I don’t usually watch Nintendo Direct presentations, at least not unless I’m eagerly anticipating a title. I only own a handful of Switch games, as they often remain expensive even years after release. When I have a stack of unplayed PC games, spending £50 on a Switch game feels wasteful! This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Mario franchise, as Super Mario Bros. debuted in 1985. Though a 35th anniversary is hardly one of the “big ones”, rumours had been swirling for months that Nintendo would take the opportunity to do something significant in celebration of their most famous character and mascot.
Super Mario All-Stars, which features the original Super Mario Bros. as well as its first three sequels, was one of the first games I owned when I had a SNES in the early 1990s. I enjoyed playing through those games, and while the Mario series has never been my biggest fandom, it’s one that’s usually offered fun and well-made titles. Though I skipped the Mario Galaxy games, I’ve played many of the other mainline entries, including the recent Super Mario Odyssey.
The main reason why I tuned in, though, was because there had been rumours of a remastered Super Mario 64 – perhaps my favourite entry in the series. I was at least a little disappointed that it hasn’t received an upgrade, as seeing that game with the visual style of Odyssey would have been spectacular in my opinion! But Mario 64 is coming back in its original form, bundled with Mario Sunshine and the first Mario Galaxy game as part of a collection called Super Mario 3D All-Stars.
The collection looks like a lot of fun, and being able to replay Mario 64 will be great. I’ve also only played Mario Sunshine once, in like 2002, so it’ll be fantastic to have a proper look at that game for the first time in a long time too. And as someone who’s never played Galaxy, perhaps now’s the time to give that one a try! But Super Mario 3D All-Stars comes with a stupid and artificial limitation – in true Nintendo style. I criticised Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the arbitrary decision to prohibit players having more than one save file per console, despite there being no reason for such a limitation. And Super Mario 3D All-Stars deserves all the criticism it gets for its forced scarcity business model.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars will only be available for six months. At the end of March next year it will be removed from sale – both physically and digitally. I’ve never heard of such nonsense as a digital download game being removed from sale. It’s arbitrary and it’s clearly designed to drum up as much support as possible by playing on gamers’ fears of missing out. Many people, myself included, choose not to buy games at launch because they’re often discounted (or available pre-owned) a few weeks or months later. Super Mario 3D All-Stars, thanks to its unnecessary removal from sale, won’t be in that position, and thus the only way for players to get a copy is to snap it up as quickly as possible. This is a scummy tactic from Nintendo – a company that, despite its family-friendly façade, is no stranger to them. Resellers will be loving this – copies of Super Mario 3D All-Stars will go for big money in six months’ time, and even Switch consoles with the game pre-installed will sell for a packet. Just look at how scalpers have been making money selling iPhones with Fortnite installed since the Epic Games/Apple fight. Something similar will happen in this case too.
It’s one of those difficult situations. I want to like this game, and I’m interested in playing it, but at the same time I don’t want to endorse or support a company that uses such an unfair and anti-consumer business model. Though I felt the same way with Animal Crossing: New Horizons I did ultimately buy the game… and I guess I will be one of the suckers who buys this one too. But I want to register my protest at its business model – which is so incredibly stupid. Nintendo won’t even see most of the benefit, as resellers and scalpers will take the profits. It’ll just screw over ordinary gamers.
As it costs £100, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is a bit beyond my budget! But the concept is fun, and I can see this becoming a must-have Christmas toy this year. Augmented reality is a neat idea, but the applications I’ve seen of it have always felt like little more than gimmicks. And usually the nature of augmented reality either necessitates every participant using a single platform or makes the experiences one-person things. Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is basically just a remote control car with a camera strapped to it and a few gateways to drive through, but the Mario Kart branding, and being able to race around courses in the real world, hold some appeal.
The only drawback I can see is that it’s very much a one-trick pony. And considering most people don’t have huge homes, there will be limited options for setting up a racetrack. Once those options have been expended, the toy will perhaps be cast aside in favour of others, and while that is the nature of toys, £100 for something that looks like a day’s worth of interest at best from the average child means it feels like poor value. Some of Nintendo’s gimmicks are just there for the sake of it, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, the single-use nature of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit feels like it would be offputting except for Mario fanatics and wealthy parents.
It’s encouraging to see Nintendo making use of the Mario Kart brand, though. I’m still hopeful we’ll see Mario Kart 9 on the Switch before too long; I even made a list of tracks that could be included a little while ago. Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit shows that Nintendo is still making use of the brand, and that raises expectations – at least a little – of a new game perhaps being in development. The original Super Mario Kart was released in 1992; with Nintendo making a big fuss about anniversaries, 2022 will be that series’ 30th so perhaps that could be a good time for a new iteration? I guess we’ll have to wait and see!
The other big announcement was a port of the Wii U game Super Mario 3D World, which will bring with it what looks to be a new expansion pack titled Bowser’s Fury. I played this a few years ago, when I was one of about fourteen people who owned a Wii U, and while it was okay and I enjoyed the cat suits the characters can wear, I’m not in a mad rush to replay it so soon after its launch on that console. Nintendo have released some solid Switch titles since 2017, but they’ve also put a disproportionate amount of time into porting Wii U titles to the new system, and the result is that some franchises haven’t got the attention they deserved. Even Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a port – there are a few extra characters and the DLC included, but nothing about the game is substantially different to the Wii U version. The Bowser’s Fury expansion for Super Mario 3D World may make the game worth a second look, but we didn’t see a lot of it in the direct and while it absolutely could be great, it could also turn out to be insubstantial and a bit of a let-down.
The final game worth mentioning is a very strange one – Super Mario Bros. 35 is a multiplayer competitive version of the classic game, played with 35 players in homage to the title’s 35th anniversary. Defeating an enemy will send it into another player’s game, and it looks like whoever racks up the most points per level wins. Or something. I’m struggling to see how this will be all that fun – Super Mario Bros. simply isn’t designed for something like this, and if the game sticks with the original level design I think players could be overwhelmed with enemies. I know multiplayer isn’t usually my thing to begin with, but even with that caveat this doesn’t seem like a game that will be a lot of fun!
So my dreams of playing Super Mario 64 in the engine used for Odyssey will have to wait for another day! The 3D All-Stars collection is tugging me in both directions right now: it looks like fun, but I’m upset at its crappy anti-consumer sales tactic. Otherwise, despite the pandemic, Nintendo has managed to pull out several fun surprises to celebrate Mario’s 35th anniversary. Not all of them will be to everyone’s taste, but even a casual Mario player should be able to find at least one title that they’re interested in.
The Super Mario franchise, including all titles listed above, is the copyright of Nintendo. Some screenshots courtesy of press kits on IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.