Here we go! Again!
The Wii U has just launched with a Mario game, the very good New Super Mario Bros. U (opens in new tab), but were already dying for Marios next adventure. Why? Because, while the developers working on the New Super Mario Bros. series are surely skilled, Nintendo fanatics know the prime Mario developers belong to the 3D branch of Nintendo EAD in Tokyo, Japan. Over the past five years EAD was responsible for the superlative Super Mario Galaxy (opens in new tab), Super Mario Galaxy 2 (opens in new tab), and Super Mario 3D Land (opens in new tab), and if Nintendo has any brains at all (and they do), EAD is working hard on the next 3D Mario epic.
Since a new 3D Mario is an eventuality for the Wii U, weve peered into our nearest crystal ball to guess what should be in the next 3D Mario entry coming to home consoles. First of all, we want to see
A brave new world
When it comes to most of its franchises, but Mario in particular, Nintendo treats each new system as a new chapter in the characters history. Super Mario 64 was his first journey into the third dimension, Super Mario Sunshine introduced a combination of summery settings and watery powers, and Super Mario Galaxy sent Mario to the stars. Once the 3D platformer comes to Wii U, Mario needs to make a similar break from his past.
Where could Mario possibly go after exploring entire solar systems? The dev could keep growing things, going to Super Mario Universe next--and the U subtitle fits with the systems name--but thats too predictable. We want the theme and setting of the game to be unanticipated, like the neon of Las Vegas or the insect kingdom. Maybe they could even follow the dessert theme of New Super Mario Bros. U and base every stage on some piece of food. Whatever it is, we want to expect the unexpected.
999 inventive uses for the GamePad
At a time when some were doubting the versatility of the Wii, but Super Mario Galaxy proved them wrong by introducing many new ideas that could only be done on that console. Thats due to a design ethos the director of Super Mario Galaxy 2 explained to us in an interview (opens in new tab). He said, every time [Nintendo] comes out with new hardware, the unique capabilities of that technology drives [Mario developers] to find new combinations for gameplay thats familiar but made new by something special about that hardware. That combination of familiar and new, I think, gives people a sense of freshness.
Since EAD had that in mind for 3DS and Wii releases, the same philosophy must be in place for the teams first Wii U game. The devs are out to find as many natural, fun ways to use the new controller and its many features. The mind boggles at all the uses they could find for the GamePads touch screen, camera, near field communication, Miiverse, and motion controls.
Seeing what the team can pull off with HD graphics
The Wiis graphics paled in comparison to the 360 and PS3s 99% of the time, but both Galaxy games featured visuals that stayed competitive with many standard HD games. The digital artists at EAD were able to squeeze every ounce of power they could from the paltry Wii, so imagine what they could pull off with something remotely current like the Wii U.
For the developers, moving from the Wii to Wii U likely feels akin to being able to run free after having your feet chained together for the last six years. We want to see what the team can fashion the consoles HD visuals, building a colorful world that could put heavyweights like Gears of War to shame. True, Nintendo often values gameplay over graphics, but itd be great to see at least one visually stunning Mario game before the subsequent systems from Sony and Microsoft leapfrog the Wii U in the looks department.
New co-op techniques using the GamePad
While the New Super Mario Bros. games chose to focus on chaotic, party-friendly four player modes, the 3D Mario games never added any new multiplayer modes that impacted the precision of controlling Mario. The closest they came was mild co-op in Co-Star mode (opens in new tab) in Super Mario Galaxy 2, a feature that let a second player tag along as a Luma that assisted Mario without getting in the way. The Wii U could add something just as innocuously fun using the GamePad.
If you imagine that Mario could be controlled either with the GamePad or the Pro Controller, then the primary player could handle Mario on the more traditional input while a second player could use the GamePads touchscreen to assist or hinder player one. We see it as the natural combination of Co-Star with New Super Mario Bros. Us touchscreen platform creation.
