200 Games Later, Mario Must Die

One tired gamer thinks that the gaming industry needs a bit of a break from Mario.

I don’t like Mario. No, that might be a little too polite. I really don’t like Mario. No, still not right. I despise Mario. I can’t stand him. Nope. Still wrong.

I hate Mario. I hate how I can’t enter a game store without tripping over a Mario game every five seconds. I hate how every ad for a Nintendo product bears his face. I hate his obnoxious mustache and his stupid overalls. But why? Surely I must just be a little jaded now that I’m an adult in the big, immature world of gaming.

Games such as Metroid and Star Fox have been left behind while Mario is everywhere.

In a world where we have Metroid, Star Fox, F-Zero, EarthBound, and Pikmin, Nintendo has decided to almost entirely ignore these franchises, save for the cameo appearance in Super Smash Bros.

Instead, we get Mario. All the time. Every year. Every season. The last Star Fox game that wasn’t a remake was released seven years ago. The last EarthBound game was released seven years ago, though the US never saw it. The last F-Zero game launched nine years ago. Pikmin recently got its third game, and Metroid and Zelda both have a decent stream of games every few years, some of which are better than others; but none of these titles throw Nintendo into a foaming frenzy like their favorite little plumber.

Mario has been featured in over 200 games.

I understand the appeal.

Mario is a mildly endearing little stereotype who runs around saving the day. I get it. But consider this: Mario has been in over 200 games. Of those 200, over 70 were released within the last decade. Let that sink in for a bit. That’s a new Mario game every other month, while some years could have featured a new game every month.

Look at Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty. The games are well received, and generally well-made, or at least competent (like most Mario titles), but gamers don’t care. Gamers are tired. Halo was massively successful. Imagine if Microsoft released half a dozen Halo games every year. It’s just hard to miss a character or franchise when you can’t go a day without running into a new game featuring their face plastered on the cover.

Nintendo loves tradition the same way that Valve loves to not make games. Their games are almost always solid titles that will give you countless hours of playtime, and they are generally enjoyable for every age. But when it’s the same character. Doing the same things. Several times. Every damn year. It gets tiring. It gets old. It gets stale.

That’s what Mario is: stale.

Mario games are very well-made and are among the best in each genre they’re in, but the acclaim rings hollow when you don’t have time to miss the character. I miss Tomb Raider. I miss Dragon Age. I miss The Elder Scrolls. I miss Alan Wake. As much as I would probably enjoy playing a new, full game from these franchises every month or two, I wouldn’t want to. The joy of more of your favorite series quickly fades when there’s just too much of it.

Mario is a good franchise. Its target audience, myself included, enjoys almost every game. Nintendo just needs to take a step back and let the myriad of IPs that deserve our appreciation get a bit of our time instead of fixating on one, tried and tired IP that desperately needs a bit of a rest.

The Year of Luigi was a good start, but it's not enough. Luigi, charming as he is, is just an offshoot of the problem. I want to want a Mario game again. I want to cheer for a plumber who changes outfits more often than Queen Amidala. I want to enjoy smashing blocks, throwing fireballs, and jumping through the air. I want to enjoy stomping on sentient mushrooms and turtles while I use their shells as weapons.

I want to be able to miss Mario.

Featured Correspondent

Brian transcribes for a tech company in Bellevue, WA. His favorite games are Max Payne 3, Dragon Age II, Life Is Strange, Tomb Raider, and anything involving Batman. All his reviews are spoiler-free. His brow is perpetually furrowed.

Published Dec. 8th 2013
  • Ryan Kerns
    Featured Columnist
    heh... today's Dr. Luigi announcement made me laugh and think of this article. It's like "hey see we're not just doing the same Mario games over and over... now we're doing it with Luigi".

    If the board over at Nintendo doesn't fire Iwata soon, even the diehard fans are going to start jumping ship.
  • Miranda Kirk
    Featured Columnist
    Awesome article Brian! I definitely agree with you that Nintendo needs to start making new games that, hopefully, will reach the status of games like Mario and Zelda, but as long as people buy the old games, most companies like to milk every penny out of it. Unfortunately, I don't think we'll see the change you're wanting anytime soon!
  • Big Chief 1
    Featured Correspondent
    I personally enjoy the old Mario games for the NES and SNES. But I do agree with you on a certain level on this one.
  • Ryan Kerns
    Featured Columnist
    If I'm coming across a bit harsh let me say I think this is a great article. It has a very provocative title and is worded absolutely beautifully to draw in the reader.

