Earlier today at Apple’s iPhone 7 reveal event, Nintendo announced Super Mario Run, a long-anticipated Mushroom Kingdom spin on the endless runner genre for iOS devices. Unsurprisingly, the game has proven to be quite controversial with Nintendo’s core fanbase. While it undoubtedly seems long overdue for more casual fans of Mario’s many previous platformers, those of us who follow Nintendo and its mascot more closely are just as likely to be outraged as excited. John and Ryan weigh in below:
Watching today’s Apple event (as I always do; full disclosure, I’m a pretty big fan and follower of the company), I couldn’t help feeling growing excitement when it became more and more clear that Mario was indeed coming to iOS. I was surprised for sure, as I think most of us were; Nintendo had made it clear that Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing were next for mobile, and while Mario may happen at some point, it wouldn’t be one of the company’s first cell phone games.
But feeling good about Mario on mobile was just as surprising as the news it was happening at all.
I rarely play games on my phone, and when I do they’re puzzle or social games. Games that don’t require quick reflexes and games that aren’t dependent on super accurate control. So, not Mario. I’ve played an endless runner or two, and while I won’t claim to have hated them or detested the genre, they certainly didn’t do much for me. Plus, like for so many of us, Mario in many ways represents the pinnacle of pure game design for me.
All of which is to say I didn’t think I wanted Super Mario Run, and while I’m still not completely convinced that I’ll love it, I like what I saw. The idea of having access to a quick Mario-fix on my phone is kinda exciting. Super Mario Run surely won’t live up to its traditional console and handheld counterparts, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun in its own right, right?
Well, Nintendo did the thing that everyone said they should do, and it’s about as unexciting as you expected. Super Mario Run is quite possibly the least-inspired game Nintendo has developed internally since Color-TV Game 6. From the NSMB art style to the endless runner trappings, everything about this game feels depressingly 5 years ago. I’ve actually really enjoyed Nintendo’s mobile output to this point- I had a fun couple of months with Miitomo, and still check it occasionally. But watching this video of Super Mario Run, the only thing I feel is a desire to get back to New Super Luigi U. Part of Nintendo’s mobile strategy is to get people to play their consoles, so I guess Super Mario Run is successful in that regard? I just never realized a Nintendo success could be so depressing.
Watching Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto grace the stage at the Apple event today to show off Super Mario Run made me sad. It also made me feel stupid for feeling sad. This is not how I like to feel after Nintendo announcements. I know it’s silly to have such a strong, personal, and emotional reaction to news that a company I love is bringing a franchise I adore to a bigger audience, but I am afraid this could be the beginning of an upsetting trend for many long-time Nintendo fans like myself. I understand that Nintendo is developing a new console right now, and that Super Mario Run is not the company completely giving up on their own hardware. But I have spent the last decade watching the general public largely ignore masterful Nintendo games like Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D Land. Now I will likely watch Nintendo score a big hit with a game that appears at first glance to be much less imaginative and expertly crafted. Of course, I won’t know for sure until I play it and will definitely give it a shot. But everything from the art design to how I imagine the gameplay will feel leaves me unenthused and worried. I’m afraid millions and millions of people are about to buy Super Mario Run, telling Nintendo that this is the Mario they’ve been wanting for the last several years because that could affect Nintendo’s ideas of how to bring Mario into the future. Hopefully I’ll read this in two years, after playing a brilliant, smash-hit Mario NX game and having some fun with Super Mario Run, and laugh at my overreaction.