2D Mario games need a significant makeover (opinion)

Credit: Nintendo

Happy Mario Day. Once Super Mario Bros. came out for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985, the video game industry picked up momentum and turned into the mainstream phenomenon it is now.

The original Super Mario Bros.

The Mario series remains extremely popular too, with regular 2D and 3D series entries released on a regular basis. For the most part, the 3D line of Super Mario titles tends to stay fresh with new ideas.

As for modern 2D Mario titles, those ones need a makeover by now. The current presentation is becoming tiresome.

To make this point, go back to the late 1980s and early 1990s when the original 2D series entries came out. Back then, Super Mario Bros. changed significantly with each release, such as in the 1988 Super Mario Bros. 2.

Super Mario Bros. 2

Both the graphics and music were a change of pace compared to the original. Instead of stomping on goombas, Mario was suddenly ripping out vegetables from the surface and throwing them at never-before-seen enemies. Strange!

Granted, Nintendo based Super Mario Bros. 2 on a separate game called Doki Doki Panic, so it had to look a bit weird.

Not too long after the second installment, Super Mario Bros. 3 came out.

Super Mario Bros. 3

While the graphics and overall gameplay brought it more in line with Super Mario Bros., the game still had a distinguished look and feel. Mario could now fly, wear a frog suit, change into an invincible statue and more.

The overworld theme music changed to match the stage setting, as Mario appeared as part of a play. Mario exited the stage after each level, which made gamers wonder if he faced any real danger at all.

In the 1990 Super Mario World, Nintendo went away from the stage theme but still refreshed the graphics to showcase the power of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).

Super Mario World

In terms of gameplay, Mario could now fly indefinitely with a cape. He gained the ability to spin and a dinosaur friend named Yoshi who ate frequently.

Super Mario World felt different but offered a nice progression for the Super Mario Bros. series.

Fast forward to 2006 and New Super Mario Bros. for the portable DS system.

New Super Mario Bros.

Nintendo decided to go retro for this entry and took away some of Mario’s more complex abilities such as flying.

The overall look changed. Nintendo also incorporated momentum into the physics to more accurately reflect how Mario would run in real life. While the loss of flying hurt, Nintendo brought a “different but same” feel to the series.

Developers limited what Mario could do in an attempt to remind fans of the original game. Yet, it was a refreshing entry for the most part. Because new 2D Mario games took a backseat for a few years, seeing this game felt exciting.

Then New Super Mario Bros. Wii came out in 2009, and it was … kind of the same.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii

The graphical style appeared the same. The overworld theme did not change much, if at all.

Sure, the Wii version had a cleaner look because of the Wii’s power, and a multiplayer aspect made it more fun, but the overall presentation never changed like it did from Super Mario Bros. to Super Mario Bros. 2.

How about New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 3DS, which released in 2012?

New Super Mario Bros. 2

Nope. Still the same overworld theme.

Graphics are the same. Physics are the same, except for the return of flying.

New Super Mario Bros. U released the same year for the Wii U.

New Super Mario Bros. U

Yes, the graphics are improved because it is the Wii U, but nothing is changed significantly. The overall presentation never changed. Even the main theme has the exact same “bah bah” sounds. At least, Yoshi fans get their dinosaur.

Four years later, Nintendo decided to create a 2D Super Mario Bros. for smartphones. It marked a milestone, as Nintendo had been hesitant to veer off into the smartphone world.

Super Mario Run

Because of the awkwardness of touchscreen controls, Nintendo made Super Mario Run an “endless runner.” Players control when Mario jumps as he runs automatically across the screen. It did provide a slight change of pace.

Nevertheless, Mario looks the same. The music is remixed a bit, but overall the same as in 2006.

While Super Mario Run forces the player to change the way the gameplay is approached, it does not feel so different because there has been no significant presentation overhaul of the 2D Mario titles in 11 years!

Some fans may disagree with this assessment, or feel this entire article is pointless, which is fine. To be fair, all Mario games are fun regardless, and Super Mario Maker for the Wii U brought the series to a new level by allowing gamers to create their own 2D levels and share them on a server. So, new 2D levels (using old graphics) are always available.

Whenever Nintendo decides to make the next regular 2D Super Mario Bros. though, it would not hurt to refresh the graphics, gameplay and music a little bit more.

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