Revolutionising New Super Mario Bros; Ten New Worlds that’d make the series fresh again!
As many have criticised, New Super Mario Bros 2 doesn’t contain much in the way of new ideas. And with it reusing the same old Super Mario Bros 3 inspired world themes done in every Mario game in the last twenty of so years, people have been wondering why Nintendo can’t just come up with something new, something that’s not just ‘grass/desert/water/forest/ice/mountain/sky/dark land’ for the millionth time. One blogger even had people send him non stop ideas for Mario world themes for the last few weeks!
So in keeping with the times, here are ten ideas for worlds that could be used in future 2D Mario games. And if someone from Nintendo is reading this, use all of them, we need more variety in Mario game settings.
1. Horror World/Ghost themed world
It’s a theme that’s always been present in the Mario series, but outside of a few of the 3D titles (Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy 1 and Super Mario Galaxy 2), we’ve never really had a whole world dedicated to horror elements and ghost houses.
Now, some people might wonder why such an item would even be needed or work in a 2D series. Doesn’t Castlevania already exist? Aren’t ghost houses just a bunch of random gimmicky puzzles to solve and something that should be kept to a minimum in the Mario series?
The answer on both counts is no. What types of levels could you do in a ‘horror’ related setting? Well truth be told, a lot of things. You could easily go and make the world actually ‘horror’ themed and make it look like something out a survival horror game, like Dead Air in Super Mario Fusion (or Raccoon City in Mushroom Kingdom Fusion):
The Mario series has always seemed to have a lack of non skeleton/non ghost undead, hasn’t it?
But that’s one of a billion possible opportunities. How about an outside graveyard level like in Super Mario Land 2 or Ghosts and Goblins?
Other Mario spinoffs give us a lot of possibilities too. Heck, look at all the things Wario Land 4 managed to include in the horror theme. There was a creepy abandoned village with axe wielding ghosts (Crescent Moon Village), an Arabian Nights themed town (Arabian Night) and even a haunted hotel with a maze of doors and passageways and a somewhat art deco feel to it.
Not to mention Donkey Kong Country 2 and Haunted Hall, a mine cart stage set in an abandoned library with Kackle trying to kill you. That stage was absolutely awesome, as was its Donkey Kong 64 equivalent in Creepy Castle’s mine cart section.
Really, the possibilities for a world with that theme go on and on. Remember Horror Land in Mario Party 2? That was pretty much a great kid friendly version of a standard horror movie setting complete with catchy music.
And the list continues. How about looking at some things Castlevania does? There’s always the classic possibility of a haunted castle to explore complete with traps, animate suits of armour and swinging maces. Or a creepy chapel like that in oh so many Castlevania games (and Banjo Kazooie). Heck, the tower could even be a clocktower complete with spinning cogs and gears to traverse as you reach the top! Oh, and throw Luigi’s Mansion in there for good measure.
It’s not even like age ratings and ‘kid friendlyness’ could be used as an excuse for why such a setting would be a bad idea, Wario Land 4, Donkey Kong Country 2 and 64 and most others on the list were all rated E/3+ by the age rating boards.
2. Toy Land
A gimmick so common to 2D platformers it’s actually kind of surprising the Mario series has so rarely tried to use the theme. Basically, a land based around toys could open a whole lot of different possibilities for 2D Mario levels, such as:
Killer toys as enemies. Like dolls and action figures, jack in the boxes and various others.
Worlds based around toy based abstract themes, like the Topaz Passage in Wario Land 4. Remember how neat the Big Board was as a level, with you hitting dice blocks to make various events happen and a cursor move along a row of icons at the bottom of the screen? Or how in Doodle Woods enemies would be drawn in from the background?
If you really need some examples of the kinds of neat ideas you could get in a toy based level, have a look at some of the classics. Like Toyland from Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, a game fondly remembered to the point of getting a 3DS sequel and a level based on it in Mushroom Kingdom Fusion.
Or the aforementioned Big Board level. Annoying as it was, it was a very clever gimmick used very well for some unique level design possibilities:
There’s also a lot of room with touch screen involving gimmicks and tricks involving the 3D effect. Imagine having a level (maybe a cannon in the style of New Super Mario Bros 2) where you had to draw platforms on the screen in the style of Kirby Power Paintbrush or something similar.
And it’s also the perfect place to put a level based on the yarn theme from Kirby’s Epic Yarn. It isn’t enough to sustain a whole world in my opinion (I think Epic Yarn kind of explored most possibilities involving that theme), but it’s definitely an idea worth looking at for a single level or two.
