Is It Now Time for a Super Mario 64/Super Mario Sunshine style 3D Platformer?

Ever since the Nintendo 64, the 3D platformer seems to have been neglected a tad in favour of other genres.  Indeed, last gen the once unthinkable pretty much happened and 2D platformers seem to have made a comeback with games like New Super Mario Bros Wii, Donkey Kong Country Returns and Rayman Origins flying off the shelves and games like Mega Man 9 and 10 being sold on digital distribution platforms.  But now with Super Mario 3D Land fading away and the Galaxy series likely history, is it time for a more traditional 3D Mario platformer?  The type of game that helped the Nintendo 64, like Super Mario 64 or Banjo Kazooie?

I think so, and here’s why:

1. Nintendo has learned from the collectathon mistake

Which means they can now avoid making the exact same mistakes they and Rare made at the end of the Nintendo 64/start of the Gamecube’s lifespan; focusing their games on collecting random junk rather than platforming.  That’s not to say a collectathon can’t be a good game, and titles like Super Mario 64 and both Banjo Kazooie games were excellent, it’s just that later games took it too far.

Look at Donkey Kong 64 for example, it had so much collecting of colour coded objects that some say it singlehandedly killed the genre by turning people away from the game style. It sold well I’ll give it that, but did they really need things like the five colours of banana, the blueprints and the fairies?

Or Super Mario Sunshine too, which ended up having so much money lying around to collect it got to the point of utter tedium sometimes.  Not just the Blue Coins either, look at how it seemed every other level was about collecting red coins for some purpose or another (levels like Bianco Hills actually had four shines dedicated to this type of activity!)

Going through the secret levels with FLUDD to get red coins was just filler.

But that’s all in the past now.  Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D Land showed us that a 3D Mario game which doesn’t rely on collecting things is entirely plausible, all we now need is for Nintendo to make the worlds larger and still keep the same traditional gameplay that made these games so popular. Is there a real reason we can’t now have large open ‘sandbox’ style levels to explore where all the stars are obtained through either exploring the environment or navigating tricky jumps rather than doing pointless fetch quests?  Not really.

Even Super Mario 64 had signs of this with missions like ‘to the top of the fortress’ or ‘into the volcano’ or ‘stand tall on the four pillars’.  Where the game then went wrong was by shoving a pointless red coin mission into every single course in the game then making you collect a hundred coins in each for the hell of it.

Did Rainbow Ride ever really need a maze with red coins in it?

But now Nintendo’s learned from their mistakes and knows how to design a 3D platformer without a fetch quest in every level, maybe it’s the time to bring back open plan 3D courses and the choice of tackling the missions in any order.

2. Nintendo themselves admit they’d find it hard to make a new Galaxy game or a 3D Land sequel

Read back to the recent comments they made at the recent Game Developer’s Conference:

In the case of Super Mario 3D Land, I felt we got so much of what we wanted to do into the game, that we would start from a difficult position in having to come up with something from the same process.

In simple terms, Mario 3D Land did near enough everything they wanted it to do, so a direct sequel like how Mario Galaxy 2 was one to the original Mario Galaxy would be difficult to design/make for them.  So let’s assume that’s ruled out for a bit.

From that perspective, to say we’d make another game using the ideas left over from Galaxy 2, it’s very difficult for me to imagine. I feel like we really did research the field very well for possible ideas and we used everything that was reasonably easy to implement.

It comes after a fairly long discussion of the design process used for Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 (read here), but it’s safe to assume that’s out the picture for a fair amount of time as well since all the good ideas were used in either the first or second game.  Heck, even the second game was difficult to make given how they didn’t have quite that many new ideas to keep it interesting at first and had to come up with new ones from scratch after a while.

Which makes me think now could be a good time to revisit the Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine gameplay style.  It’s been a long time since a new Mario game with the feel of those two, and if Super Mario Advance 3 is any indication, going back to an old game ‘style’ and making new levels for it leads one to come up with all kinds of interesting ideas:

Those are arguably some of the most creative levels in the Mario series to date, all made because the developers went back many years later with a fresh perspective and new ideas and added them to ported versions of the original.  I think if Nintendo went back and made new Mario 64 or Sunshine style levels, we’d get a lot of new ideas there as well.  Combining what they learnt from making Super Mario Galaxy and 3D Land with the gameplay style of 64 or Sunshine could work wonders for a new Mario game.

