The Death of Mario

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The Death of Mario

Is it time to retire Nintendo's favored mascot?

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Yahtzee Croshaw:
I think I'm going to skip reading the comments on this one.

And so the whiny comments declaring Yahtzee's opinion 'wrong' are even more pointless than usual....

Not that it'll stop them.

Regarding Dante - that's called "Advertisment", most likely. Include something or someone from a game not out yet and make people interested in that product (or more interested) and they might buy it.

The Smash Bros games did that in Melee and Brawl, too. Some of the characters there were from games not even out in the US (and in one case, Japan). And if you also include stages and music, then Brawl got the biggest advertisement-stunt ever by having a song and stage based on a game not only not released - but an entirely different system! (In case for those who don't know - the Gecko and Song of Love from MGS4 had both their debut in Brawl, a Wii-exclusive, before they had in in their own game, which is a PS3-exclusive).

Interesting points by Yahtzee, but it seems that the only alternative to what's going on with Mario is to look at what happened to Sonic. And I doubt anyone wants to wind up in that situation.

Combining properties is a bad idea that only appeals to the lowest common denominator, usually particularly dim children. When I was a kid, I might have though a crossover between X-Men and Star Trek: the Next Generation would have been a good idea, but now that I've grown up and learned that they actually did it, I realize what a bad idea it was.

Reading this, I think it would be interesting if someone were to make a Mario game with a real character arc of some kind. It would probably have to be one of those flash games where the character's names are changed but you still know who they are. Maybe the time for such an idea is past and the character and his trappings are too absurd to take seriously. But it would be an interesting challenge to make an actual story out of the goings on that's not a parody.

Mahoshonen:
Interesting points by Yahtzee, but it seems that the only alternative to what's going on with Mario is to look at what happened to Sonic. And I doubt anyone wants to wind up in that situation.

Well they could always retire the character.
Yeah, that sounded silly to me too.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
I think I'm going to skip reading the comments on this one.

PARTY AT YAHTZEE'S AND EVERYONE'S INVITED!

Er, yes.

Anyway, I find it interesting that Mario would ever fall into a low-risk holding pattern when his entire history is dotted with some pretty retarded choices and absolutely no integrity of character. I mean, he doesn't SOUND like he's from Brooklyn anymore, does he? For retro-Mario and modern-Mario to be the same person, one of two things would have to have happened:

1) Mario's taking after the other one-named M celebrity (Madonna) and faking a Euro accent.
2) The Mushroom Kingdom works on a sort of consensus reality. When everyone found out their new savior was of Italian descent, their image of an Italian superhero slowly distorted him from being a regular joe who stepped up into someone who speaks their language with a cutesy accent and blindly charges off every time the princess is kidnapped. Similarly, Bowser only has his random kidnapping compulsion because everyone figures that princesses get kidnapped by dragons and he's the closest thing they got to a dragon handy, but he doesn't always do it because sometimes he drops off the radar and people forget he's supposed to be kidnapping their princess. Every game is part of one canon because each one reflects the current fads of the Mushroom subjects and as long established people are collectively half-crazed morons.

Actually, the more I think of it, the better an idea this is. They should make a game out of it.

I sometimes think of Mario, as the way the Soviets and Russians must feel towards their Lenin.

Beeing too Iconic to be buried while still beeing kind of a cash cow, although despite the work putting into it, the corpse might start to rot whatever you try.

Please don't let Mario become Nintendos Mummified Icon, just keep him in the fridge and bring him out, when you know what to do with him.

But don't wait as long as Kid Ikarus, the players under 25 prolly had to look up Wikipedia to hear, that there was something before that. :P

I mean, who really cares? Dead, alive, trippin on shrooms. Mario's got plummer's butt, he'll be loving you long time.

Actually Yahtzee, I agree with you. As much as I love Mario, I think it's reached the point where Nintendo is no longer willing to innovate, to try new things with it's beloved characters, *ahem* pardon me, intellectual property. It's a shame you're not even going to read this.

