On Nintendo’s Nostalgia-Based Model: Part II

A deep analysis on both the pros and cons of Nintendo’s design model. Set against my own replays of the first two Paper Mario games. Part Two

It’s not a newly made point: Nintendo’s modern-day game design model is based off of nostalgia.

The model itself not necessarily new nor revolutionary either.  And as I aforementioned stated, based on my own experience in replaying the Paper Marios in the macro, I fell right into the umbrella of why Nintendo has been doing what they have been doing with their re-releases and “similar but different” nostalgia games.

But just the same, I also recognized evidence that this model works in the micro as well.

Getting into the bulkiest parts of this analysis

Chapter Three: Old Games with a New Lens

Paper Mario (left) and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (right)

I did get something new out of these replay experiences, both in terms of gameplay feel and realizing new things about their respective stories, theming, and connective tissue.

Now, having gone to school and studied game design, by analytical brain is running far more hotwired in recognizing some of the reasoning behind the game’s choices.  And additionally, having seen the world evolve to place more fraught with sociopolitical tension, I now am much more keen to notice subtle hints of it in all of my narratives, and these were the biggest micro-areas where I noticed new things about my proverbially “favorite” games.

In the case of the original Paper Mario (PM64), in the case of having sociopolitical tension, there is… well… none… which is not a surprise to me.

I remarked in my first post that PM64 sets up its stakes early, but then, beyond the prologue, is a self-contained story that then just has Mario going through the different chapters, Peach helping in the interludes, and restoring the world chapter-by-chapter, until it gets to the endgame.

In replaying it, I realized that this isn’t exactly true because the game can actually be distinctly divided into two halves.

In the first half, across the prologue and first four chapters, there is a steady build-up as we learn about the characters of Mario, Peach, and Bowser particularly, but also with regards to the threat level.  The prologue immediately sets up the game’s magic system with the story of the Star Spirits and the Star Rod, before then immediately jumping to the present and showing us a legitimately well-done “fallen hero” arc, before then finally setting up the stakes of what Mario needs to do.

Chapter 1 then acts not just in terms of self-contained gameplay, but in terms of pitting Mario against adversaries with the most personality (and whom attempt to get in your way the most number of times).  Chapter 1 gives a real face to the type of adversaries guarding the Star Spirits, and makes you invested in defeating them.  Afterward, Chapter 2 has the grandest sense of adventure and is used to introduce us to the true expansion of its world building (it is indeed when the world, Toad Town included, opens up).  Chapter 3 almost then acts as a culmination, in that it is set-up to have Mario’s greatest adversary.  Tubba Blubba is “invincible,” the plot is more intricate, the denizens of this world have true “shades of grey” agency, but then you win.  So where do you go from here?

The narrative then cleverly plays a trick on you, in asking Peach in the subsequent interlude what Mario hates most.  In a gameplay sense, you can answer these questions as a gag, pick items, and then have Kammy Koopa place these items in the next world because now Bowser is becoming more and more desperate to stop Mario.  But like the Green Goblin in Spider-Man says, to really hurt the hero, “you attack the heart.”  And Bowser actually does this, in a way, as Shy Guys then directly start attacking Toad Town for Chapter 4.

From a narrative perspective, this can be described as the moment when the villain fully goes on the offensive to snuff the hero out for good because he’s had it taking losses.  You feel this in the gameplay, too, with your hub world now under siege and unable to entertain your usual routine in-between chapters.  So, even though the “what does Mario hate most” is played as a gag from a literal sense, the story then actually plays it seriously with Bowser’s answer to “what would Mario hate the most” actually being “then let’s attack his friends.”

This then culminates itself in your victory in Shy Guy’s Toy Box, the most complicated Peach interlude at the time in baking the cake, and then a positive narrative feedback moment with Twink meeting a Star Spirit for the first time and you feeling this fulfillment.  From here on, however, the narrative truly pauses.

