When New Super Mario Bros. came out on DS, the excitement was palpable. After all, it was the first 2D Mario platformer in about 15 years, which seems amazing to consider nowadays.
Some of you may raise your eyebrows at that statement, and may argue that it's incorrect, but let's break it down. Super Mario World on SNES didn't get a true follow-up until the 'New' series started. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island was really a Yoshi game with Mario branding, and after that we had the 3D revolution started by Super Mario 64 and a whole lot of remakes, remasters and ports on the 2D side. The very reason the 'New' brand was likely conceived was to counteract the fact that it had been well over a decade since the last 2D Mario game, so customers old and new needed to get used to the idea of fresh Mario gaming that wasn't in three dimension.
The idea of Mario overload was preposterous back then, and the hype around the DS release was matched by sales. By the time New Super Mario Bros. Wii arrived, with improved visuals and local multiplayer, it took advantage of the system's prosperity to deliver huge success. Both titles have sold around 30 million units each, boosted by sizeable userbases - on DS Mario's adventure is the best-selling game on the system, and on Wii it's the fourth best-selling game (losing out to Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort and Mario Kart Wii).
In this current generation, it should be noted, sales have remained strong and near top-of-class, but with a little twist; whereas 2D Mario was King on Wii, for example (easily outselling Super Mario Galaxy) the story's been different on Wii U and 3DS, perhaps reflecting some minor apathy towards the New series. On 3DS, so far, Super Mario 3D Land has out-sold New Super Mario Bros. 2, while Super Mario 3D World is only a little behind New Super Mario Bros. U. When the Wii U launched there was undeniably some 2D Mario fatigue in the Nintendo community, at least in the vocal online parts of that gaming group. NSMB2 and NSMBU arrived close together, and a number said "meh, seen it before" when the Wii U's entry arrived last in the 'New' series. That was arguably harsh on the Wii U's launch title, but over the course of six years Nintendo had released four 'main' 2D Mario titles, and familiarity stripped away the buzz.
Super Mario Maker was a smart next move from Nintendo, and we wonder whether it's a precursor to the quiet retirement of the 'New' series. It tapped into trends that had established themselves in the broader gaming sphere - player power and creativity. In handing over the tools for making Mario levels, wrapped up in a charming and easy-to-understand user interface (UI), Nintendo let its enthused audience create the game for themselves. All playable modes, with the exception of special 'Event' courses, tapped into community created content. The results were mixed from a playing perspective, as most of us are mediocre (at best) level designers. Yet that's not the point - empowering the community was the key achievement.
It wouldn't be Nintendo, of course, if it hadn't knocked in a few own goals to undo a bit of the good work. Moderation was excessive, 'unpopular' stages were deleted with little notice, and the course browsing interface could have been better on day one. Updates and the 'Bookmark' website helped matters, though, and in general there was (and to an extent still is) an active community around level creation, with some even coming up with smart workarounds for limitations in the game, for example grouping bookmarks to create 'Worlds' and entire 'games'.
Now we have Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS around the corner, which has pros and cons - we outlined some of these in our preview and have a review on the way prior to its release. The big loss is online sharing, sucking away that community aspect that drove the Wii U title; you can play through and download randomised stages uploaded from the home console iteration, but that's it for online features. The key addition, though, is 'Super Mario Challenge', which helps to soften the blow.
Comprised of 100+ official stages, it incorporates the peculiarities and anarchy of Mario Maker into relatively well-structured and solidly designed levels. There are plenty of worlds, and each one is used to unlock creative tools and to learn about how they're used, but for veterans these levels are simply a wacky bunch of stages (including boss encounters, of sorts) to tackle. Each stage has two challenge medals to earn, and you have a set of lives to build-up or lose if you're struggling. With a more cohesive 'plot' - by Mario standards - and more linearity and variety in boss stages, for example, this mode could conceivably be a new 2D Mario game.
To be clear, it isn't. Levels are still designed to showcase certain game tools, and often take puzzle or mechanic-based approaches rather than the linear, carefully designed stages in the 'New' games. Yet the concept is interesting - after all, levels hop between the four templates and keep things fresh and occasionally off-kilter. It's like an anarchic Mario twist on the Sonic Generations concept, but with Nintendo's mascot ranging from 8-bit right through to HD lineage.