The Mario franchise seems to be falling victim to two key problems: We're getting too much Mario, and not at the right times. Allow me to address each of these individually:

Mario used to be a much smaller franchise than it is. On the NES, we got a few platformers, a cameo in a boxing game... but for the most part, Mario was just Mario, and nothing else. Now we've got the main-series platformers from Nintendo's top developers (Galaxy, 3D Land, etc), but also a ton of other tangential stuff with Mario by and large tacked on (Mario Kart, Tennis, Golf, Party, Smash Bros) at alarmingly frequent intervals, along with an entire subseries of platformers by their B-team devs (NSMB).

In flooding the market, they are largely competing against themselves, and pumping out things a too fast to keep their quality standards as high as they used to be. Heck, in the space of a year, we got THREE MARIO PLATFORMERS (3D Land, NSMB2, NSMBU). While none of them are bad games, it does bring up the question of how much effort are they actually putting into these. Customers haven't failed to notice this. Additionally, this causes to people to take the franchise somewhat for granted. Another week, another Mario game, and people don't think about it, and don't get excited about it. Compare that to things like Zelda and Metroid, that are infrequent enough that they're still kind of a big deal.

The second problem is related, and it's one of timing. Mario games used to be system-sellers right at launch. Super Mario Bros, World, and 64 all filled out otherwise sparse launches (at least in North America; Japan got their NES a full four years earlier). This had a few effects: excitement for the next Mario game would increase excitement for the next console and vice versa, but perhaps more importantly, Mario games were largely innovative by default. Nintendo put their best devs into Mario, not just to make a great game, but to make a game that simply wouldn't have been possible on the older console. When a Mario game comes to a console too late, people are already somewhat aware of what the machine can and can't do, and it will affect their perception of the game (even if it's otherwise identical).

As an example, look at Super Mario Sunshine. Great game, and it got a lot of praise, but I'm absolutely positive it would've been better received if it had come out at the GameCube's launch. On top of that, the GC surely would've done better at launch, and probably attracted more third parties to it and been more successful in general. NSMBU *sort of* brings us back to this, but not being part of the main series or made by their best teams, it just can't have the same effect as something brand new from the Galaxy team.

Do I think Mario is dead? Heavens no. But I do think that Nintendo has not been playing to the strengths of the franchise lately. Super Mario Galaxy 2 was a fantastic game (my favorite Mario game, in fact), and I'd love to see more new games from the guys that made it. But as long as Nintendo keeps spreading the rest of their developers so thin and having them pump out as much as they can as fast as they can, often missing console launches, Mario is going to continue to SEEM dead.

tl;dr - Less is more, Nintendo. Make less Mario.

P.S. Thanks

I think the biggest problem is that Mario didn't have much substance to begin with. That doesn't make him bad, but it does make it hard to stretch his handful of amusing mannerisms and tropes in any meaningful way. Granted, it's possible to take a purely iconic figure and developing an interesting world or set of characters around them, which gives us a comfortable and familiar resting place in the canvas of intrigue, but next to no one is both smart enough and ballsy enough to make it work and most of the people that are wouldn't want to work with well established stuff anyway.

I don't understand why people think that Sonic is in a worse situation than Mario. At least Sonic still is a character...

The way I see it, after the jump to 3D, Mario gets one "real" game each generation (64, Sunshine, Galaxy and Galaxy 2) and all the spin-offs come to pay the bills or experiment with strange ideas.

It just so happens that some of the spin-offs are really good, like Kart or the RPGs, so Nintendo and fans hype them up as well.

So I'm going to wait for the WiiU's "real" Mario game before I actually make the call whether Mario is "dead/dying/on the decline/whatever". That being said, the New spin-off series really hasn't been helping with that perception. But they sell. They sell lots. So of course Nintendo makes lots of them.

edit:

Do I think Mario is dead? Heavens no. But I do think that Nintendo has not been playing to the strengths of the franchise lately. Super Mario Galaxy 2 was a fantastic game (my favorite Mario game, in fact), and I'd love to see more new games from the guys that made it. But as long as Nintendo keeps spreading the rest of their developers so thin and having them pump out as much as they can as fast as they can, often missing console launches, Mario is going to continue to SEEM dead.

This sums it up nicely.

Mahoshonen:
Interesting points by Yahtzee, but it seems that the only alternative to what's going on with Mario is to look at what happened to Sonic. And I doubt anyone wants to wind up in that situation.