Bowser recedes into the background, there is less set-up about your next adventures, and THESE chapters (Chapters 5 and 6) are fully self-contained, one an adventure and one a world restoration with callbacks first to Kolorado and then to the flower garden, respectively.  But then, we find out the reason why Bowser retreated.

After Chapter 6, Peach’s truly most extensive sneak interlude reveals that Kammy Koopa is… building something, and she wouldn’t do anything if not for Bowser.  As we later find out, she is hard at work constructing the platform that will boost Bowser’s power in the final battle.

Because in actuality, after you complete Chapter 4 and Bowser’s heretofore attack on your home soil fails, he resigns himself to the fact that Mario IS going to save all of the Star Spirits.  Chapter 7 is then less about the Crystal King’s history and more about learning through Merlow and Merlumina of the history of Star Haven, the Star Kids, and their ancient tribe tasked with protecting them, giving more weight to (a) your last great adventure up through Crystal Palace, and then (b) the lore, in order to tee up the true endgame.

This subtle realization gives further weight to Bowser’s character, and makes you realize that PM64’s narrative is not as static as you once thought.

But more than narrative, in replaying PM64, what struck me is really just how spectacular the overworld and exploration is.  Like, I enjoyed Origami King’s overworld, but the desert, the size of Tubba Blubba’s castle, the expansiveness of the jungle in Chapter 5, the epic quest up Shiver Mountain in Chapter 7, the game really pulls out all the stops in these areas, and I realize that even more when later replaying Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (TTYD).

Because in a weird way, it was easier replaying PM64 than it was TTYD [4].  Don’t get me wrong, I still love TTYD, but the gap between the joys of exploring PM64’s overworld vs. TTYD is larger than I thought, and it actually I think makes PM64 easier to get back into without worrying as much about what kind of headspace I’m in.

But also, there is the fact that PM64 is better in terms of story than we give it credit for.  It tells a straightforward, “hero’s journey” story, with the lore and stakes set up in the game’s prologue, along with the game’s villain, then proceeds to (a) give the hero a colorful antagonist to fight first, (b) expand the world out to a true, overworld-style scale of adventure, travel, and journey, (c) include a Second Act twist in which the villain goes on the offensive, only to fail, (d) focus the third act on some smaller adventures, but mainly a slow, steady build-up of the hero reaching the destination he’s needed to reach from the absolute beginning, in order to “save the world.”

It’s a Mario skin, and simpler than many others, but the fact remains.  This game really reminded me of watching Lord of the Rings.  In which the characters are not necessarily that complex, but that’s okay, there is far more of a focus on the journey than on any sociopolitical angles, and it really is a true adventure from point A to point B, set up in stakes by its prologue, with a few twists here and there, but overall… pretty straightforward.

I had low-key always remembered TTYD as feeling more like Lord of the Rings, with its deeper focus on lore, the supernatural, and deeper characters, but this isn’t truly the case.

And the switch from this grand, Lord of the Rings-level feel of PM64 almost makes the switch to TTYD feel at least partially jarring.

Because TTYD, from an overworld perspective, is not as “grand” as its predecessor [4].  Its stakes are not abjectly clear from the very beginning, and there is far less of a “chosen one for the people hailed to defeat the villain” and more of a “everyman stranger reaches a strange new place and has to mine out the mystery of this place to find out why certain things are happening, and what may happen next.”

And the gameplay supports this, keeping its cards fairly close to the chest, especially early on, and not really focusing on an expanded overworld at all.

The interesting thing about my TTYD replay is that this disconnect of playing a “scaled down” version of PM64 in terms of world built size bothered me mostly in the first two chapters. Maybe it was that the emergent mechanics hadn’t had the chance to take flight or that just it isn’t until Chapter 3 that really shows off what TTYD can do (in the same way Chapter 2 does so for PM64, which is earlier – with PM64 regarding it’s expansiveness and TTYD with regards to its fighting).  Most people harp on Chapter 2 as being a black sheep chapter for TTYD, but I also got a little bored with Chapter 1 as well, which a lot of people love, because it reminded me of Chapter 1 from PM64, but with the world less expanded somehow.