Could it be a tease of a new future for Mario and his 2D adventures? One where the 3D games are the tentpole, standalone experiences, and where 2D entries blend user participation with officially designed fun? Having played through Super Mario Challenge but also tried some random user stages in the 3DS game, there's a place for both, but Nintendo's official stages are far more enjoyable in terms of pure playability. Perhaps the best of both worlds is a logical step for Mario in two dimensions - a creativity 'platform' in the Mario Maker brand, with official packs and experiences included and added over time.
Nintendo's already shown its evolving approach to DLC, and games-as-platforms such as LEGO Dimensions show how new content can make an old game feel new well beyond its launch. A new Super Mario Maker could include an official template-blending 'game' as a mode, like an improved and more cohesive Super Mario Challenge. DLC can then add packs every 8-12 months, ideally at sensible prices - following the terrific value of the Mario Kart 8 DLC. There could be smaller themed sets of worlds, such as a pack based on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, as one example; the Wii U title's amiibo support and Mystery Mushrooms opened up varied cross-brand tie-ins that Nintendo embraced.
An approach like this could help keep 2D Mario fresh, using creativity, cross-overs and budget prices to dodge apathy and overkill. It could be extremely low-cost from a development perspective, too - simply set some talented level designers to the task using the game's in-built tools, perhaps using a 'dev' version with a bit more freedom.
When you also factor in the imminent Super Mario Run, with its auto-running, style-driven approach and its own creative tools, its evident that Nintendo is looking at ways to keep the 2D brand active and engaging for a modern audience. It's not that the 'New' 2D entries were flops on 3DS and Wii U, far from it, but Nintendo will have seen the reduced impact, and broader trends in gaming, and started to consider whether new ideas are needed. Its true that Super Mario Maker is still playing catch up in sales (3.73 million compared to 5.45 million of NSMBU), but it arrived after the state of the Wii U's decline was already clear. It did, despite those lower numbers, attract notable attention online, including among streamers.
Whatever Nintendo does, it's unlikely to allow a gulf in time as dramatic as that between Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. There were unique circumstances, such as generational shifts in graphics, trends and perhaps a loss of focus on the brand. Successfully revitalised with the 'New' games, there's an opportunity to turn 2D Mario gaming into an exciting and interesting product again. Perhaps blending player control with touches of official quality can be the way to do just that.
It's just an idea, in any case. We just feel that a supercharged Super Mario Maker with innovative, clever official Worlds and 'games' built in could be an impossible-to-resist combination in the Switch era. It gives Nintendo and players creative freedom, and allows the big N to produce fun content at little cost, making a 'platform' of 2D Mario.
Or we'll get New Super Mario Bros. Switch. Time till tell.
Super Mario Run could be the huge Mario money maker for Nintendo this holiday.
I think NSMB Wii is the best in the series. I don't think the Wii U game was enough of a different experience to get excited about. I couldn't get through the Wii game fast enough but the Wii U entry felt more of a chore to complete 100%. It's difficult to imagine how they would improve / expand with another game in the series.
I think the idea in this article is interesting and would be a good way to go.
As I didn't know SMB2 (the lost levels) growing up, I always saw the Mario series as the one that kept reinventing itself at each new iteration. Every game pushed the boundaries of what the console was able to do, but also change the setting, some mechanics, etc.
I mean, it's quite telling that in SM Maker, there is a skin for SMB, SMB3, SMW, NSMB... but no NSMBU or NSMB2.
If you can't tell them apart visually, why should they be remembered ?
I hope we have a New Super Mario Bros Switch. And I hope it will brings something more than "new costumes" (which is only building on SMB3) and blows us away.
Great article that brings a lot of interesting points.
I personally believe the Mario Overload sentiment was from a minority of hateful people
Also, don't take away my Super Mario Bros. Mario Maker and mobile games are not substitutes in any way for that series.
More 2D Mario. Enough said.
@neufel NSMBU skins are in Mario Maker,it's the Wii version that's missing.
The issue with Super Mario Bros going stale started with Super Mario World. Super Mario Bros 3 was downright difficult at places, making the warp whistles a requirement for most to beat it. Even then, that last level gauntlet was brutal. By comparison, I am not sure I haven't met anyone who hasn't beaten Super Mario World. It was the pursuit of accessibility for all that watered the games down.
