You know I talk about Godzilla a lot. Also Marvel Comics and Spider-Man, but another thing I guess you can say I'm a 'fanboy' (I hate that term) of is the Super Mario franchise. Who didn't play Super Mario Bros. when they were six? (Sadly, a lot of today's generation.) I never had the SNES or N64, I originally had the Game Boy Color and the Gamecube. My first Mario game was Super Mario Bros. Deluxe for the Game Boy Color. It was.....so amazing. It was also the first time I had almost broken a system out of rage for constantly losing on the final level. (Darn you hammer throwing Bowser!) I still own the cartridge. My second experience with the franchise was Super Mario Sunshine, which I had originally proclaimed 'My favorite game ever!" when I opened it that 2004 Christmas. Ah, Shadow Mario and FLUDD. Those were the days. Mario since then has been in an untold amount of games. Sports, such as the always fun Power Tennis or the borefest that is Toadstool Tour. It wasn't until 2007 that we would get the true successor to Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy. I don't remember my first impressions, but today I realize at how phenomenal and needed that game was. Fast forward five years later, I'm now 16. I've played Galaxy 2 and 3D Land, these days I've been beginning to wonder.....has this series evolved or stayed the same?
When you buy a video game, are you buying it for the story, or the gameplay? Obviously you lean toward the story aspect with games like Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy, the story is the main selling point in those. For a better Nintendo-related example, the stories in the Zelda games are a high selling point. Mario on the other hand has never been about its stories. Yeah, the non-canon stuff like the Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario games have some pretty deep plots, but I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about the main platformers, the big ones. Super Mario Bros. came out in 1985. Amazing gameplay that defined 2D gaming for the years to come. The story, as told from the booklet, features Bowser kidnapping Princess Toadstool and using his 'dark magic' to take over the Mushroom Kingdom. Simple, but effective. At that time, no one played games for their story, they played it just to have fun. The infamous Super Mario Bros. 2 soon arrived. Now that actually had a unique story.....only it doesn't count, since it's all Doki Doki Panic. Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced some new concepts, the airships and Koopalings. The Princess was eventually kidnapped. Then one of my personal favorite games ever, Super Mario World, came out. That one featured everyone's favorite dino, Yoshi. The Princess was kidnapped in the opening scene. Then we entered the 3D realm...
Super Mario 64 did for Mario what Sonic Adventure did for Sonic, it introduced the world of 3D to the title character. The blocky textures look outdated, but it introduced the core gameplay mechanics for the future platformers. Here Bowser kidnapped Peach and took over the Castle. Next up, Sunshine. I will give props since this is a pretty story-driven game for the most part. Peach was eventually kidnapped by Shadow Mario. (Who, ugh, turned out to be Bowser's bratty kid.) However, you might notice that Sunshine is the 'black sheep' of the platformers. When you hear about them, it's either 64 or Galaxy. Now that we're talking about Galaxy, it was a five year gap between it and Sunshine. This game was the 'modern Mario experience.' So yes, I will say that the Princess technically should have been kidnapped, it was a modern take on the franchise, bringing in some slight emotion and making Bowser cool again. This is where the story recap paragraph ends, on to the point...
Super Mario Galaxy 2 came out on May 23rd, 2010. I was there opening day, I was the most excited kid in America. It's the most fun game I've ever played. But do you know the interesting part? The game takes place in an alternate reality. Kind of a cop-out if you ask me, it's just an excuse to have the same exact story. The game is basically a remake of the other one. It was about a year and a half later when Super Mario 3D Land released for the small console. In it, the Princess gets kidnapped.....again. Do you see a pattern? I know I do. The Mario franchise is the most repetitive game series of all time! The story does not change at all. Its fellow Nintendo neighbors Zelda and Metroid always have great storylines. Mario on the other hand is forced to do the exact same thing over and over again. Do you know the truly sad part? Miyamoto knows this, he's practically laughing with New Super Mario Bros. Wii, that game is pretty much a parody of the whole concept. The other Nintendo people want dramatic scenes with the Princess being kidnapped, but Miyamoto's line is "Cake works!" Mario is in a world with Zelda, Mass Effect, and even Sonic, who has evolved past the stage of just beating Dr. Robotnik. (Though with Colors and Generations, I fear it's heading back to simpler days.) Super Mario has a world full of rich backgrounds and characters, but it's never explored. Gaming has evolved past the simple idea of a story, Mario has been left behind. Kirby may be the only Nintendo property along the same side with Mario, but even then, it has a game rated E10 for action violence. I've yet to see a Mario platformer E10. If that upcoming Mario game for the Wii U has the Princess getting kidnapped by Bowser again, I may lose all faith in humanity. Now this brings me to my next point.
To be fair, Mario isn't the only one that suffers from this.....or maybe he is. Link, while he never talks either, you feel him him develop as you play through Ocarina of Time or Twilight Princess. Samus has her development thanks to Fusion and Other M. (Much to everyone's horror.) Mario is a hero that does what needs to be done, you can see it on his face in Galaxy at how he holds morality and justice at heart. Mario's not the problem, it's everyone else. Let's talk about Luigi for a second. He had his own game called Luigi's Mansion back in the day, where he undergoes fear, but fights it in the end. After that, he disappears until Galaxy, where apparently if he somehow gets on a roof, he can't get down. Or better yet, when he climbs up a tree, he can't climb back down. Yeah I get it, he's the comic relief scaredy cat. That's fine....but it never goes anywhere. It's like a really bad cartoon where the comic relief guy never gets any type of development. It's been hinted at that Luigi secretly hates being in Mario's shadow, why not go on that further? Oh yeah, it goes back to the story part....it never changes. He'll be having his own game yet again in Luigi's Mansion 2, but will that change anything? Even if it does, will it affect future games, or will everything head back to normal? Princess Peach is pretty much nothing other than the damsel in distress. What exactly is her relationship with Mario? Good friends? Boy friend and girl friend? In the past two games, she does nothing other than shout "Mario!"
Bowser is an interesting case. At first glance, it looks like he's gotten no development at all. But if you look really closely, you'll notice a few things. In all his appearances until Super Mario Sunshine, he's kidnapped the Princess in order to take over the Mushroom Kingdom. However, starting in Galaxy and even a little in Sunshine, you begin to notice a slight change. He isn't kidnapping Peach just to rule, he's kidnapping her to mess with Mario. This is further proved in 3D Land, when he boastfully waves her around as he runs away from Mario. There's development here, you just gotta look deeper. But that's the point, it shouldn't be like that. It seems these characters are trapped in a one dimensional plane of existence. The games play it too safe, they're afraid of making any kind of change with these characters.
Where We Are Today
We're still at square one. Right now we have Luigi's Mansion 2 to look forward to, it does feature the return of King Boo after all. I doubt this game will affect the Mario series in any way, but at least we'll probably see some development for Mario's green-hatted brother. We also have New Super Mario Bros. 2, which will be an extremely fun game, but I am 99.9% sure that the story is going to be as lame as the Wii one. Really, we're going to have to wait and see what happens in Mario's next platformer outing on the Wii U to see where this series goes. This article is not here to bash the franchise, for I am, and always will be, a loyal fan. It's here to express concern of how weak some aspects of the series are. We can only wait and see wat happens now, will anything change in the next five years? Time will tell.