But it was Chapter 3 that not only reminded me, “Yup.  This game still holds up,” in terms of mechanics and intra-chapter storyline, but also made me realize that, unlike PM64, TTYD actually does have a sociopolitical element to its plot (something I especially realized after Chapter 4 too).

In playing Chapters 3 and 4, you realize this comparison between the high class and the low class, not unlike Arcane honestly, in which both universes – directly juxtaposed – show the ideas of how evil develops in each.  In Chapter 3, you have a person at the head of an organization (Grubba) on a floating, glittering city, manipulating the media (basically) in order to stay in power far long after he should be able to, with cover-ups and disappearances from the highest level, even though in PLAYING Chapter 3, there is comfort in that the fights are organized, you can’t be killed in them, it still feels “safe”.  How evil lulls you to sleep under a high class order and is able to develop without resistance.

Whereas Chapter 4 directly feels dangerous, in which people are literally experiencing body horror with zero control, and you find out that Doopliss is targeting them simply because he is bored and wants the thrill of it.  And this is how evil spreads in the lower classes, in which you have a gangster or even someone like the Joker spreading chaos simply for the sake of it, and what you end up with is local terrorism, but because there isn’t real order in any way, it isn’t taken care of until someone like Mario steps into the fray.

This take only became more apparent as I continued to play across the next three chapters.

Chapter 5, in a way, pits the higher class against the lower class, in the form of Flavio and Bobbery.  Flavio sits comfortably in Podley’s Inn with his Skull Gem, singing about his travels and hoping for more adventure (and money), while Bobbery languishes in a state of depression over the death of his wife – a result of her falling ill whilst he was out at sea (which feels like a parable for a working class tragedy).  And even after he first agrees to join you to be the ship’s navigator, he still exists outside of the main party.  This is, in many ways, because Bobbery is looking for a good way to die.

He gladly sacrifices himself to fight two Embers to allow you and two of your crew to escape unharmed, and then speaks about wanting a last wish in the form of Chuckola Cola, which Flavio won’t give you until he sends you on an extended goose chase around the island to get a Coconut to replace it with.

After you give Bobbery this last wish, he speaks himself off the stage, if you will… but doesn’t die.

After this point, it is almost as if the more depressed version of him reaches closure, because from here on out, he becomes a true fighter.  Your biggest advocate against Flavio when he begins to dilly-dally over the need to use his Skull Gem to open the way to Pirate’s Grotto.  Later on, trying to give you advice over how to deal with Don Pianta, who he knows.  And later still, being the voice of determination needed to convince the Fahr Outpost Bob-ombs to reactivate the Big Bomb Cannon.

At the same time, Flavio is able to slowly learn humility.  First by the threat of losing his Skull Gem in order to open the cave, and then, in the Chapter’s finale when he realizes he actually needs to negotiate with the “defeated” Cortez (and lose his Skull Gem for real) in order to barter passage on his ship to fight Lord Crump and his X-Nauts.

Of course, by the end of the adventure, he still takes all of the credit for a “successful” voyage, even though it was the poorer crewmen who set up their makeshift town in the first place, Bobbery’s convincing of him to lend a hand in the first place, and a caught-in-the-middle Mario doing most of the actual legwork and fighting.

I’m not going to go as far to say that Mario in Chapter 5 is an outright metaphor for the middle class, because I don’t think this was intentional, but the symbolism for the higher and lower classes in Chapter 5 is.  Bobbery, the stand-in for the poor, needs to come to terms with his own hardship and maybe even his own death wish, before stepping into the best version of himself – a fighter despite it all.  Flavio, the stand-in for the wealthy, needs to learn humility, initially coerced and later freely given, even if he’s still going to take credit for the eventual positive results.

Chapter 6 later on gives the higher class even more shades of grey, as you need to befriend them in order to solve the mystery on the Excess Express.

