We didn’t get a lot of definitively Nintendo-related news today… but we did get a bit of a bombshell. Wii U is going to the first new system since the Nintendo 64 to have a brand-new Mario game at launch… and the first to kick off with a new 2D Mario in over two decades. No matter how you feel about New Super Mario Bros., this is terrific news.
It’s terrific news for a very important reason: it demonstrates to fans that Nintendo isn’t going to make them wait long for the big must-have games, the ones that sell systems and put them on the map in the first place. This isn’t going to be one of those systems where Nintendo throws a bunch of experimental games that exist mostly to show off the hardware out at launch, while all the games people want to see don’t show up until later. They’re putting out the big guns now.
The real question is: will Nintendo properly leverage the possibilities for Super Mario Bros. on Wii U? So far we’ve seen New Super Mario Bros. push the series into 2.5D and its Wii sequel showed the same kind of advancement in terms of graphical power and level complexity that we saw across the NES games. But I can’t deny it’d be nice to see a game that brings more than just tech-based upgrades, that also innovates with new kinds of content, new enemies to battle, new worlds within the Mushroom Kingdom universe to explore.
Previous Mario sequels did this. They took the core gameplay and added to it, and recreated the world based on that gameplay. Mario 3 had Airships, and thus the game placed more emphasis on the various lands the Airships had conquered. When they introduced Yoshi, they introduced a world to make sense of Yoshi’s place in the game universe. Previous New Super Mario Bros. games have focused a lot on revisiting old content; it’d be nice to see the first HD Mario expand the series all over again.
No matter what, a new Nintendo system launching with Super Mario Bros. is a glorious thing. Nintendo’s finally taking the right steps to securing a strong future and a solid install base at launch, and that’s good for all of us. The real test will be whether they can continue to satisfy with more of the experiences that gamers love… whether that means actually following up this new Mario with a real, ambitious sequel, or making sure that the 2D platformer appetite continues to be fed.