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Three Things Nintendo Could Learn From Mario Fan Games

“Today I’m proud to announce something that looks like we spent very little time on it.”

It’s no secret I’m an enormous Mario fan, I mean, Super Mario Bros. 3 is literally my favorite game of all time.  My apartment has more Mario figurines and junk in it than is probably considered normal.  Still though, it doesn’t effect my critical eye toward the Mario series (except perhaps make me actually more critical towards it) and when I saw the previews for both Nintendo’s new New Super Mario Bros. games (you know, NSMB U and NSMB 2) I couldn’t help but be overcome with a strange feeling I don’t normally associate with Mario games (especially 2D ones): vague disapointment.  I don’t doubt the games will be solid and fun, I’m sure they will be, it just bothers me that they could be so much more.

First of all, and most unrelated to the focus of the article but I feel like I have to get it out of the way, New Super Mario Bros. U is not the game Nintendo needs to be using to show off the Wii U.  It barely looks any better than the original Wii version graphically…hell it barely looks any different than the Wii version period.  You’re not going to convince people it’s worth the upgrade with a game that looks like it could run on the old console.  Where’s the mind-blowingly awesome, imaginative , graphically impressive, and uniquely original Super Mario Galaxy-like Mario game that would actually move consoles?  Or they could at least make New Super Mario U look better, maybe like Donkey Kong Country Returns did?  I dunno, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about.

Stuff like this is.

1. More Playable Characters!

Of course you’re going to want to play a Mario game as Mario, but why not branch out a little?  It worked for Super Mario Bros. 2 and turned what would probably of been a mediocre game without Luigi, Peach, and Toad and turned it into a fantastic one, along with furthering the Mario Bros. character cannon.  Everybody loved Peach’s ability to float, so why haven’t we ever seen it again (aside from Super Princess Peach, that is).  Fan games like Super Mario Bros. XMushroom Kingdom Fusion, and Super Mario Bros. Crossover show us that the Mario world can be quite refreshing and different when played in another character’s shoes.  Link in MKF was fantastic and fun. Bill Rizer (the Contra guy, you dope) in SMC made SMB play in an entirely different way.  It even adds replayablity to an existing game!  We shouldn’t have to reach out to fan games for these experiences– Nintendo should notice this is fun and people enjoy it– and apply it to their own games.  Think back to the original New Super Mario Bros. Wii, you know how it was 4 players?  Having them be two palette swapped Toads was a lazy waste.  Why not get rid of a Toad and throw Peach, heck, even Wario into the mix.  It would be infinitely more interesting than Toad and his color changed clone.  I think awesome indie games auteur Anna Anthropy said it best, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Having Mario, Luigi, Blue Toad, and Yellow Toad in NSMB is like having Paul, John, Yellow George, and Blue George in the Beatles”

Take a look at this for awhile, Nintendo.

2. More New Power-ups in Each Game!

This is a big one for me– one of my favorite things about Mario games are Mario’s cool suits and transformations.  It seems, though, as time goes on Nintendo has gotten stingier and stingier on the “new power-ups” front.  The last Mario game of note, Super Mario 3D Land (which I couldn’t possibly recommend more regardless) only had like two new ones, a Boomerang Suit (which is not all that different than the Hammer Bros. Suit, really) and that Propeller Block that gets stuck on your head.  Now think back to SMB3 and all the great new powers it had, Raccoon Tail, Tanooki Suit, the aforementioned Hammer Bros. Suit, the yet-to-appear-in-another-game for some reason Frog Suit and even more!  There’s even weird map screen-only items like the anchor and Jugem’s Cloud!  Even Super Mario World had stuff like the Balloon power, capes, and several different colors of Yoshi!  Just a couple of new power ups per game doesn’t really cut it!  That’s where fan games come in, most of them have all Mario’s previous powers and all new ones on top of that!  MKF has it’s share of quirky new power ups like a soldier Mario (who looks surprisingly a lot like Metal Slug‘s Marco), or a Sci-Fi Mario (who bares more than an uncanny resemblance to Halo‘s Master Chief).  Firestyle’s Super Mario and the Pearls of Wisdom has cool new powers like a Mario with electric powers, and transfers several of Mario’s cool Galaxy powers into 2D (Cloud Mario, Bee Mario, etc.)!  Even Super Mario Bros. X which doesn’t go too far outside of Nintendo’s already established Mario toolbox manages to throw in more than a couple new ones along with including most of Mario’s originals.  I’m pretty sure the Mario fan game community beat Nintendo to the punch on the boomerang suit as well.

ZAP! Why hasn’t Nintendo done this yet?

3. Why Not A Level Editor?

Super Mario Bros. X has an incredibly in depth level editor that has lead to some great SMBX made games like Super Talking Time Bros. 2 and Super RMN Bros. 3.  Why not let people create their own Mario worlds Little Big Planet style?  Giving the Mario tools to the masses (as shown by the content created from SMBX) can lead to some incredibly creative and new Mario experiences we’d never see from Nintendo.  STTB2 has a level where you explore a dilapidated Mario Fortress, a trip through a giant Luigi’s digestive tract, and a whole mountain of cheese.  This stuff is crazy creative and cool, and all made out of mostly preexisting Mario assets.  In all honesty, I can’t get enough of the fan-made content spurned from SMBX… I could go to RPGMaker.net, switch the “engine” search filter to Super Mario Bros. X and be entertained forever.  Why not let this happen in a for-real Mario title, Nintendo?  Give the Mario-making tools to the people and let the creativity bloom!  You could even charge for Nintendo made DLC level packs if you wanted, I don’t care!  I just want to see this level of creativity and fun reach a larger and official audience.  You gave fans the keys to the Wario Ware kingdom with Wario Ware: DIY, why not do it with New Super Mario Bros. U as well?  I can’t think of a better way to show off the Wii U’s community and online features than letting people trade their hand-made Mario levels.

This is what the world needs.

In closing, Nintendo look at all these wonderful things your fans are creating and learn from them.  They’ve created and explored worlds and ideas your official games have only brushed the surface on.  They’ve given us piles of cool power-ups and characters that you guys haven’t.  These features need to be in a Mario for real, then I could get excited about any New Super Mario games you’ve got up your sleeves, instead of looking at them and seeing nothing I haven’t already and feeling that feeling of vague disappointment and deja vu.  The fans know how to keep Mario fresh without disrespecting its oh-so-rad roots…why can’t you Nintendo?  Pull out all the stops, give us all the characters and power-ups, and put the tools to make more Mario experiences in our hands.  Don’t just make some new levels for New Super Mario Wii throw in some baby Yoshis and flying squirrel suits and call it a day.  You can give us better than that– because the fans already have.

Cody’s the resident video game guy, but his nerd interests really lie all over the spectrum! There’s really nothing he won’t write about, and will! He’s also an avid fan of webcomics and an aspiring cartoonist and animator as well! You can follow him on Twitter, @NOcodyP.

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