Boss Rush Banter: Is 2D Mario Dead?

The Switch is booming and Nintendo is on top. Mario, Zelda, and Pokémon games abound for the system. However, the series that started it all for the company and launched Mario into his current status as one of the most recognizable characters in all of video games hasn’t had a new game in almost a decade. Is the 2D Mario series dead?

Now you may, understandably, quarrel with the assertion that there hasn’t been a new 2D Mario game in almost ten years. For context, New Super Mario Bros. U, the last official new 2D Mario game, came out in 2012 for the Wii U and the New Super Luigi U DLC came out in 2013. It does get a little trickier when you consider that Nintendo released Super Mario Maker in 2015. And of course Nintendo released a deluxe port of New Super Mario Bros. U for the Switch in early 2019. Nintendo also released Super Mario Maker 2 later that same year. However I’d argue that none of those games really mark as a new entry in the 2D Mario franchise after New Super Mario Bros. U. The deluxe game is clearly just a port with very little new content. Super Mario Maker and its sequel are delightful games consisting of 2D Mario elements and offer a somewhat similar experience, but their essence is different from the 2D Mario series. They appear to very much be their own franchise and their very existence begs the question: should Nintendo continue to make traditional 2D Mario games?

The New Super Mario Bros. sub-series of 2D Mario games launched for the DS in 2006. While the ‘New’ line of games may have felt new back then, in the intervening 15 years the New Super Mario Bros. games have received some criticism for their monotony, their lack of recent innovations and somewhat bland aesthetics. The games are still great, and they introduced 4 player Mario, wall jumping and various other important mechanics and tropes, but at the same time they’ve been around as the dominant form of 2D Mario for 15 years and have begun to feel a bit stale. 

It seems like it’s time for the series to shake up, but at the same time, we have Super Mario Maker and Super Mario Maker 2, and isn’t that exactly what that franchise does? Shakes up the 2D Mario formula? Provides endless creativity and challenge and new ways to play? Should the Super Mario Maker series be the future of 2D Mario?

If they were going to make new 2D Mario games with their own set campaigns, the 35th anniversary, commemorated in 2020, would have been a great place to announce one. However the celebration has come and gone. Recent Nintendo Directs, including E3 2021, weren’t short on Mario games, but Mario’s too busy hobnobbing with Rabbids or playing board games to get back to his 2D roots.

However, the announcement of Metroid Dread indicates that Nintendo is willing to wait, in that case for 19 years, to revive a series until they have the right angle, or technology. Perhaps Nintendo is just waiting for the right bit of inspiration, that special spark, to bring Mario back to where he started.

What do you think? Do you think Nintendo will keep making traditional 2D Mario games, or just focus on the Mario Maker games? Is 3D the only way forward for Mario? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Source: Nintendo

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