know that Nintendo as a business won’t do it because they think it will cheapen the brand. Basically, if the fans can make their own Mario levels, Nintendo’s own efforts won’t be as special. (I’m phrasing this horribly, sorry. Need… sleep).

    Thumb up 0
    • 849 points
      ejamer says...

      I bet you are right about the level editor not happening… but will continue to hope for one anyway.

      I’m normally not a big fan of user-generated content in video games. But I feel like the classic, old-school 2D Mario levels would be easy to make and still flexible enough that real creativity could shine through brilliantly. Would it be worth the effort of wading through masses of amateurish junk to find the good stuff? Probably not… but the idea alone would garner a sale from me.

      Thumb up 0
  • 1245 points
    lukas85 says...

    what nintendo needs is making mario galaxy 3, and then mario universe, in my imagination this game would be more like mario 64 with a main hub world and open areas to explore, but, every level would have a totally different graphical style based on the many differetn graphical styles of the mario franchise, like, paper mario, mario rpg, yoshi island, 8-bit, 16-bit and of course advanced polygonal like 3d world. i think it would be awesome.

    Thumb up 1

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