That said, a little annoyed that Super Mario Maker on Wii U has been allowed to go stale on Event stages and Nintendo engagement. Wish they would patch in the Super Challenge either as DLC or as a reward to those that played it on the Wii U.
My question for 3DS version is one. Is there a Funny Mushroom ? (Eating that will cause a Confusion for Mario)
I think NSMB Switch is possible but... well, the "series" took enough of a break that I think they're done with that style. Plus the Mario they've shown is 3D and rumors point to an updated Mario Maker. If they do a new 2D Mario game I think they may stray from the NSMB formula, maybe give us a new style for the Mario Maker series.
@NinChocolate The Mario fatigue is apparent from sales though. As Nintendo churned out NSMB sequels, they have sold worse.
@OorWullie Woops. That means I'm totally confusing the NSMB games. :/
@neufel It kind of reinforces your point.
Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 are very similar. Both a re great games but to me 2 is the superior game. I believe there is still room for innovation with the New Super Mario Bros. series. I still hate the name. "New" Super Mario Bros. is 10 years old. Not very new any more.
I know you called out the quibblers in the beginning of the article, but the real last 2D Mario before NSMB was Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins.
Not sure why that's forgotten. It doesn't undermine the point that Nintendo stopped making 2D Mario from 1992-2006.
The NSMB series needs to go. Time to focus on developing a proper 3D Mario.
Hopefully the rumors about an exploratory 3D Mario on Switch are accurate.
@ShadJV if there's any notable fatigue involved it's for Nintendo's hardware after the Wii/DS. I would not call NSMB sales a sign of any kind of fatigue on Wii U/3DS, as I bet sales, proportionally speaking, are competitive with Wii/DS. And in the case of the Wii U that is certainly the case with more Wii U owners installed with NSMB and NSLU than the Wii's base. Shift your perspective
Super Mario Bros. is THE Nintendo game series from OG to 3 to World. The 'New' end of the series is no exception. They are must own games in their own time as well. Name a more competent original-handheld-platformer than NSMB2 in it's generation
I understand the fatigue for everybody else, but I always welcomed a new "new" super mario. Despite it's branding, I've just enjoyed them all. Interestingly, I thought the (even worst named) New Super Luigi add-on was perhaps the best. It felt more impactful on the New Super Mario formula with it's shorter levels and tighter challenges. I've actually tried to use that as the guide for most of my hilariously inept Mario Maker levels.
But overall, even I'm ready for a good bolt in a new direction. Nothing has to be -too- crazy, but maybe a new art direction like Galaxy or painterly fashions would really help with a new mechanic or two.
@NinChocolate I agree with you there. While I certainly can't argue with the fatigue of the frequent releases, I'm kind of a sucker for them, and can never have enough. The only other platformer that even comes close to me for 3DS (or really any console) is Shovel Knight.
It's probably controversial, but i would love a "new super Mario bros."-esque game in the style of NES "Super Mario bros. 2"! ^_^
Honestly, I've always been fine with the "New" series. Could they have been more unique? Of course, that's not even a question, but they've always been fun with (mostly) fantastic level design to boot.
Still, I don't think NSMB2 should of been made. Yeah, it's fun, but it just felt... unnecessary.
I'm more than welcome to new ideas, but I'm not against something "New", as long as it changes things up at least a little.
Good read. I fear that Super Mario Maker for 3DS is just a way to artificially extent the life of the game a bit more. While waiting for the Switch. I don't expect it to receive many DLC, if any.
Now if Super Mario Run is as successful as it appears it will be, then I expect that to be the new platform for 2D Mario entries. Which is fine for me, as long as we get it on Android soon.
2D gaming is finally making a huge comeback. So why on earth has Nintendo never made a 2DS XL?!?!?!
I love the New Super Mario Bros games. Some of the absolute greatest platformers ever made.
And tbh, I never understood all the hate. Particularly for New Super Mario Bros U, which of the 4 was probably trashed the most despite being leaps and bounds above the other 3.
Everyone else was complaining... I was having the time of my life playing NSMBU. Gosh dang that game was good. I think it was NSMB2 that stirred the pot so much. It wasn't up to scratch with the other 3, although it was still a great game relative speaking.
