Regardless of what you think of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, its success at the box office is nothing short of astounding. The partnership between Nintendo and Illumination jumped out of the gate with a massive $204.6 million in tickets sold in the US in its first five days, with its global launch of $358 million passing Frozen II as the biggest opening for an animated movie ever, and that’s taking into consideration that the film hasn’t even opened in Japan yet. Despite mixed reviews, kids, families, and Nintendo fans of all ages showed up at the theaters in a pretty remarkable way.
As the Mario Movie continues to chug along on its way to crossing the $1 billion mark worldwide, I firmly believe that the floodgates for Nintendo’s expansion into the film, television, and streaming markets have officially opened. Like it was on the NES back in the ‘80s, Mario is just the start of Nintendo’s multimedia domination. Along with Super Nintendo World in Osaka, Los Angeles, and the upcoming park in Orlando, Nintendo is unequivocally a multi-hyphenate company.
Thirty years ago, Nintendo’s foray into film was famously derailed after the disastrous results of the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie, which I still attest has aged fairly well on account of just how damn strange it is. Since then, there have been rumors of a few attempts at getting projects off the ground, such as a Netflix Zelda series and a claymation take on Star Fox, but reports indicate that Nintendo quickly pulled the plug on those when news of their existence leaked out.
And of course, Pokemon has seen countless animated series, movies, and 2019’s Detective Pikachu over the decades, though The Pokemon Company generally operates outside the confines of Nintendo proper when it comes to those.
There were also some lesser-known adaptations that cropped up throughout the years. This includes an incredibly chill Animal Crossing animated movie from 2006 that was never released here in the West and is worth tracking down for fans. Given the monstrous success of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, it seems like the perfect well to draw more water from. There was also the 2016 animated short Star Fox: The Battle Begins that tied in with the Wii U game of the same name. While the game was kind of mediocre, the short from Wit Studio (Spy x Family, Ranking of Kings) was pretty damn cool. A full-fledged take on the Lylat Wars, filled with deep-space dogfights and anthropomorphic critters, could be a lot of fun.
With Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, Arcane, HBO’s The Last of Us, and now the Mario Movie, video game adaptations are in a prime position to take up some of the ground that superhero movies have lost over the rockiness of the past few years. But exactly where Nintendo goes next remains to be seen. Given the Mario Movie’s massive box office success, I’d expect a sequel to be greenlit in a matter of weeks. Now that the foundation of the story is in place, there’s plenty of directions they could go for Mario’s next adventure.
With the Yoshi tease in the film’s post-credits scene, there’s the possibility of a loose adaptation of Super Mario World, folding in the dinosaurs as well as the Koopalings. We also have the scene-stealing nihilistic Luma, and coupled with Peach waxing poetic about how many worlds are out there as she looks up at the stars, perhaps we’ll see Super Mario Galaxy next. Despite the games not really having concrete stories to pull from, the frameworks of World, Galaxy, Sunshine, and Odyssey would all work for the next adventure.
The Mario Movie itself is packed full of Easter eggs pointing to classic Nintendo franchises including Punch-Out, F-Zero, Kid Icarus, and Duck Hunt. However, two games that were suspiciously absent from the nostalgia train were Metroid and Zelda, and I feel like the reason is that the ball is already rolling on adaptations of both iconic franchises.
What form those might take remains to be seen. Nintendo’s partnership with Illumination is clearly strong, as its CEO Chris Meledandri joined Nintendo’s Board of Directors a few years back. And those opening weekend numbers have only solidified that relationship. While the idea of having famous ‘80s pop songs shoved into Metroid or Zelda sounds like a waking nightmare, Universal’s reach extends far beyond the animation studio.
Universal has a long history of building franchises, including the Universal Classic Monsters, Jurassic Park, and The Fast & Furious (put Captain Falcon in Fast X, stat). They’ve also partnered with genre experts, including deals with Blumhouse in the horror sector and Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions. I’m not saying any of them are the right fit for Nintendo (but how cool would Peele’s take on any Nintendo franchise be?) but just wanted to point out that Illumination isn’t the be-all and end-all of possibilities here.
When it comes to Zelda, Ocarina of Time feels like the obvious place for an adaptation to start, though a prestige streaming take on Majora’s Mask where every episode is another three-day cycle in Termina’s final 72 hours sounds pretty great to me. And while a dark, quiet, and contemplative sci-fi horror version of Metroid in the vein of Alien or The Thing might be too much to ask for, it’s nice to dream big sometimes.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie opens with a simple Nintendo intro card – the white logo on a red background, familiar music, and Mario and Luigi running around. The second I saw that in the theaters, I had a feeling that this would be an intro card that we’ll be seeing some variation of before movies and TV series for years to come, similar to the Marvel Studios openers we’ve become accustomed to. And while it might’ve seemed preposterous in the past, there’s now a non-zero chance that, at some point in the next decade, a Mario movie has a post-credits stinger where he receives a white envelope with a red wax seal, cordially inviting him to an upcoming gathering.