And then Chapter 7 brings this duality back into the forefront when you need to get Goldbob’s signature in order to launch the Big Bomb Cannon (just like a poorer area of society is “required” to get permission from the wealthy to simply succeed in their jobs), and then the only way to convince Goldbob is to “speak his language” and offer all the money you have in exchange to show how much you care.

At the same time, you are led to believe that General White, the operator of the Big Bomb Cannon who lost his job and fell into a state of depression, is representative of this depression in poverty, aimlessly wandering alone without any direction.  When in fact, General White found a new purpose in his life, and he actually has been looking for you this whole time, making him then to be a second example after Bobbery of someone climbing out of their depression.

This all then leds to this sequence’s culmination, in which these destitute Bob-ombs come together and shoot you to the Moon, feeling like a moment where a poorer society comes together for one greater purpose.  And I feel like it says something that this, from a story perspective, is the last you see of the public until the game’s climax (as the story instructs you, more or less, to move directly from Chapter 7 to Chapter 8 without pausing in Rogueport).

This worldbuilt subtext I saw in this playthrough contributed to why I didn’t hate the areas that most people hate in TTYD (i.e. the Punies in Chapter 2, the backtracking in Chapters 4 and 5, the lack of replayability in Chapter 6, and the General White sequence in Chapter 7) [4].  I have my own suggestions as to how these areas could have been improved, yes (which can be viewed in the Appendix of this article), but overall I genuinely felt like they provide story purposes.

Chapter 2 is meant to introduce you to the idea of directly helping people on their ground defend their home.

Chapter 4 is meant to dial in the feeling of isolation and being alone in the first of the backtracking sequence, followed by the relief of finally having Vivian with you in the subsequent ones.

Chapter 5 is meant to highlight Flavio’s hypocrisy, as you feel the monotony of needing to run around both to get a Coconut to replace the Chuckola Cola even as Bobbery’s life presumably hangs in the balance.

And finally, the General White sequence of Chapter 7 is meant to be this culmination of returning to all of the places you have visited before sending you off to the story’s endgame.  This is even reinforced in the prelude before Chapter 7, as Frankly tells you that he needs time in order to do some research to find a way to get to the Moon, and you basically have to wander around and appreciate the world around you during this time.  So then the General White sequence reinforces this feeling, and while I do think there were areas where it could have been refined in order to be less tactilely annoying, I also think that the culminating sequence of you literally being launched to the Moon is a more-than-decent payoff.

I could go on more about other examples of this subtext, such as how you get emails from the Rogueport Restoration Committee trying to bring awareness to what’s going on in the town, which does feel like a middle-class attempt to improve things; how the book of Luigi’s adventures, Super Luigi, becomes increasingly overpriced; or how, in Rogueport, you cannot really leave the town unless you know your way around Rogueport Sewers (and thus know how to fight) or you have enough money to ride the Excess Express or the Blimp to Glitzville.  This does create this sense of claustrophobia within the town, and makes it feel less grand and open than PM64, but now I realize this is likely on purpose.

This is likely how all of Rogueport’s denizens feel, trapped in this town and beholden to Ishnail’s thieves or the Pianta Syndicate, with no real means to get out.  And why the prospect of travelling to Keelhaul Key in Chapter 5 excites so many of the downtrodden who come on the journey with you (and many of those who then stay there), as this is the only means for those without money or fighting acumen to leave Rogueport.

I also love the visual flourish in the game’s final chapter, in which you have to solve the Tower of Riddles to start up this old piece of ancient technology to open new passageways in the Palace of Shadow, which is both a hint that the ancient peoples of this 1,000-year-old town knew advanced technology before others, thus contributing to why the environments below-ground feel ritzier than above, and also creates this link between this sociopolitical subtext within the game along with the game’s other main worldbuilt theme involving newer technologies set against a much older world.