3. People have wanted such a game for many years

Fairly obvious point this, there’s always been a fair demand for a Mario 64 or Sunshine type sequel, hasn’t there?  Indeed, there was quite a lot of hype back when Super Mario 64 2 was still in development.

As well as plenty of ideas about what a proper 3D Mario game could be like.

So why haven’t we had one again?

4. The increased power of Nintendo hardware means better 3D worlds are possible now

You can especially see how much technology has moved on by how games nowadays can easily handle vast open worlds that earlier consoles would have choked on. In fact, many minor problems I recall about 3D platformers were only a problem because Nintendo 64/Playstation 1 era hardware wasn’t capable of the things the developers wanted the game to do.

For example, people say that many of Rare’s later games had quite a low frame rate for Nintendo 64 games simply because there was so much going on at one time that the Nintendo 64 itself was having trouble handling it.  The likes of Jungle Japes and Creepy Castle in Donkey Kong 64 or Grunty Industries in Banjo Tooie was arguably a little much for the poor machine to cope with at the time, even with the expansion pack in use.  But there’d be no problems with Wii or even Wii U level console hardware, would there?

It’s just that you could do so much more with a 3D platformer in this day and age than you could in the Nintendo 64 or early Gamecube era.  The graphics would be much better meaning the levels wouldn’t look so… well, non Mario like (see many Super Mario 64 levels that could probably pass off as real locations due to a lack of colour and an almost ‘industrial’ look to them).  The characters wouldn’t look so basic or blocky like they did in Nintendo 64 games, or as weird as they did in Sunshine.  If this is what people have achieved just by altering Super Mario 64:

Pity they used a terrible rip of a Yoshi’s Island background…

Then Nintendo could do so much better by making a new 3D Mario platformer with a similar gameplay style for a modern console.  Imagine what it’d be like if you had a Mario 64 game that looked like Galaxy did!

That version of Peach’s Castle just makes you want such a thing even more, right?

5. Nintendo could come up with so many interesting levels in this style now

Look at how varied and interesting your average Super Mario 3D Land level is, then imagine what it’d be like if that kind of stuff was included in a proper 3D platformer in the style of Super Mario 64 or Sunshine.  The levels look really nice already, I’d just prefer it if we could get a proper 3D platformer with this style of graphics and music and some of the clever ideas included.

Imagine doing things like running around open worlds with the Tanooki Suit or Fire Flower and only losing it once you get hit like the old days!  Imagine having enemies like Hammer Bros, Magikoopas and Chargin’ Chucks as standard in open world Mario 64 like courses! Or how cool it’d be if every time you came across a Bowser level it worked like the ones in Galaxy, minus the gravity:

Things sure have moved on since the like of Bowser in the Fire Sea, haven’t they?

It’s just with the constant move towards more linear levels and more gimmicky ‘themes’, we’ve never seen what an old school 3D Mario game with modern technology would actually be like.  Then again, is that really so weird?  We’ve never seen what an old school 2D one would be like with Mario Galaxy’s production values either.  Nintendo are missing a trick here in more ways than one!

So with all that said, I think the time may be right for an old style 3D Mario platformer in the same style as Super Mario 64 and Sunshine, and that such a game would work really well on the Wii U or possibly 3DS.

What do you think?


Image from and by Spritey


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8 years ago

Just read my mind. Or I should say, been wanting this exactly for years now. I know I’m in the minority, but Sunshine has always been my favorite game, for its “exploratory” gameplay, and honestly have been getting frustrated over having seen so few of this type of Mario game since :/

7 years ago

I really miss a super mario 64 3D platform type. The worlds you discover each with such a rememberable theme and character. They all looked kind of serious and even dangerous, which made it more adventerous. I can still dream how those worlds look like, because I was exploring every inch of them. I find it hard to place myself into the new mario worlds because they are so far of reality, which is also beautiful, but doesn’t move me in a way super mario 64 did. I really hope a game like sm64 comes in the near future.