You guys really should add a thumbs up or like for an article because well written ones like these should be able to be praised/appreciated more!
I liked nsmbu a lot. And NLBU too. Luigi physics is fun.
If Peach had Luigi physics, would she be Daisy?
Grew up with Mario 64 and Sunshine holds as a special place in my heart as the first game I completed on my own. Never have been a 2D Mario fan, though. I did play them all (except for SML1 and 2) but I never felt the sense of adventure I felt, and still feel, playing 3D games, after all all you're doing in 2D is walk from left to right with that occassional secret exit. And the fact that Miyamoto is actively working on giving the 3D entries the same level of linearity because he believes his games need to be made for people unable to live irl due to their lack of orientation in a 3D space. I may be extremely biased but I just want Nintendo to give us a large playground in form of a Mario 64 sequel where we play and beat the game with little to no input or tutorials and actively have to think for once in our gamer lives.
In regards to 2D Marios, I wished Nintendo were stopping the NSMB series and make it more open ended, several ways to beat a level and, again, let us play with little to no input from the devs.
In general, please just take more risks with Mario again, Nintendo! Not just in regards to the platformers but rpg series as well!
SUPER MARIO LAND 2: 6 GOLDEN COINS
Seriously, does everyone forget there were 2D Mario platformers on the monochrome Game Boy? And that they were pretty well designed and inspired entries in the series?
I'm all for Super Mario Maker being either an unlockable feature in future NSMB titles, or just plain replacing NSMB altogether.
But I'm afraid neither will happen if the Switch sells, as an official editor on Wii U was kind of a threshold due to the low sales of the latter console; hopefully the 3DS port is a sign of Nintendo finally having opened the gates for good - and therefore, a sign of me being wrong in this regard - rather than a way to increase revenues from a game meant to save the system.
The last sentence in the article was spot on.
@ThomasBW84: Actually, I disagree on this:
"The results were mixed from a playing perspective, as most of us are mediocre (at best) level designers."
"Nintendo's official stages are far more enjoyable in terms of pure playability."
I'd say that many of the user-generated levels that I played were way better designed than official Nintendo levels (be it event courses or previous Mario 2D games). Sure, there probably were a lot of crappy levels as well (I rarely played 100-mario challenge for exactly that reason), but I just forewent them through the bookmark feature.
So based on that perspective, official level-DLCs for Mario Maker would be pretty pointless and redundant. The game is full of great levels and almost every official Mario level can be reproduced in Mario Maker. But why would you want to play that boring standard stuff when you have truly exceptional creative masterpieces generated by users (which give you greater variety, because every person is different, so arguably you get a richer experience when levels are created by thousands or millions of people opposed to official levels created by a handful of people)? What do I need official level-packs for then?
After Mario Maker was released, I immediately knew (and stated) that this is the end of 2D Mario games as we knew them. Not only because of Mario 2D fatigue (prior to the release of MM), but just because it doesn't make sense to buy a new 2D Mario platformer anymore. We have everything we need with Mario Maker (yeah I know, some people are still missing slopes, but would you buy a new 2D Mario game just because of the slopes?). New costumes are not enough for a new Mario 2D title (yes, I'm looking at you, NSMBU), because the formula always stays the same.
The only DLC/modification that would make sense to me would be expanding Mario Maker onto various Nintendo franchises. Not just amiibo-mystery-mushrooms, but complete sets of tools and elements from other games. Mario Maker should become Nintendo Maker.
This article was a nice read and I rather agree with most points. I'll never get tired of 2D Mario whether he tweaks only a couple changes or does major changes. I will admit though, as I look back on the "New" series, I'm surprised at how much the assets were used over and over, such as enemies dancing to the music (which was creative for its time), backgrounds, etc. I think the series concept is fine, I just believe they need to stop being lazy and throw some more original enemies, backgrounds, and even mechanics into the pot. Someone already said it and I agree-- since they're revisiting the "greatest of" Mario with the "New" series, so to speak, then I think it's time to revisit the SMB2 style of play in 2D (kudos to them revisiting it somewhat in SM3DW btw). Just my 2 cents.
Good future of 2D Mario: better use of Amiibos(with unique abilities) and community listening(slopes for SMM). Bad future: hat store for SMR.
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