If 2013 was the Year of Luigi, it’s starting to sound like 2020 will be the Year of Mario. If recent rumors and reports are true, Nintendo’s big plan for Switch throughout the remainder of the year is to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the original Super Mario Bros. with a slew of ports, remasters, full-on updates, and brand new games that highlight the plumber who put Nintendo on the map in the first place. While the reports raise their own handful of questions, one thing is certain: At this point in the Switch’s lifecycle, and especially in the face of what its competition has planned, this is an incredibly smart move for Nintendo.
There’s a lot to unpack in the various reports from several different websites, so let’s tackle them one at a time. First is the news from VGC that “Nintendo will reveal plans to re-release most of Super Mario’s 35-year back catalogue this year, remastered for Nintendo Switch.” The three games that the report focuses on are Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy. While Mario 64 has managed to travel off of Nintendo 64 onto Nintendo DS as well as Wii and Wii U Virtual Console, the other two games were never ported outside the GameCube and Wii, respectively.
This is fantastic news, top to bottom. Super Mario 64 was an instant classic when it helped launch the Nintendo 64 in 1996. It’s still immensely playable without any tweaks whatsoever, though interestingly, the article states that the games are “being treated as a special anniversary collection of games, rather than standard digital ports,” which raises its own set of questions. Will the visuals, controls, and Mario’s move set be updated to match those seen in 2017’s Super Mario Odyssey, which coincidentally featured quite the loving tribute to Mario 64?
Super Mario Sunshine, meanwhile, was one of the most divisive entries in the series when it hit GameCube in 2002, but it seems to have garnered a lot of nostalgic love over the decades. When factoring in Luigi’s Mansion, Wind Waker, and Metroid Prime, it’s admirable how much this era of Nintendo came up with an interesting concept or aesthetic and really ran with it. And we know from the Dolphin emulator just how amazing Sunshine can look in widescreen 1080p running at 60 FPS. The major question here is how the Switch’s digital triggers would handle the pressure-sensitive analog trigger controls of Mario’s F.L.U.D.D. backpack. Having full control over how much or how little water you shot out was a key component of many Sunshine interactions, so this is something Nintendo would have to think its way around.
Finally, rounding out this new Super Mario All-Stars, we have Super Mario Galaxy. Arguably the best game on the Wii, it showed just how innovative Nintendo could get with the platforming mascot. Careening through space and traversing micro-planets with their own gravity and rules provided a unique challenge that still holds up today, which I can attest to considering I foolishly replayed Galaxy on Wii a month before these rumors popped up. The big question with this game coming to Switch is how it would play in handheld mode. The original game relied heavily on using the Wiimote’s point, gesture, and shake controls, which the Switch can match perfectly when docked, but it causes a massive roadblock when you take it on the go. Tethering this game to televisions seems unlikely, so like with Sunshine, Nintendo would have to come up with some means of designing around the issue. Also, none of the reports seem to mention Super Mario Galaxy 2 as one of the games coming to Switch, but you have to figure it would be. It’d be a bit strange to bring over all of the mainline 3D Mario games, save for the one.
Speaking of 3D Mario, another part of the reports highlights Super Mario 3D World as the next game getting the Captain Toad / Mario Kart 8 “Deluxe” treatment. This is a no-brainer, considering 3D World was a stellar game inhibited by Wii U’s low install base. The game already ran great in handheld mode, plus was an excellent, if slightly chaotic, multiplayer experience on the TV. Adding a handful of new levels and features would only sweeten the deal. This would also be one of the last of the great shipwrecked Wii U games to finally make its way to the far more popular Switch.
The final piece then of the rumor puzzle doesn’t involve the re-release of a classic. Instead, it points to a brand new Paper Mario game in 2020 that pulls inspiration from the original entries, Paper Mario for Nintendo 64 and The Thousand-Year Door for GameCube. Thousand-Year Door is hailed as one of Mario’s best RPG outings, so that’s certainly not a bad place to draw inspiration from. Considering how great Switch installments of classic franchises like Zelda, Fire Emblem, Pokémon, Smash Bros., and now Animal Crossing have been, this could be the Paper Mario that really revitalizes the series.
So these are the games that the recent reports show to be a part of Nintendo’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of the original Super Mario Bros. Alongside this would be news on the upcoming Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios and the animated film, as well as Viz bringing the Super Mario manga to the west. All in all, this is a much more fitting celebration of Mario than the underwhelming Super Mario All-Stars 25th anniversary port for Wii in 2010, or the 30th anniversary in 2015 that pretty solely centered around the release of Super Mario Maker for Wii U. Paying respect to Mario’s history by making the Switch a portal to play nearly all of his classic adventures would be a delightful move on Nintendo’s part, and it would really bolster its first-party lineup for the rest of the year alongside continuing updates to games like Animal Crossing, Pokémon, and Smash Bros. Ultimate.
It’s fitting that Mario’s now old enough to run for President of the United States, because Nintendo is going to be relying heavily on his guidance throughout the remainder of the year. With so much focus being placed on Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X, both of which remain slated to release this fall despite the impact of COVID-19, Nintendo needs something major to retain people’s hard-earned time and money. While the other two companies are in a technological arms race towards the uncanny valley filled with teraflops, SSDs, and 8K, Nintendo is doing what it does best and marching to the beat of its own drum.
They’re celebrating their legendary past by giving older fans a chance to revisit their favorites and younger fans a chance to experience these classics for the first time. If there’s one drawback to these reports, it’s that they almost assuredly mean that the follow-up to Breath of the Wild teased during E3 2019 is not releasing in 2020. But hey, next year is the 35th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda, so what better time for Nintendo to pull out all the stops and give the royal treatment to their other big franchise?