But all in all, this is where I realize both sides of Nintendo’s model.  It works for “new” experiences on one hand, in which a person like myself, either by playing one of Nintendo’s “newer” versions of a similar experience or by simply replaying an old game, gets something new out of it, subtextually or otherwise, simply by the fact that I have gotten older.

But on the other hand, this is where I truly began to realize just how much Nintendo is neutering the potential of the Mario franchise with this model.

And now… the big kahuna

Chapter 4: A Franchise with no Genre

After finishing TTYD, I didn’t know which game to play next, and didn’t even know which game I wanted even to play next.  And this is the same way I felt after I finished PM64, this feeling that I didn’t really how to capture the feel I had playing that game again, and that even said game’s direct sequels didn’t truly feel the same.  Sure, everyone talks about PM64 and TTYD being almost one-and-the-same, but… they’re really not, and they’re more unique experiences/vibes than you realize.

One can make the argument that TTYD hasn’t received its “newer” update and that is why I felt so unmoored after replaying it, but it’s not like I felt an abject urge to play Paper Mario: The Origami King (TOK) after finishing PM64, given that TOK is indeed meant to recapture the sense of an expanded overworld adventure that PM64 had, along with RPG-ish (key word “ish”) elements.

But the bigger reason, I think, is just that PM64 has its own distinct feel when you really get down to it.

So does TTYD.

And many a Mario game before and since.

And hence lies the rub, the abject reason for and greatest strength that Mario has as a franchise, the reason I’ve loved it more than any video game franchise even though its stories (even its great ones) are comparatively bare, the reason why (contrary to what one might believe) it actually can do more than a franchise like Legend of Zelda or Metroid can.

Everyone more or less agrees that Mario, from a game design perspective, can criss-cross across genres, from online board game play, to car racing, to RPGs, to platformers, to sports games [5, 46:00].  But the agreed-upon lack of overall story in these games (comparatively speaking to other franchises) belies the point that should also be obvious.

The Mario franchise exists without any narrative genre either.

Unlike The Legend of Zelda, which has to tell different kinds of high fantasy stories by default, with its expanded medieval-esque Hyrule and lore-based characters, or how Metroid has to tell different kinds of science fiction stories if only because its protagonist is an armored bounty hunter cut from the same cloth as The Mandalorian, Mario exists without any of these restrictions.

Its differently-colored, distinctly diverse different worlds, and equally distinct cast of characters, open the door to, well, anything.

See, Mario adventures in brass tacks are hodgepodges of locations and travels with no real connecting tissue (the original platformers and Super Mario 64 are examples of this).  But therefore, a creator can add whatever connecting tissue he/she wants, and some of the best Mario games apply a variety of different genre norms to this connecting tissue.  For those games that Nintendo released that were expansions on the original formula, they did this every time in a way that made each individual game stand out in a unique way.

This is the stuff that was present in Mario games from the late 1990s until 2007, and it started with Super Mario RPG (SMRPG), which, yes, from a gameplay perspective gives off “Final Fantasy” vibes with a Mario skin, but from a narrative perspective is actually a magically realistic fantasy story cut from the same cloth as a Studio Ghibli movie, before transitioning into PM64, which feels a “classic high fantasy story” like Lord of the Rings, again of course with a Mario skin.  Yes, it has all of Mario’s traditional worlds, but Peach’s presence at the center, Bowser feeling threatening, and the Star Spirits as MacGuffins set up from the very beginning exactly like a prologue in such a fantasy story.  It is more kid-friendly of course than other high fantasy peers, but it uses the genre’s connecting tissue to create its own unique tone within the Mario framework, with a touch of maturity.

Same with Super Mario Sunshine, which borrows the tropical setting and leans into it wholeheartedly, yes, but it also draws off of old-school crime stories like The Long Goodbye in which your hero is forced, in one way or another, to play detective or else it’s his livelihood.  And of course, it has a second-act twist in which the perpetrator is discovered (and keep in mind, this game introduced Bowser Jr. to the Mario canon, so the twist of him being the perpetrator was a real twist), and then a third act in which the hero has to chase the villain down.