I'd actually quite like to see Mario have a decade of games ranging from mediocre to god-awful to enjoyable-but-not-finished, then rise again with a couple of extremely high quality and original games that people may actually some day acknowledge as existant. Sonic Colours was excellent, I don't get this forums almost absolute ignorance of it, maybe it's because nobody bought a Wii

Mr. Omega:
The way I see it, after the jump to 3D, Mario gets one "real" game each generation (64, Sunshine, Galaxy and Galaxy 2) and all the spin-offs come to pay the bills.

It just so happens that some of the spin-offs are really good, like Kart or the RPGs, so Nintendo and fans hype them up as well.

So I'm going to wait for the WiiU's "real" Mario game before I actually make the call whether Mario is "dead/dying/on the decline/whatever". That being said, the New spin-off series really hasn't been helping with that perception. But they sell. They sell lots. So of course Nintendo makes lots of them.

I think the whole point of the new series is that a lot of people who grew up on Sega and Nintendo love the nostalgia they bring with them, and there's a market for the semi-casual market that loves it, so it sells well. They're far from bad games but they could do with a bit more creativity injecting into them. Mario 3D Land could have used a lot more creativity too.

If nothing else NSMB U does look vry enjoyable. You could view it that the issue is a lack of competition, we don't get sidescrolling platformers much these days, and it's even rarer that they come as full retail releases with more than an hour or two of content.

Though the 3D games on home consoles have never once lacked creativity or original ideas. Galaxy 2 may have been a sequel and mechanically the same, but the level design was just outstanding and everything was vibrant and creative. The 3D games seem to be where they let Miyamoto just do whatever the hell he pleases with the IP.

I'm hoping for some more creativity from the next LoZ though!

Moth_Monk:
I don't understand why people think that Sonic is in a worse situation than Mario. At least Sonic still is a character...

I keep telling people on this site that Colours and Generations are fantastic games but they just don't listen.

Mahoshonen:
Interesting points by Yahtzee, but it seems that the only alternative to what's going on with Mario is to look at what happened to Sonic. And I doubt anyone wants to wind up in that situation.

Yeah. I always wonder what happened to "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Mario isn't broken. Sonic wasn't broken either. But the core difference is that Nintendo left Mario alone while SEGA tried to fix Sonic. Mario continued to be great while Sonic went down the toilet and only just started to recover thanks to Sonic Generations.

I think instead of this stupid "innovate or retire" mentality so many gamers have these days, the gamers that have this mentality need to grow up a bit and realize that they can just not buy the damn games if they've grown tired of them. Yeah, that seems easy. Instead of wanting franchises still enjoyed by many millions of people to die just because a few people have grown tired of them, those few people could just go spend their time and money on something else. Quite an easy solution, really.

And no, this isn't just about Yahtzee and Mario either. Swap out Mario for Call of Duty and it's the same shit. "Oh no Call of Duty never innovates they should just stop making them they're ruining the industry blah blah blah." Uh-huh. Millions of people in the world still enjoy Call of Duty, and you want them all to not get games they like anymore because YOU don't like that series? No. Just don't fucking buy Call of Duty. You "kill it!" people are in the minority, sales numbers prove that easily, and there's no reason why companies like Activision and Nintendo should piss off customers and kill their profits just to make a few grumpy bastards happy.

SkarKrow:
Sonic Colours was excellent, I don't get this forums almost absolute ignorance of it, maybe it's because nobody bought a Wii

Or maybe because Sonic Colors actually sucked. Not as bad as the games before it, yes, but nowhere near excellent. It went from unplayable to playable but so utterly boring that why would anyone want to. I really tried to force myself to finish Colors, I swear I tried as hard as I can to finish it, but it was just too goddamn boring so I had to turn it off. But it's okay, Generations came out and is actually pretty good. There's no reason at all to ever talk about the bland rice cake that was Colors ever again.

mjc0961:

Mahoshonen:
Interesting points by Yahtzee, but it seems that the only alternative to what's going on with Mario is to look at what happened to Sonic. And I doubt anyone wants to wind up in that situation.

