Why Super Mario Galaxy is a wake-up call for developers

16th Nov 2007

Super Mario Galaxy is a near perfect game. If you don’t already know that, then you’ll find out soon (And you will be making the effort to find out, won’t you?). More than merely being an all round fantastic experience though, the game acts as a timely reminder of some elements of game design all too frequently missing now. It also points out a couple of new ones which should be taken note of immediately.

It’s not just the fact that Super Mario Galaxy marks both the return and return to form of one of gaming’s deservedly best-loved series. Rather, in its thumb-arousing pitch-perfect blend of old school game values and brand new, modern gameplay mechanics, the game re-teaches some important lessons that a lot of us have forgotten in our thirsty pursuit for polygons and ever more detailed textures.

Progress should never be at the expense of the foundations it was built on. Super Mario Galaxy is all the teacher we need to show us that some things really should not be forgotten, and that other things in the modern industry really do need shaking up.

Platformer is not a dirty word

First and most obviously, Super Mario Galaxy is a platform game, albeit one which seriously pushes the boundaries of the genre. But where are the rest of them? It used to be the case that platform games were in greater supply than oxygen, but these days we’re flailing on the ground gasping for breath. With the prevalence and popularity of shooters in the current climate, the humble jumping game has been left very much by the sidelines. Throughout its history though, the platform genre has been responsible for some of the most fun and innovative gameplay we’ve ever seen.

Why should it be left to Mario to hold up the whole scene and take near sole responsibility for its periodic furthering? The plumber’s are safe hands indeed, but with so few games dedicated to the platforming cause, the genre just isn’t getting a chance to evolve as quickly as it should. Super Mario Galaxy is a staggering achievement, but just imagine if platform game developers were still bouncing off each other’s ideas and progressing the genre in the way that designers of FPS currently are? A genre in itself is neither stale nor stimulating. It’s the ideas being worked within that genre which define the product, and the only way to get more of those is to take the plunge and start innovating again.

Now hit to the video to see what can happen when you do.


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