This is admittedly a minor stretch for this game, hence why I don’t hail it along with its peers as high for using its genre to its fullest potential (nor does it use Mario’s worlds to their fullest potential, only taking place in one real location), but you can’t deny that the skin of the genre was at least used to craft the game.

Still, TTYD, Super Mario Galaxy (Galaxy), and Super Paper Mario (SPM) stand the tallest, for me at least, because they feel the most adult, the stories in which you don’t have to add the qualifier “for a Mario game” when talking about how well the story holds up.  Galaxy is an old-school space opera, with planet-hopping and almost Star Wars-level pomp using Mario’s worlds, but also with the heart to match it, and its story with Rosalina at its center is strong enough to stand up against any space opera story like an individual Star Wars movie or, say, The Fifth Element.

I’ve said before that TTYD feels the most balanced, and after replaying it, I can get a feel as to why – this is because TTYD is cut from the same cloth as a classic action-adventure MacGuffin movie, like the Indiana Jones series, or classic adventure movies like Pirates of the Caribbean or The Mummy, and even Guardians of the Galaxy.  You have your heroes, your villains trying to awaken an evil or obtain a MacGuffin that could do damage, along with third-party rogues that can cause harm themselves (i.e. Bowser).  These stories also often have a subtle touch with exploring class, like the East India Trading Company vs. the Pirates in the aforementioned Pirates trilogy, or the well-lit ritz of Xandar vs. the decrepid gambling arenas of Knowhere in Guardians.  These stories will also attempt to tie in aspects of a changing world, represented by new technology, set against the most ancient ones.  TTYD does all of this, managing to pull the Mario universe’s characters and elements of its locations into this adventure, along with a sci-fi vibe achieved through the X-Nauts’ plans, plus an ancient element through the utilization of Hooktail and the other dragons, and Shadow Queen and titular location.  Without losing sight of its core tone being a mature adventure movie.

Again, Indiana Jones, Pirates, and the like can still be enjoyed as kids.  But they also have this mature edge that feel like they also have truly something to say.  So you don’t have to say “TTYD is a good adventure story for a Mario story.”  No, it’s just a damn fine adventure story that indeed has something to say.  And for me, this was “the overcoming of darkness.”

SPM, the sequel to TTYD, also feels very sci-fi, with the weird settings and weird creatures you meet, and the characters dabbling with doomsday devices, tapping into the multiverse-hopping genre before it became cool with Rick and Morty, Doctor Strange, and Everything Everywhere All at Once.  Like these movies or series, the search for love is what unites these worlds at their most disparate, and that is the point.

Unfortunately, I think SPM veered so far off of the reservation that some fans started complaining it didn’t feel like a Mario story, and I can understand where they are coming from.  At the same time, I think in order to embrace the wackiest elements of the genre it was emulating, SPM had to leave some of Mario’s traditions behind [5].

Still, I do think this was the moment Nintendo decided that they were drifting into the “too weird” territory, and then immediately dialed it back to focus on what makes Mario familiar.

You can also make the argument that with Galaxy and SPM, the Mario franchise completed its culmination of growing up, in a subtle way like Book 4 of Legend of Korra or The Dark Knight Rises.  But unlike a Zelda or a Samus game in which it might be difficult to do “reboots” without falling into the overt nostalgia-model category, the Mario franchise absolutely can.

If I’m going to make additional comparisons, I can think to similar TV shows that also I would argue exist outside of any true genre, Community and Seinfeld.  For a piece of media without a genre, I do think you need to be careful if you’re going to craft stories that go so far beyond the known characters/setting (therefore allowing the chosen genre to swallow up your IP whole) that they end up alienating a portion of the audience.  Think “The Betrayal” in Seinfeld or “Grifting 101” in Community, or even the episode in Rick and Morty (another show that, despite primarily being a multiverse-hopping show, also in some ways exists without a genre) that solely focused on parodying heist movies.