Yeah. I always wonder what happened to "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Mario isn't broken. Sonic wasn't broken either. But the core difference is that Nintendo left Mario alone while SEGA tried to fix Sonic. Mario continued to be great while Sonic went down the toilet and only just started to recover thanks to Sonic Generations.

I think instead of this stupid "innovate or retire" mentality so many gamers have these days, the gamers that have this mentality need to grow up a bit and realize that they can just not buy the damn games if they've grown tired of them. Yeah, that seems easy. Instead of wanting franchises still enjoyed by many millions of people to die just because a few people have grown tired of them, those few people could just go spend their time and money on something else. Quite an easy solution, really.

And no, this isn't just about Yahtzee and Mario either. Swap out Mario for Call of Duty and it's the same shit. "Oh no Call of Duty never innovates they should just stop making them they're ruining the industry blah blah blah." Uh-huh. Millions of people in the world still enjoy Call of Duty, and you want them all to not get games they like anymore because YOU don't like that series? No. Just don't fucking buy Call of Duty. You "kill it!" people are in the minority, sales numbers prove that easily, and there's no reason why companies like Activision and Nintendo should piss off customers and kill their profits just to make a few grumpy bastards happy.

SkarKrow:
Sonic Colours was excellent, I don't get this forums almost absolute ignorance of it, maybe it's because nobody bought a Wii

Or maybe because Sonic Colors actually sucked. Not as bad as the games before it, yes, but nowhere near excellent. It went from unplayable to playable but so utterly boring that why would anyone want to. I really tried to force myself to finish Colors, I swear I tried as hard as I can to finish it, but it was just too goddamn boring so I had to turn it off. But it's okay, Generations came out and is actually pretty good. There's no reason at all to ever talk about the bland rice cake that was Colors ever again.

That's interesting because I found Colours to be a lot more fun than Generations. I didn't find it boring at all, everything was nice and well paced and the story was lighthearted and enjoyable. The stages were fun and creative and outside of the odd bit of finnicky platforming it was easily the best 3D Sonic game.

I think it comes down to taste though, I enjoyed the cartoony nature of Colours and I thought the boss fights (the chase ones) were much more fun than the terrible ones in Generations, especially the awful final boss in Generations. I liked how the villain was actually the villain you fought at the end rather than some big otherworld monster with the personality of a rock.

I'd have enjoyed Generations a lot more with a touch more variety or some extra length to it. There were a few too many city levels for my tastes and seaside hill from Heroes was easily the most boring stage they couldve picked from Heroes. And Planet Wisp was atrocious in Generations, too long, too bland, bit cheap, the only imrpovement was the first part that takes place outside the industrial sections.

Both were damn fine games, but I prefered Colours. Though the classic stages in Generations were the best 2D sonic gameplay we've had since Sonic Advance.

I think it's needless to argue though, if you don't like colours I probably won't change your mind, I hated it when I first played it but when I gave it another go and got a couple of stages in I found it to be brilliant.

If the next game is mostly 3D without too much 2D clinging to please fans, and maybe adds an extra character or too, like Tails or Knuckles (no treasure hunting please Sonic Team!), then we may get something really special. I'll bet it's on the Wii U though...

Edit: I'd like to state that neither Colours nor Generations are perfect, both are great games, I prefer Colours. I hope there's a good compromise between the two in the next game.

I do not want another broken 3D game like Adventure (I love it, but it's broken), Adventure 2 (love 33% of it, but it's broken) or god help us Shadow and 06. (Heroes is not here because it isn't broken, except for the rail grinding being dodgy as hell)

A few interesting points, well made ones too, but I have to disagree.

I see Mario, as a franchise, as a kind of 'coat of paint' that Nintendo applies to games. All the varied play styles (platformers, RPGS, racers) that Mario inhabits could have been filled by different franchises. By putting Mario into these games, it allows Nintendo to not 'risk' a completely new IP on an untested game. It allows them to do things that other companies might not get away with, and gives new ideas more of a push: "Oh, that game looks kinda cool, I'll have to check it out sometime" vs "Oh wow, Nintendo are doing something crazy with Mario, definitely going to get that". The flexibility of Mario allows that kind of omnipresence, he never feels 'out of place' despite crossing genres (and in many cases defining them).

