I love Mario. Donkey Kong was the first video game I ever played and Super Mario Bros. was the first video game I owned. The moustachioed one made me a Nintendo fan for life, and popping in a new Mario game is like slipping into a nice warm bath of bubbly nostalgia. That said, Nintendo needs to take a good long Mario break.
I know, it sounds radical. Mario is Nintendo’s mascot! One of their best sellers! Given Nintendo’s recent troubles, wouldn’t (temporarily) turning their back on Mario be financial suicide? Not necessarily, in fact it may actually be the way out of their current mess. Why do I say that? Well…
If furry Mario isn’t selling Wii Us, it might be time to let somebody else pitch the system.
Mario Isn’t The System Seller He Used To Be
The reality is, the last time Mario had a real console defining, system-moving phenomenon of a game was during the NES era. No doubt about it, Super Mario Bros. is what put Nintendo’s first console on the map, but since then Mario has largely been taking credit for other games’ accomplishments.
SNES? It was Donkey Kong Country and Star Fox that turned that system around. Up until DK’s big return Nintendo was getting spanked by upstart Sega and their new blue mascot. N64? Mario 64 was big, but I’d argue Goldeneye and Ocarina of Time were bigger. Gameboy? Tetris and Pokemon. DS? Nintendogs. Wii? Wii Sports.
Don’t get me wrong, Mario’s games are still popular, and no Nintendo system should be without the Mario basics (a new platformer, an RPG and a Mario Kart) but Mario games don’t need to completely dominate the landscape. Time after time it’s been the new, out of left field games have saved Nintendo’s bacon, not the guy in the red overalls.
There’s a space between kiddie and M-rated Nintendo could occupy quite successfully if Mario would step back just a bit.
The Glut Of Mario Games Is Responsible For Nintendo’s “Kiddie” Image
Quick, when somebody mentions “Nintendo” what do you think? Colorful, simple and mainly for kids, right? Now, take away all the Mario games. Take away the stuff that’s basically just Mario by a different name like Kirby and Yoshi too. Suddenly Nintendo’s image changes pretty radically.
What are this Mario-less Nintendo’s top franchises? Well, we have Zelda, a relatively dark fantasy series which, aside from a lack of blood, can stand right beside the likes of Skyrim and Dark Souls. Metroid, a hard-edged sci-fi series starring a badass female protagonist. Pokemon, a game that’s pretty cute, but also possesses a lot of depth and a harder-than-hardcore fanbase. They also have “lesser” franchises like F-Zero, Fire Emblem and Eternal Darkness under their belts, none of which are particularly “kiddie”.
Nintendo has admitted they’re reluctant to make M-rated games, and the fact is they don’t have to. If they weren’t cluttering their release calendar with four or five Mario games per year (more if you take the Kirbys, Luigis and Yoshis into account) their image would change drastically without them having to embrace content they’re not comfortable with.