New Super Mario Bros. 2
Continuing on with the tanooki tail fuelled nostalgia bomb… New Super Mario Bros. 2 is the only entry in that “New” subseries that I enjoyed from start to end. This game just… feels different than the other “New” games. It feels like the developers just had fun with it.
This game is unique as it was co-developed by the team at Nintendo Software Planning & Development (as opposed to the traditional Entertainment Analysis and Development team). The game’s development served as a “Mario Cram School” for the new SPD staff, using a level design tool that would eventually be adapted to form Super Mario Maker. And, simply put, it shows.
As a result, you have levels designed through experimentation often without consideration for a specific mechanic or power-up. Just some solid, well-designed levels. Sometimes you just need a fresh set of eyes to play with the foundation in place before them.
Heavily playing off the nostalgia of the fan favourite Super Mario Bros. 3, the game doesn’t really do anything new. Normally, that’d be a detriment. But here? Well, it does nothing particularly new exceedingly well. It’s a familiar, but it doesn’t feel tired like others in the “New” series.
The non-stop gimmicky coin rush aside, the level design is spot on and among the best in the entire series. It is just plain, no-frills, fun.
It’s an effortless game that put a smile on my face. I don’t like the “New” subseries, with the exclusion of this game because it feels right and reminds me why I enjoyed those old games in the first place
Mario Kart 8
This game. Oh man. This game is magical.
Again, we have a game that doesn’t do a whole lot new – the most creative addition being anti-gravity, and even then, the topsy-turvy tracks it enables are barely noticeable while racing due to the adaptive camera angle. But, what it does do, it does flawlessly.
The game is like a “best of” compilation of previous Mario Kart titles, while refining things a great deal. This is a finely-tuned and well-balanced game. The subtlest of changes make a great difference. You no longer are able to hold an additional item in reserve. You are able to neutralize blue shells. Coins max out your speed. Even if you don’t often visually notice anti-gravity, the ability to gain an advantage by bumping into fellow racers while on certain parts of the course keeps you on your toes.
The control and physics are buttery smooth. The game looks phenominal in motion. It breaths life into the characters in minute ways and similar crafts a grand and expansive look of the Mushroom Kingdom in the background. Toads toss coins, Yoshis applaud, Shy Guys chant. It leaves you wanting to race off the course into the horizon and explore.
The meta-game with kart customization is deep. Online play is solid. You can edit and share videos. It brings back classic courses and an almost unrecognizable way; as the courses are immensely detailed and greatly expanded upon. There are hidden paths and secrets all over the place.
It is a joy to play. It’s been a blast playing this game with friends and family, even almost two years after its release. Nintendo did everything right here (except Battle Mode, but let’s not talk about that).
Not only is it one of the best Mario games – it is one of Nintendo’s finest ever. Period.
And that about wraps up my warp pipe ramblings. Happy 30th anniversary, Mario. And hats off to Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka for creating such timeless games that anyone can play and enjoy. Mario, in any genre, is fun. If you play a Mario game, you’re guaranteed to grin. It is what gaming is about, and why I play. Here’s hoping for many more adventures with the pudgy plumber in the years to come!