As for the 'self-parody before death'? Batman was a self-parody in the 60's and is now more popular than ever. Most people would argue the best Batman stuff came after that period of self-parody.

Oh, and about Smash Brothers being built on nostalgia? It wasn't originally about Nintendo characters. Early builds of the game used Mario and Link as placeholders for the characters that were going to be in the game, but the play-testers liked it so much Nintendo decided to run with the mascots instead.

Was Mario really ever a "living" mascot? He's ether a random mascot shoe horned into a game, or it's the same formula it's been from day 1.

I think Yahtzee's main problem with Nintendo is that they follow a conservative business model, and they always have. That's how they've stayed in business for the last 100 years. Heck, Pokemon is just a natural extention of their original "custom" player cards. Make a couple art changes and sell again and again. Repeat, FOREVER.

Even when he gets into the gripe about the wii mote being "Gimiky". Really? You think Nintendo, the company that gave us R.O.B, uses Gimiks? Well, yea, they do, but they always have. Putting fancy pictures on a deck of playing cards to sell them for more money is nothing more than a Gimik.

Maybe Yahtzee thinks that complaining about the obvious failing of Nintendo would get them to change. They haven't changed in a hundred years, and they've not going to start now for no good reason.

If anyone thinks that Nintendo was better in the past they are deluding themselves. They just give a very good first impression, but if you stay with them you'll find out that they're just doing the same stuff over and over again, and make a few changes here and there that never amounts to much.

It's not that Mario BECAME ip from being a Character. He was never a character to begin with. He was never anything more than an IP sprite borrowed from Donkey Kong.

There is a lack of depth to Mario. What does he do? He jumps. He jumps up in the air and lands on things. Sometimes he eats things that give him abilities.

There's no character development other than giving him new things to eat that turn him into other things. Eventually the things become redundant. There are only so many things! He can fly as a raccoon, does he also need to be a bird? No.

Arguably he's always been paper mario. The only color exists on his surface and inside he is a blank slate. An empty shell. His only changes are on the outside and that makes him a boring character. A FLAT character. "It's a me, Mario!" We know buddy. We know. Go put on your frog costume and hit the pool.

The most interesting line in the post to me was, "Maybe we are living in a post-mascot age." FWIW I'd love to see that idea explored in greater depth - off the top of my head I can think of a couple arguments both for and against.

Regarding Mario, though, well. I loves me some Yahtzee and generally nod along with him in all things. This time, not so much.

I 'came back' to Mario because of the visual design, the simple gameplay but mostly because of my son who was five. I picked up The New Super Mario Bros on the DS for us to share and it was perfect. Yes, to me the gameplay was a re-hash of the original but I wasn't looking for groundbreaking. When I was my son's age (more or less) SMB on the NES was my intro to videogames. I wanted to offer him the same happy entry to the hobby I love. A cheery setting, clear character design and gameplay which could be both simple and amusing. Mario delivered on every point.

I can't really speak to the concerns of people who have stuck by the character as they've gotten older. It seems natural that over time a) the basic gameplay would become stale and b) innovations to that gameplay (which may not work) in later iterations would threaten or destroy the nostalgia value of the original.

Carping about Mario seems a bit like complaining about Sesame Street. "Snuffleupagus can be seen by anyone now? Who's that little red fellow? Why is Oscar still in a trash can - shouldn't he have been allowed to move onto some better part of life? This isn't like the Sesame Street I remember!" etc etc etc. But it goes over awfully well with the little ones, which is the point of the thing.

As far as the Dante thing goes, my understanding (not something anyone has told me, just what I personally see as the case) is that he was included in the game because he is a PlayStation all-star. The first three Devil May Cry games did extremely well on the PlayStation 2 (not sure which were exclusives, or where they ended up eventually, but I stand by my point). So the guys behind PSABR were like 'hey, why not use him?!' But since he's getting a reboot, they didn't want to use classic white-haired Dante, because when the new game comes out, people who aren't familiar with the series might be confused. That, or maybe the rights to use Dante hinged on them using the new version, because whoever holds the rights to him now is trying to move people away from the old white-haired Dante. Either way, I don't think its pre-nostalgia, and I'm not cynical enough to say that it's an advertising thing. I think it was necessary.

