Beyond Galaxies: Where Does Mario Go Next?
When Super Mario 3D World was announced at E3, there was a large segment of people that were honestly underwhelmed. Granted, I wasn't, but it also helps that I really enjoyed Super Mario 3D Land so if it's similar it won't be any skin off of my nose. But when I talked to people, a lot of them were hoping for another Super Mario Galaxy. And I don't think they meant it in a literal "we want Galaxy 3" way since it would be pretty hypocritical to complain about this game being a sort of sequel to 3D Land and then beg for yet another sequel just for a different game. What I think these people wanted was a big, epic adventure in some completely new land. But the question remains, where the heck do you go once you went to OUTER SPACE? I guess the one thing that gets me is that Nintendo said they basically put the best ideas from every 3D Mario game ever and put it into one game that also has multiplayer because they always wanted a 3D game with co-op like the New Super Mario Bros. series, and this makes people say "Meh". THE CULMINATION OF SO MANY GAMES WAS MET WITH A "MEH". So, what does Nintendo have to do to get people excited about Mario again?... well, besides stop making New Super Mario Bros games...
I know I brought up how Nintendo hyped it up, but it's also worth noting that said comment was in an interview with Koichi Hayashida, the director of the game. However, outside of this interview it hasn't really talked up 3D World like that. That, to me, seems kinda weird. If this game is such a grand culmination then I'd want to shout it from the mountaintops. I guess Nintendo wants to keep tight lipped until it's closer to release, but by now we're only two months away and we still haven't seen that much footage. Super Mario 3D World likely seems underwhelming because they treat it as such. 3D World was an afterthought compared to all the hype they threw into Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS. And while the new Smash Bros. does deserve that excitement, it probably wouldn't take much effort to get people ready for it. Really just the initial trailer would have had mouths watering, but they also did a slight demonstration and also showed the trailer for the Wii Fit Trainer. Meanwhile 3D World just had some footage that wasn't really as cool.
Also even if Super Mario 3D World is a sequel of sorts to 3D Land, I really would have called it something else. If you've taken stuff from every 3D Mario then comparing it to a 3DS title (even if said 3DS title was AMAZING) is going to turn some people away. There's an unfortunate stigma against handheld games as if they're not a complete experience. I've never understood that, considering my Game Of The Year is currently Fire Emblem Awakening. But no matter the case, I feel a fresher title would have done 3D World some good. It would help to know what the story for this game is because that could help me come up with a different title, but again Nintendo has been pretty tight lipped on game details and most Mario games barely have any story. Still, it would be nice to know whether they're in the Mushroom Kingdom or not, considering Peach hasn't been captured. Perhaps some more details would help make a title that doesn't make people think all the resources were taken from another game, which they clearly didn't considering the GIANT DINOSAUR in some screenshots but I'm sure people think otherwise.
Even though this mostly relates to 3D World, this would also help future games.
Mario's Vacation from the Mushroom Kingdom
I think Mario could really benefit from leaving the Mushroom Kingdom. In fact, I think the series could benefit from A LITTLE more story. Now, I'm not saying they have to go full Sonic series on us and go from "Barely any plot" to "Wow, there is a whole lot of plot and I don't like any of it." Not every game needs a robust plot and quite frankly a Mario game would get really bogged down if it had as many cutscenes as Metal Gear Solid 4. Minimalism works for Mario, because a lot of younger players can get into the games without worrying about boring dialogue and it also helps when you have a group of friends over and you want to have fun without having to wait for the game to let you play. That said, they can fix something even if it doesn't seem broken. Say, just for example, Bowser takes over the Beanbean Kingdom from Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga. Now this idea isn't the best example because it isn't something new, but it still accomplishes a few things. It sets up a story that is still simple and easy to get into, but has room to be a little more nuanced than "LOL BOWSER KIDNAPPED PEACH AGAIN!" A good example of a story that is simple but interesting exists in Sonic Generations. The plot boils down to "Modern day Sonic and Classic Genesis Era Sonic team up to fix the time-space continuum after it gets messed up by some entity called the Time Eater." It's still really simple, but it gave them enough room for a bit of a plot twist as well as a few additional characters to appear as bosses for some variety. So you can do a lot with a little bit of story, you just have to actually do something. Plus it gives a convenient excuse for Princess Peach to be a playable character. Since she isn't kidnapped this time, she goes to an allied nation in order to help rescue her friend.
Bad Guys: New and Old
The thing about Mario games is that there are A LOT of familiar enemies. So many so that you could get away with not using them all. I think a good way to go would be to stick with a few "classics" like Koopa Troopas, Goombas, Bob-Bombs, Hammer Bros and maybe a few more, and then focusing on making some new ones. Different locations aren't going to have the same enemies, after all. Nintendo has proven time and again they can come up with anything so I honestly do not think it will be too difficult for them to make a location seem unique to the Mushroom Kingdom based on the enemies. You can even mess with the designs of some of the classic enemies to be honest. I'm sure one of the Mario & Luigi games had a goomba wrapped up like a mummy. You could do little things like that, just to make a place feel like its own location.
Now I'm going to completely contradict myself, but not really, by pointing out that there is a big catalogue of forgotten villains and baddies that they can use. I mean, when was the last time you saw Sumo Bros? Or Wart? Or Mouser? I mean, I can't be the only one who was a little disappointed when Super Mario 3D Land had Super Mario Land in its title but didn't have Tatanga, the alien antagonist of Super Mario Land that may or may not have also appeared as a boss in the sequel. Nintendo got a lot of mileage out of the Koopalings in the New Super Mario Bros games... in fact they got a little too much mileage out of them. With some moderation, a blast from the past or two could provide a nice treat for older gamers while giving younger ones a "new" enemy to overcome.
I think the Mario series is probably going to do well no matter what, but I do think that a fresh coat of paint could make another classic worthy of this series' history.