These examples are in many ways is equivalent to SPM, which went so far that it ended up convincing Miyamoto to impose extreme levels of new restrictions (even though the game itself sold the most copies of any Paper Mario game up until that point and has a cult following to this day (i.e. those who like the game don’t just like it, they love it)).  Okay, if that’s the case, then don’t go THAT far, but you can still find a balance more than just doing nothing with your narrative potential.

My point here is that Miyamoto and Nintendo could have chosen to dial it back to just using Mario’s traditional worlds if they felt that was safer, while still utilizing a different genre narrative for connective tissue.  They didn’t need to go full-on bare bones.

Since 2007, the only two Mario games I think that exist with any connective genre tissue at all are Super Mario Odyssey (Odyssey) and Paper Mario: The Origami King (TOK).  Color Splash felt like it tried a little for some horror genre elements by bringing you to an initially-barren location with an unseen force that can hurt you (which would have been cool, as right now Luigi has the horror genre all to himself), before undercutting its own premise to “visit this location and do some stuff.”

Odyssey has the same issue.  Like Super Mario 64, there is no direct connection between the types of worlds you visit in Odyssey, but they fit the “Mario mold” if you will, and, at least in the first half of the game, the constant tension to try and catch up to Bowser gave off the feel of an old-school road/chase story like Duel or Mad Max: Fury Road, and then was fairly disappointed when it then devolved into a simple just “visit this location and do some stuff.”

TOK I think does pull off an Odyssey-style story better than Super Mario Odyssey.  TOK has you travelling to far-off locations in an open world, meeting new friends just for shorter sequences of your adventure, and then continuing on your own despite having learnt something from the time you spent with those friends.  It even has touches of God-like lore with the backstories of the Vellumentals and the existence of Shangri Spa.  Before its third act becomes something else entirely by bringing all factions of the journey together (to the point that a part of me would argue that TOK is pulling on the genre threads of war movies).

But either way, it says something that TOK was the first game in thirteen years that I felt actually tried something new and expanded Mario out to a new genre.  Yes, some of its overworld elements borrow heavily from PM64, but I wouldn’t call TOK a fantasy movie.

And this is the power that Nintendo holds in their hands.  They could take any one of their Mario titles from 1996 through 2007, redo them so they can satisfy their “new but familiar” model, but also subtely use threads from a genre they haven’t tried before (i.e. a post-apocalyptic story in which there is an extreme limit of NPCs, or the ever-popular superhero genre where, like SPM, you allow the player access to multiple characters but give them different special abilities that are solely theirs (and I genuinely find it amazing that Nintendo hasn’t done a true superhero movie with Mario yet)).

Because they have done Mario + new genre before to spectacular results, from Sunshine to Galaxy to PM64 to TTYD.

When you have games that execute this concept, you can go far out to the Mario reservation and do a lot of wacky stuff, but then by returning to the “felt center” of what the genre is trying to say, it creates connective tissue that holds the game together that then makes it stand out and feel unique.  One can argue that some of these games balance the “Mario” with the “uniqueness” better than others (these will also included in the Appendix), but rather than other games in franchises which feel like they blend together, it’s not a bad thing that I felt a sense of loss after replaying PM64 or TTYD, feeling like there was no true game like them.

These are games that you remember for being their own.

To be concluded…


[1] Lowart, Super Mario 64 – The Problem with Nostalgia, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jB_QLSb2Yi0

[2] The Geek Critique, SUPER MARIO RPG: The Lost Legacy of the Legend, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-X9bHursFE4

[3] The Geek Critique, PAPER MARIO: The Dark Side of Nostalgia, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCfvEITOz18

[4] Lowart, Paper Mario VS The Thousand Year Door | Comparing Paper Mario 64 and TTYD, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NhElqiOIAQ

[5] The Red Guy, Super Paper Mario | Review, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOIwiUkF1Ks