If you asked me to pick my favorite Mario game of all time, there's only one answer - Super Mario Bros. 3 (yes, Super Mario World is close second!). I could pick that game up tomorrow, play it for the thousandth time, and still get a smile on my face when I race into the sky on maximum P Power. A lot of fans simply enjoy the simplicity a 2D Mario brings, while others find 3D games a bit too difficult to navigate.
I was thrilled when Nintendo rebooted 2D Mario, and picked up New Super Mario Bros Wii on launch day (I didn't have a DS at the time, though I now own both NSMB1 and NSMB2). I enjoyed every minute of that game (well, expect maybe the "Save Toad" levels - they were dumb). Of course, I followed it up with New Super Mario Bros Wii U (fun, if a bit repetitive) and Super Luigi U (it's like Donkey Kong Country Returns on steroids).
But sadly, some of the latter games just didn't fill me with the same fun-level as games like SMB3 or NSMBW did. When the 2D games started dying out originally, they switched to 3D to reinvent the franchise (and keep up with technology). Then, the 2D games came back with a renaissance, including updated graphics and new game play mechanics. But the original New Super Mario Bros for the DS came out in 2006 and has largely followed the same formula since. Almost 12 years later, I feel like it's time for a new renaissance!
When Super Mario Maker came out, I (quite possibly literally) leaped with joy. Hey, it was only a game I waited two decades for. While it turned out I was rather sucky at making levels myself, the level-creating community was where the game really shined. Sure, a lot of levels are terrible, and others are way too insanely difficult, but you can also find a lot of quality levels that keep the 2D Mario gaming spirit alive.
What I'd like to see in 2D Mario on the Switch
So far, the Switch has been all about reinvention. 3D Super Mario returned to an open world design, and Zelda created one of the best and most expansive open world games to date. I'm also patiently waiting for the announcement of Luigi's Mansion 3 for the Switch, hoping it too will return to an open world format.
I think it might finally be time to mess with the traditional 2D Mario format. Yes, we've already seen some of this in the Paper Mario games (Super Paper Mario was pretty great), but those are less mainstream games. The time may have come for a mainstream, open world, 2D Mario.
Could this even work? Would it be like some giant level, or would it be Metroidvania style? I'm a big Metroidvania fan myself (and kind of wish Samus Returns had been a Switch release, instead of 3DS), so my instincts for an open world 2D Mario would trend towards that genre. But I'm open for anything that breaks the formula. Here are some ideas to get them started!
- Game starts out as a standard 1-1 “Grass world" with a flagpole at the end, complete with the usual enemies and temporary power ups.
- Upon hitting the flagpole, a “bad-guy” cut scene happens ("Well gee Mario, it's so easy to defeat us when all you have to do is hit a flagpole!" - me, in a horrible Baby Bowser voice), the world gets “expanded”, Mario is stripped of all his power ups, and the player is now able to walk "past" the flagpole.
- The player than keeps going past the flagpole, eventually finding a warp pipe to “Underground world".
- Eventually the underground world meets back up with Grass world and you are able to traverse back to the area you started.
- Different open-areas would be themed off of standard Mario worlds - Grass World, Underground World, Ice World, Water World, Desert World, Sky World, all of which would interconnect in various ways.
- Mario would get his power ups back throughout the game based on standard Mario-powers - e.g. Fire Flower, Ice Flower, Racoon tail. Mushroom could allow Mario to grow or shrink in size at will (a la Morph ball). A Dash power allows Mario to run faster. Cappy should be included as well. At this point, maybe some abilities would be permanent and equipable, e.g. maybe Goomba’s shoe allows you to jump higher. Beating a boss may be required to get a power up, which would sometimes allow access to new areas.
- Different suits could also allow Mario to get to new areas. E.g. In Water-world, Mario could only skim the surface until finding the Frog suit, allowing full access underwater.
- Warp pipes would allow quick access to different areas of the map, once they are unlocked.
- Game would still gave bosses, minibosses, etc, although with a more Mario-theme. Mario would also need a different hitpoint, possibly similar to the 2D games.
Maybe some power ups are permanent - like Cappy or a higher jump - while others remain ephemeral, like Fire or Ice Flower. I'm sure the smarter-than-me game designers could come up with a 2D Mario game that was true to the genre, but still retaining a unique Mario-esque feel. It would definitely put a smile on my face.
Super Mario Maker 2?
Does this mean I think there's no room on the Switch for a standard, ax-smashing, flag-pole riding, 2D Mario adventure? Absolutely not! I think Nintendo was right on target with Super Mario Maker, and there will absolutely be a Switch version at some point. That's how I'd like to see standard 2D levels evolve on the Switch.
There are many aspects of 2D Mario levels missing from the original game. Personally, I really miss slopes, and vertical levels. But I think there are plenty of "new" elements that would warrant creating a proper Super Mario Maker 2, as opposed to simply a port like was done for the 3DS. Not to mention 2D game mechanics that don't even exist yet (Cappy?) that could be added to the game. They could even add "super-size" levels, akin to some of the open world mechanics I mentioned above.
Another key missing feature - over worlds! Give people the ability to make over worlds and "link" courses together? Secret exits even! Then allow the publishing of course packs. You could basically build entire new 2D Mario Games with the engine, and the fans would be in control.
Besides, Nintendo already makes and publishes special courses for the original Super Mario Maker - imagine they published entire course packs of levels. DLC? Why not! Make a Super Mario Maker 2 eShop and allow for purchase of additional, official course packs, based on the engine.
I admit the Super Mario Maker experience would be a bit different on the Switch, without having dual screens. Again, I'm sure the smarter-than-me game designers would be able to make it a good experience using the Joy Cons, or maybe even simply undocking the Switch to create levels. The Super Mario Maker 2 case could even come bundled with a capacitive stylus to facilitate creation of games on the Switch touchscreen. Maybe we'll need to wait for the wirelessly-docked Switch I suspect will come eventually, but I certainly hope not!
Whether or not this fan's advice will be taken, I cannot say. We may simply end up with New Super Mario Bros Switch, though I feel such a sequel would be a bit lackluster compared to the precedent that has been set for the Switch thus far.
On the other hand, I'd still totally buy it :).