Learn some lessons from Super Mario 3D Land
After EAD made two of the Wiis best games, the developer entered unfamiliar territory when Nintendo tasked the team with creating a portable 3D Mario. The team had to completely rethink how they made stages, placed enemies are designed power-ups. And now they can bring that new perspective back to the Wii U.
One of the simplest ways they can use those new skills would be--after building a game to fit on the 3DS screen--EAD is now prepared to create stages to fit within the GamePads screen. In addition to that, for as much as we loved the sprawling nature of Galaxy 2, 3D Land might have refocused the team to make cleaner, more concise stages in their next game.
No unnecessary online multiplayer
The trend these days--and the stated goal of publishers like EA (opens in new tab)--is to not release a game unless it has some online multiplayer component included. Nintendo has previously resisted that trend, usually only adding multiplayer when the game demanded it, like in Kid Icarus Uprising (opens in new tab). And even with all the new options that the Wii U presents for online, we hope the next 3D Mario has that same focus.
EAD in particular has always been about solo fun first, then filling the margins with cute multiplayer options as needed. If the team feels their next Mario game really needs online multiplayer, well trust them to a point, but we hope the series stays dedicated to being the greatest solo experience it can be.
Beautiful new music
Super Mario Galaxy had some of our favorite music in a franchise thats distinguished for wonderful tunes (be sure to read our in-depth love letter to it (opens in new tab)), and 3D Land had its own unique tunes. We admire EADs enthusiasm for adding new songs to the series, something that must continue on the Wii U.
Why should you be concerned that the music might disappoint? Our only worry is that New Super Mario Bros. U relied too much on reusing older songs. Hopefully that was done to save time and get the game ready for launch, instead of a sign that the series is done adding to its legendary songbook.
Takes more risks than New Super Mario Bros.
If you compare the Galaxy entries to the New Super Mario entries from a profit standpoint, the New Mario games outdid the Galaxy games by selling more than twice as many copies. Despite that fact, the critical consensus put the Galaxy games and 3D Land on top, thanks in particular to those games being far more creative than the overly safe New Mario titles. And no matter what the sales say, we hope EAD stays on that path.
The New Mario games aim at a more casual (and admittedly wider) audience that loves the simplicity of 2D platforming, but EAD needs to keep the 3D games a balanced affair thats inviting to newer players but challenging to veterans. 3D Land was almost too easy in parts, something we hope EAD leaves behind when returning to consoles.
DLC that matters
Nintendo ignored the move towards DLC for many years, even while its rivals adopted it more and more to earn some extra income. Thats now changed, as New Super Mario Bros. 2 has already released paid DLC and eventually New Super Mario Bros. U will have some too. DLC and Mario are now attached at the hip, but when it appears in the next 3D game, it had better be worthwhile.
Whats the best type of DLC for a Mario game? How about remaking classic 3D Mario stages using the Wii Us HD visuals, similar to the Throwback Galaxy in Galaxy 2? Or maybe downloadable character skins, transforming Mario into Wario, Princess Peach, or Donkey Kong? As long as it was meaningful, we wouldnt reject it.
Be out holiday 2013
If you want to know when the game should be coming out, heres a little history lesson. Super Mario Sunshine came to GameCube nine months after launch, Galaxy came to Wii almost a year to the day after the system came out, and 3D Land came eight months after the 3DS went on sale in the US. Based on more than a decade of Mario history, the next 3D Mario will be out before November 18, 2013.
After launching the N64 with a brand new 3D Mario, its clear that Nintendo now chooses to release those games as their holiday tent pole for the systems sophomore year. For that reason you can bet Nintendo will premiere this game at E3 2013, then hype it to high heaven until it goes on sale during Thanksgiving next year. If it comes any later than that, Nintendo will be missing a golden opportunity.
Do the Mario!
Have any revolutionary ideas of your own for the next Mario game? Let the world know in the comments!
Want to continue reminiscing about the Wii? Check out our list of the The Top 7... Reasons the Wii U might win the next console generation and a blast from the past of Metroid Wii U - What we want from Samuss Wii U outing.