Anyway, OT:

As far as Mario goes, by the time I reached the PlayStation 2, I was no longer excited by a game just because it contained Mario. I mean, his games generally reliable to be a fun time, but they also follow a pretty standard formula. I don't know that I'd call him 'dead,' per say, but he want from representing a brand of consoles in his early years to representing just how huge a thing brand-recognition is. People don't buy games that have Mario in them because they're excited, they buy games that have Mario in them because they have Mario in them. Full-stop. It's almost a conditioned reaction, now. You have a Nintendo console, you see a game with Mario in it, you buy that game. Because that's what you've always done. The fact that he's used in so many different spin-off series just means more money in Nintendo's pocket.

Dead? No. An almost comically exaggerated picture of his former self? Yes.

You could still do something with Mario, I think. The problem is that Mario has been so buried in formula for so long that any attempt to break out of that would be taken as either a betrayal or as too late by years. But they could at least still try it.
Not that they will, but they could.

Well they could always try another movie.
*hides*

Mario is dead, long live Stanley? (That's a Donkey Kong / Donkey Kong 3 reference, for the uninitiated.)

Yeah, I'm now as cynical and jaded about Mario as I am with the Call of Duty franchise.

(And as for where to go after space, why not use enchanted books? Worlds from the imagination leads to more excuses to do interesting mechanics...Crap, I just remembered the "Sonic and the..." series that SEGA tried!)

Que the scores of Nintendo fanboys shouting back that Mario totally has intellectual depth and is still totally relevant and isn't stagnated at all. Or maybe just The Game Over Thinker. I think he's the only one left who really cups Nintendo's balls when he sucks em off now a days.

I'm not sure Mario ever was a "character" rather than intellectual property. Mario's sort of a proto-character, which probably comes from being in the game that began modern video games as we know them. He's essentially the least evolved video game character, coming from a time before "characters" really existed. If you try to impose a personality or character arc on him, it just makes him less like himself because he is a non-entity by nature. The benefit of this is that you can put him in a doctor's coat or go-kart or space and no one bats an eyebrow. Nothing is out of character for him because he has no character to be out of.

I know this all sounds pretty bad, but I do really enjoy Mario games, even the recent ones. That said, they're unlikely to have a profound emotional impact on me, the way that, say, Earthbound or Final Fantasy IX did.

Anyway, rather than questioning whether Mario is "dead", perhaps the right question is whether he was ever alive to begin with.

I'm not sure what Yahtzee wants here. If you want some deep and compelling storyline or character growth or stuff happening in some kind of meaningful chronological order, play some other game that has things like that. It's like asking where the blocks in Tetris come from. In the context we're working with, it doesn't matter. Mario games have always been purely gameplay experiences; the plot elements are just vestigial window dressing.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
I mean, Fat Princess? Seriously?

This is all I can think when I see that bloody game. Someone like Raziel from Soul Reaver may be a forgotten relic but at least he'd make more sense... then again im surprised Sir Daniel Fortesque managed to bag a space and he's a legend.

Shame about Mario as when Nintendo does innovate it does a pretty good job. The variety of the Game Cube made it my fave console, Pikmin in particular is my favouritest game ever! Mario being relagated to 'fall back', only used to pump out 'the same old story', is stupid when 'the same old story' was fairly bare bones to begin with. Mario's setting basically allows them to do whatever they want but their bottom line doesn't... oh well, Rayman Origins is way better anyways!

Whoops, double post, my bad.

I think mario kart was less about being chummy and more about how everybody in the mushroom kingdom can be total dicks to each other when given the chance.

Perhaps mario party was a more....wait, no, they're dicks in that one too

SkarKrow:

Moth_Monk:
I don't understand why people think that Sonic is in a worse situation than Mario. At least Sonic still is a character...

I keep telling people on this site that Colours and Generations are fantastic games but they just don't listen.

Generations was pretty much the first Sonic games I've played since 06, and it was fantastic. Glad to see the blue blur is back on his feet for now.

OT: Meh, I don't really care that much about Mario anymore. I still look back at games like 64 and Paper Mario with fond memories, but I've kinda moved on from him now.

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