It may have been brief, but there were a few shots of gameplay in the Switch announcement trailer for what might be a new installment in the the long-running Super Mario platforming series. While the thought of the new game on Nintendo’s new hardware is enough to get anyone excited for what improvements might be coming, there have been several great ideas in previous Mario games that the newest installment could take advantage of.
Each Mario game has elements that make it unique, but Nintendo often iterates slightly on the mechanics for each successive game. The Super Mario series has a rich history, and there are several concepts that have worked wonderfully. Here are five examples of elements from the past Mario games that could work well in the next one.
Open and Detailed Hub World Like Super Mario Sunshine
One gameplay aspect that Sunshine expanded on after Super Mario 64 was having a fully realized hub world called Isle Delfino. It was bright, colorful, and filled with NPCs that could give the player hints and other items. Collectibles and secrets were also scattered around the area, and exploring every nook and cranny of the island was engaging enough to make the setting of the game feel alive. It also gave the player some choice when tackling objectives; if you were stuck on a particular level, you had at least two other levels you could pop into to take a break. Given the increased power of the Switch, the new Super Mario could adopt a similar approach, eschewing the level-by-level approach of 3D World and 3D Land, and really creating a massive playground for the player to explore and find Stars in, before even hitting the first level.
Orchestrated Soundtrack Like Super Mario Galaxy
While the soundtracks in all the Mario games have been good, the first Galaxy game really took things to the next level by having all the tracks be performed by a symphony orchestra. This gave the game an epic feel as Mario shot through space, defeating bosses and collecting Stars. The tracks were also specified to each level, which really gave a sense of scale and depth that wasn’t possible with the previous games in the series. While the extremely limited shots of the new Mario game showed a desert/sandy setting, perhaps Nintendo could work some of their magic and create a soundtrack that is truly original and something unlike we’ve ever heard before.
Level Design Like Super Mario Galaxy 2
The second Galaxy game was very similar in terms of gameplay to the first, but returning to the same style of gameplay really gave Nintendo the opportunity to think outside the box and create some amazing and innovative levels. The Flip-Swap Galaxy, which consisted of several differently colored panels that would flip over when the player performed a Spin Jump, required Mario to look before he leaped, while judging distances correctly and dodging traps.
The Throwback Galaxy was a complete recreation of the iconic Whomp’s Fortress from Super Mario 64, complete with red Bob-ombs, Piranha Plants, and the Whomp King, who sat at the top of the level waiting to be defeated. Another memorable level, the Chompworks Galaxy, forced players to guide rolling Chain Chomps to a certain point by raising platforms and hitting switches at the right time, while also keeping them away from exploding enemies. The new Super Mario game could also benefit from these kinds of unique ideas, allowing Nintendo to create varied and expansive levels that keep the game fresh.
Co-Op Like New Super Mario Bros.
The follow-up to New Super Mario Bros. Wii allowed up to five players to play at the same time, with the fifth player using the GamePad to stop enemies or place blocks. The other players were free to jump and explore through a fairly traditional 2D Mario experience, running through individual levels and reaching the goal at the end of the level. While this was fun, players could effectively turn on each other at any time, picking each other up and throwing them into obstacles and enemies, or jumping on each other’s heads over a bottomless pit, sending them to their doom.
This might not have been in the spirit of the game, but it was also hilarious and gave the game an unpredictable, wild feel. This kind of co-op might not necessarily work in the next Super Mario, but the idea of having the freedom to explore 3D worlds with two players, or even four is a exciting one. Depending on the size of the levels in the game this could work to the system’s advantage; if two players had two Switch tablets, they could effectively find separate Stars in the same level without being forced to be close to their partner. Given the multiplayer capabilities of the new system, Nintendo could take the simple concept of playing together in a bold direction.
Difficulty Like Super Mario 3D World
Improving on the multiplayer aspect of the New Super Mario Bros. series, 3D World gave players the chance to complete more open-levels while reaching the goal with up to four friends. In addition, it also boasted twelve worlds to complete, with numerous additional challenges and Stars to collect. While the beginning levels were fairly easy, the game really ramped it up by the end of the game, especially as Mario and friends ventured into the bonus stages.
The most extreme example is World Crown, which features Mystery House Marathon. To fully complete the level, you had to collect all thirty Green Stars in one go, with a time limit. With the limited time you often had to know exactly what you were doing before you entered the next section, and if you messed up or mistimed something? Start from the beginning. Doing this with four players screaming at each other was absolute insanity, but it was still fun.
There are too many challenging levels in the game to list, but 3D World did a great job of throwing basically everything that was ever in a Mario game at the player across the some-90 stages. This was especially evident in Champion’s Road, which might be the hardest Mario level ever created. However, having the right balance of difficulty for the new Super Mario game on the Switch is important, just the right mix of challenging without being frustrating. This isn’t easy to do, but with Nintendo’s experience, they might just pull it off.