3. Music World/Band Land
Yes, the idea was already used in a great way in the original Rayman game, but you have to admit the theme seems like a perfect fit for the Mario series, right? The Rayman level was fantastic:
And in a series like Mario which can be as surreal and over the top as it wants, the theme is a perfect fit. Hell, it was already done to an extent in Mario Kart 7 with Music Park/Melody Motorway:
Not to mention that it helps with something important, namely coming up with gimmicks for the actual platforming. Yes all the ideas on the list would be interesting, but you have to admit a music level is one of the ones which opens up a lot of 2D gameplay possibilities with different instruments acting as different types of platforms. Like drums and percussion instruments as springboards and falling platforms, music notes as obstacles or things to ride and keyboards to dart across in time with the music.
And given the reference to Koopa Symphonies in Super Mario World, you could even have Ludwig von Koopa fought in the world castle and music used as part of the boss battle theme.
4. A Factory (like in certain other platformers)
Yes, the idea of a factory level has been done to death in near enough every single platformer not called Mario…
But that’s not really a reason against the Mario series using the theme as well. After all, even more games have grass, desert and ice themed worlds, but the Mario series still seems to use them in every single game. And you can come up with a whole lot of level ideas based around a factory/industrial setting.
There’s the obvious conveyor belt and giant smasher filled version found in most games (especially Donkey Kong Country Returns and Wario Land 4).
You can mix it with a clock tower like the Munitions Factory from Castlevania Bloodlines…
Or even mix in ice themes like 40 Below Fridge from Wario Land 4:
Did I mention that that’s just the tip of the iceberg? How about a few levels where you’re climbing around outside the factory as well as going through the various rooms? That comes up pretty rarely in video game portrayals of the area, with the possible exception of Grunty Industries in Banjo Tooie. You could have underwater pipelines as part of the area like those in Donkey Kong Country 3, or include a nature vs technology theme and have a broken down factory taken over by plants and wildlife.
Not to mention all the interesting things you could do with Mega Mario in such a setting. Imagine how pleasant it’d feel to be smashing apart pieces of machinery and robots while striding through a factory hall as a fifty foot giant!
It also opens up a lot of boss possibilities involving machines. And giant oil drums. And giant mutant jack in the box creatures like a certain enemy in Donkey Kong 64…
Really, isn’t that proof enough the Mario series needs an industrial/technological world?
5. Isle Delfino/Proper Beach Themed World
Because while the inevitable water levels in New Super Mario Bros seem a bit old hat now due to their unoriginal designs and recycling of the same old gimmicks (tides, killer fish, floating barrels, bridges), there’s still an awful lot you can do to make an otherwise dull water world more interesting.
Look to Super Mario Land 2 for a good example of this. The first level was a standard old ‘under the sea’ themed level (albeit with boxing glove wearing sharks!), but the others all did a twist on the idea. The secret level was an island and had nearly no water whatsoever, the second main level was a submarine which was only half flooded and the final one actually took place inside a whale.
Again, the possibilities for this type of world are endless. Isle Delfino could be an area which you explore, haven’t seen that place in 2D much. Pirate ships could be littered around to jump on and explore in (similar to Donkey Kong Country 2 and Wario Land). And heck, maybe even take advantage of the fact not every single ‘tropical island’/ocean/beach themed level has to take place right by the sea or underwater. Look at Super Mario Sunshine, it had a very limited scope but still managed areas set in a hotel, amusement park and treetop village. Why not do something like that in a future game’s water themed world?
Nothing stops a ‘water’ themed world having generally non water themed levels like this one.
6. Jungle World/Jungle Japes
Okay, this is taking a leaf out of Donkey Kong Country’s book, but is that really a bad thing? It’s not like Donkey Kong Country itself has ever run out of things to do with the jungle theme, since the first game, 64, Returns and most spinoffs all used it and managed to keep it fresh with new ideas and gimmicks.
As for what Mario could do with it, well there are two directions I think they could go with a jungle world:
A: Flat out make it a crossover with the Donkey Kong Country series. Have barrel cannons to transport you around, vines to swing on, Kremlings and Zingers as enemies and a DK and Diddy cameo appearance. Maybe even a mine cart ride and K Rool as a boss to round it all off.
Because hey, if people were mad Wario wasn’t in New Super Mario Bros 2 because of the gold theme, I assume they’d be just as mad if a jungle world didn’t reference everyone’s favourite jungle themed series.
