In this series of articles we'll write about one or more Mario games per day, each representing a different year as part of our Super Mario 30th Anniversary celebrations.
Assessing 2D Mario games in the 'New' series in 2015 naturally features arguments of repetition, frequency of releases and some calls for fresh ideas. Those debates and points were particularly voluble in 2012, which brought us both New Super Mario Bros. 2 on 3DS and New Super Mario Bros. U as a Wii U launch title. For some, there was just too much 2D Mario at one time.
In 2006, however, the arrival of New Super Mario Bros. on DS was hugely significant. Almost unbelievable to consider now, but it was actually the first new 2D Mario game in around 14 years when it arrived, with its predecessor - excluding spin-offs featuring Wario or Yoshi and remakes - being Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins on the Game Boy. In previous entries in this series we've written about Nintendo experimenting with new ideas and characters and bolting on the Super Mario brand, and then focusing years of effort and resources into 3D Mario gaming. Classic 2D Mario platforming just fell off the radar for multiple generations.
In that context, the 'New' branding made sense, and there was huge buzz when Nintendo unveiled the look of the game on DS - adopting 3D modelling and polygons for a 2.5D impression, it was a major change in 2D Mario platforming. Ideas and moves from the 3D games transitioned across, too, such as butt stomping and wall jumping, while level design had greater freedom and capabilities compared to what had been possible way back in the early '90s.
The dual screen setup was used fairly sensibly, all considered, with the touch screen having a handy button shortcut to activate a reserve power-up item. Nintendo also used power-ups to change a typical Mario-game structure - the Mini Mushroom, for example, was a necessity in order to access special pipes and even world exits. There were 8 worlds, as always, but the game could be beaten while skipping some entirely; accessing the additional worlds - and collecting three star coins per stage - were tasks to add challenge to what was a fairly accessible core experience.
As it was on the DS, of course, there were minigames - and lots of them. In fact, your humble writer recalls occasions when younger family members would spend more time playing various touch-based minigames than the actual core platformer. It was a clever move, despite the possible objections from purists, as it helped lure in and entertain the 'Touch Generation' that was so integral to the outstanding success of the DS.
With three direct follow-ups since, it's easy to lose track of how influential New Super Mario Bros. was on subsequent Nintendo releases. It introduced new characters and features that would go on to feature not only in its own sequels, but across multiple series - the Mega Mushroom is an example. It was also a phenomenal success, with many of its sales coming in the latter half of the DS lifespan courtesy of its evergreen appeal. It sold over 30 million copies, is the best-selling DS game and at the time of writing is one of the top 10 best-selling games of all time.
2D Mario platformers are now an integral part of the Nintendo landscape, with Super Mario Maker on Wii U taking the series to a whole new level; let's not forget that New Super Mario Bros. was the key moment that brought Mario back into the 2D realm.