    When you make an argument like this to gamers, especially over such a beloved character, you need to approach it with a very credible foundation.

    Regardless, it definitely has everyone talking! Really looking forward to seeing more articles from you.
  • user_name1234
    You've got a point Brian. It was interesting to read, but I don't understand why an Italian plummer made such a hit with the kids though. He wouldn't really be my first choice to put in a childrens videogame. Princess Peach I can understand but Mario? I don't really get why this character became so popular. It's obviously because of the game, I mean the first time I played super Mario Bros. I just couldn't stop. It didn't really depend much on the character I was playing, I just wanted to finish it. It is really annoying that you can't see a single Nintendo gamecommercial without Mario's face all over it. I mean when I think of Nintendo, I don't think of the Wii or anything. I think of Mario.
  • Ryan Kerns
    Featured Columnist
    Mario's design is based on the graphical limitations that were present when he was created. The mustache and overalls were used just to give character to a little blob of pixels. He didn't even have a name in Donkey Kong... he was just called Jumpman. Sort of how Pac-man's design was supposedly inspired by a pizza with slice missing... things were pretty abstract back in the day! LOL
  • Ryan Kerns
    Featured Columnist
    I think 200 "Mario" games is a bit of an exaggeration. Mario had a lot of cameos in early NES titles like Punch-out, Tennis, etc... but those were hardly Mario games. That number is also inflated by ports of the same game to different platforms.

    I say just the opposite... the gaming industry needs a lot more Mario. I'll take a colorful, fun game, with solid mechanics that doesn't take itself too seriously any day over another drab military shooter that tries to imitate whatever hollywood movie is popular at the moment.

    Now do I think Iwata is criminally neglecting the Nintendo back catalog? Absolutely yes.
  • Brian S
    Featured Correspondent
    That's a fair point, but taking out ports actually makes the number even more alarming considering how many Mario games have been released in the last decade.
  • Coatedpolecat
    Featured Correspondent
    I enjoyed the read. Looking forward to more.

    I've had only an Xbox for this generation, so I'm completely out of touch with Nintendo. Mario just represents to much of my early gaming days... oh how I love nostalgia. :)
  • Brian S
    Featured Correspondent
    Thanks! I've got another one coming in a few days.

    And Nintendo games are insanely fun. Every one I've played on the newest systems has been amazing, but I can see how it's difficult to separate the games from the nostalgia.
  • Stephen Johnston
    Newish Mario that launched with the WiiU is one of the most awesome run, jump, bang your head on things games ever made. Hands down. No joke.
  • Brian S
    Featured Correspondent
    So I've read. I'm glad the games continue to be top-notch.
  • Tirook
    Uh. You know that Mario games are profoundly different from one another, right? As in, they're not the same game? Meaning that in most games, Mario's not "doing the same thing?"

    Mario is a mascot. He's a face. The reason he's used in so many games is that it allows Nintendo to dabble in different genres while guaranteeing sales. Nintendo wants to make a tennis game? Great! Make a tennis game using Mario and Friends as characters. Now they want a puzzle game? Perfect! Mario works for that too. The sad truth is that he doesn't have much of a personality, and as a result, he's a versatile shell for innovative gameplay. Could you imagine Samus Aran or Star Fox driving a mini kart? Acting as a doctor? Starring in a charming turn-based RPG?

    That big old number 70 that you quoted was most likely just lifted from the wikipedia page (don't lie). That's fine. But if you'd actually bothered to look at the titles of the games, or at the very least the genre column, you'd see that Mario is featured (not always starring, mind you) in almost every genre aside from MMO and first person shooter. And of those 70, only 12 were new platformers in which Mario puts on his princess-saving hat and shoots fireballs. 12 games in ten years is certainly comparable to Call of Duty, which has released 21 virtually identical titles in the last ten years as well.

    The entire video game industry is chock full of tired IPs. At least Mario games provide versatility.
  • Brian S
    Featured Correspondent
    I'm not entirely sure if you read the article. I suggested that Mario covered several genres, so I'm not sure why you believe I don't know that not all of the 200 games are platformers. I simply pointed to the platformer games specifically in the final few sentences because those are what Mario is known for.

    And I cited my source, so I don't understand why you believe I'd lie about where I got any information. I also suggested that that the IP is tired, not the platformer games themselves, which is why I said "Mario games are among the best in /each genre/ they’re in."
    And yes, there are several Call of Duty parallels, which is why I brought it up, in addition to Assassin's Creed.

    In the future, it might benefit you to read the entirety of an article before you condemn it.

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