The other way they could go about it would to be competely differentiate the setting from Donkey Kong Country and add a lot of stuff that only works in the Mario universe. Shy Guys mulling around in semi aztec styled ruins, cartoony looking wildlife to jump on/use as platforms and maybe an Indiana Jones style boulder chase in an ancient temple. That kind of stuff.
Either way, they could do a lot with this setting, and it’d at least be more intriguing than just another boring forest world.
7. Feudal Japan
Admittedly, some people might be a bit skeptical of this world concept, since there seems to be an assumption that anything too ‘Japanese’ like won’t sell in countries other than Japan for whatever reason.
But as a single world theme, I see nothing wrong with the concept. Goemon was an entire series based around this concept and did perfectly fine, and Wario Land Shake It had Mt Bighill (yes really) and Bamboozle Village to represent the theme of a feudal Japanese village:
Besides, who can really argue with the idea of a world where ninjas and samurai are enemies? You could even include the Ninji enemies from Super Mario Bros 2 and Paper Mario and have them throw Shurikens.
Really, the theme has a lot of possibilities for a 2D platformer level archtype, and I’m surprised the Mario series hasn’t attempted a level like this earlier.
8. Military War Zone
More interestingly, this doesn’t even have to be confined to part of Bowser’s World, but could easily stand as a world theme on its own. Bob-ombs, cannons, maybe some barbed wire and landmines and Koopa themed soldiers, you name it. It’s not a completely alien idea, Mario Party 1 had the board Wario’s Battle Canyon which was much like this:
And it’d provide a perfect way to have airship and tank levels outside of Dark Land. Maybe it turns out you’re going through a kingdom which is under seige by the Koopa Kingdom or was even completely conquered by force. Obviously the enemies couldn’t be using guns for both moral and gameplay reasons, but there’s a lot you could do with Koopa controlled planes and tanks, various explosives and maybe some Mario Galaxy level ‘future’ space weaponry.
Some possible levels could involve crossing the Mario equivalent to no man’s land, going through various vehicle fleets (airships, tanks, etc), maybe even going inside other vehicles like airships and planes. Perhaps battling through a ruined Toad village could be part of it, with totally wrecked shells of Toad Houses littered through a war torn landscape. Maybe instead of just going in and getting an item you have to defeat the enemies on guard duty first due to the helpful Toad either having fled or been killed.
War may be a terrible thing, but it still makes for an interesting video game setting.
9. Outer Space
Yes Super Mario Galaxy may be over with, but it doesn’t stop the fact that a space theme in a video game world can open up a whole ton of different possibilities.
You can mess around with gravity in all kinds of unique ways, something which is much easier to program for a 2D platformer than a 3D one. Imagine playing a New Super Mario Bros level with Mario Galaxy style planets and gravity, or sections where you went upside down or walked along the walls. You could have a level that’s a homage to VVVVVV, complete with controllable gravity changes and switching between the ceiling and floor to avoid obstacles. You could have levels involving rockets and shoot em up style gameplay ala Super Mario Land’s Sky Pop or the inside Nova sections from Kirby Super Star.
Heck, even less controllable rocket rides through space like in Yoshi’s Island DS would be a distinct possibility and would be an interesting game mechanic for a level or two.
If Nintendo ever needs more proof you can do a lot with a space theme, keep in mind how many games have used it:
- Mega Man
- Star Fox
- Commander Keen
10. Non Medieval Level Settings in General
Especially when it comes to castle levels, because it seems for whatever reason every single ‘castle’ from at least Super Mario Bros 3 onwards has been the standard medieval European style castle from every other piece of fantasy fiction in the last 50 years.
But how about varying it up a little? Interesting things didn’t only happen in Europe in the middle ages, and basing a few levels on fictional counterparts of areas from elsewhere could lend the levels a rather unique style few games mimic.
How about an Indian style palace or something, akin to the Tiger Temple from Mushroom Kingdom Fusion or Maharajah from Quackshot?
Or another Arabian style level like much of Super Mario Bros 2 and Arabian Night from Wario Land 4?
There are quite a few other possibilities here too. How about a level based on the kind of stuff a fictional version of Australia or Spain or even Russia might have?
Expand the Mushroom World a bit and come up with new locales, and maybe even themed castles, towers and ghosts houses too. We don’t need every world to be somewhat generic fantasy/video game styled with traditional castles, towers and ghost houses.
So there you have it, ten new world ideas Nintendo could use in the next 2D Mario game. Will they bother? Probably not, they seem to be shocked by the mere concept of a level taking place at night or with a sunset in the background, let alone moving on from Super Mario Bros 3 and letting its cliched world themes finally die off.
Would you like to see some of the ideas mentioned above in the next 2D Mario game?