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Where can Nintendo take Mario next?

The Wii is unusual as it’s seen not just one but three ‘proper’ Mario games: Super Mario Galaxy, New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2. Normally, we’re lucky to get one of each of Nintendo’s headline games per console generation: Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64, Super Mario Sunshine on the GameCube. I thought this was a good move, but having played the last two Wii games I’ve been left feeling bored and jaded with the whole thing.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii felt like a rehash of every previous 2D Mario game, particularly the DS version. Everything about it felt crusty: the soundtrack, the visuals, the levels, the structure, the save system, the mind-numbingly easy end of level bosses. I sailed through the opening worlds, feeling all the time like I’d played this game before. I had. I played it on the DS.

I feel silly complaining about this, because even the worst Mario game is many times better than its nearest competitor, but New — an ironic name if nothing else — was the first Mario game I couldn’t be bothered to complete. After tiring of one lava-based level I resorted to using the in-game autoplay mode to get me past a particularly tricky part, and I realised that I could just leave the game on autoplay for the duration and I probably wouldn’t miss anything. I stopped playing after that, and took advantage of HMV’s “New plus £5 for Super Mario Galaxy 2” offer while the going was good.

On then, to Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Meet the new boss

The first Galaxy blew my mind. Blew everybody’s mind. Sunshine had disappointed some people; coming after the genre-creating 64, Sunshine felt like a misstep. Galaxy was, and still is, incredible. This is all true of Galaxy 2; it has all the same strengths as its predecessor. It’s effectively the same game, just with a few different power-ups and the presence of the overrated Yoshi.

This is the problem. It’s the same game I’ve already played. Different levels, yes, but essentially the same in every other respect; it feels more like Super Mario Galaxy 1.5. I couldn’t ever shake the sensation that I had played the game before, and it ended up feeling pointless. I wasn’t learning anything new from this game; it wasn’t blowing my mind this time. I could have just forgotten the original Galaxy and been playing that for the second time around.

When I finished Galaxy, I’d wondered what Nintendo could possibly do next; the impressive use of gravity and 3D environments, the virtuoso level design – all I really wanted was more of the same. As it turns out, I didn’t want more of the same. More of the same has just left me cold. Playing Galaxy 2 just felt like I was wasting my time.

As above, it seems churlish to be complaining about this. There are more excellent ideas in Galaxy 2, more incredible, mind-bending levels than in most other game developer’s entire catalogue. I’ve had my fill though. Playing Galaxy 2 was like getting through the tasting menu at the Fat Duck, and then waking the next day to find the tasting menu at the Fat Duck was for breakfast. Amazing, yes, but by that point maybe you just want some toast. Some coffee. Maybe some juice.

I worry that Nintendo don’t know where to take Mario next. I’m no Miyamoto, so I can’t articulate what I want to see — I don’t know what I want to see — but I know that I don’t want to see New Super Mario Bros. Wii 2, or Super Mario Galaxy 3. I don’t want to play another 2D Mario game where the opening level is identical to the last three 2D Mario opening levels. I don’t want to hear Charles Martinet shrieking SUPER MARIO GALAXYYYYY again. Or ever, really.

I’m guessing, given that the next DS iteration is the 3D-capable 3DS, that Mario’s next appearance will be there.

Ho bloody hum.