Mr. Video Game himself recently celebrated his 35th anniversary. With a career spanning over three decades, few video game characters can boast the pedigree of Mario’s caliber. The plucky Italian plumber has done it all: platforming, kart racing, RPG-ing, fighting, partying, and more.
Mario has accumulated a vast number of memorable adventures in his prolific career. What perhaps stands the highest among his escapades are Mario’s 3D titles like Super Mario 64, Sunshine, Galaxy, and most recently Odyssey. These hit games seem to bring out the best in what Mario and his games have to offer and the older games in the list stand the test of time to even today.
With that in mind, it only begs the question: what could be next for Mario?
Return to RPG?
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is often heralded as one best RPGs of all time, if not among video games themselves. It boasted the witty dialogue and humor as well as an intuitive turn-based battle system that fits right at home with traditional JRPGs—as it should, especially given that this game was developed by Square.
The strong foundation Super Mario RPG built paved the road for other similar Mario RPG-themed titles like the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi games, which can all be considered spiritual successors to Super Mario RPG, as it does not have a true sequel.
Despite the immense love fans have for Super Mario RPG, the chance of it being revived as Mario’s next big adventure is incredibly slim. The primary reason is that Square—now more commonly known as Square Enix—reserves the copyright to Super Mario RPG and its original characters, like Geno, prompting proper credits when a Geno cameo was featured in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga as an arcade tutorial.
However, the cameo was later removed in the 3DS remake for unspecified reasons. Either Nintendo and Square Enix’s agreement to use the character fell through or simply wasn’t renewed, which is strange given that Geno was featured as a costume for Super Smash Bros. 4, alongside Cloud Strife and Midgar, two very important icons for Square Enix.
There have always been rumors circulating about bad blood between Nintendo and Square since the two companies’ mutual departure back during the push for the Nintendo 64. Even an interview with Polygon, Square executives and figures couldn’t seem to entirely agree on what went down. However, it does seem that Square Enix is protective of their IPs, especially when looking at them from the context of Cloud in Smash Bros, whose franchise and character seem largely disconnected from the roster. To this day, Cloud’s stage only has two songs. For comparison, SNK’s Terry Bogard came in with a whopping 50 tracks.
Also, given that Paper Mario: The Origami King just released, another RPG title would be redundant and take the spotlight away from Origami King, regardless of the mixed bag it was.
A true return to Super Mario RPG? Unlikely.
Return to Galaxy?
Ever since Mario launched his new adventure into the stars in 2007, fans have always sung praises for the Super Mario Galaxy games. From their sweeping soundtrack, out of this world creativity, and memorable gameplay loops across the planets, the Galaxy games are a testament to sheer power 3D Mario games wield. The world is Mario’s—and by extension, the player’s—jungle gym, and when combined with the polish and charm Nintendo brings to the table, it’s a recipe for unadulterated, whimsical fun.
With that in mind, fans have been hungry for a follow up to Galaxy 2, a title that defied expectations for game sequels. Surely games as celebrated and loved as the Galaxy series would receive a proper sequel.
Nintendo game director Shigeru Miyamoto has touched base on the topic of a Galaxy sequel in an interview in 2015 with Eurogamer.
“A new Mario Galaxy is always in discussion,” Miyamoto said, pointing out that as technology improves, a new Super Mario Galaxy might be more possible. However, Miyamoto also said that he and Yoshiaki Koizumi, producer of the Galaxy games, were always looking to challenge Galaxy and venture into other 3D projects.
He said, “We can’t make so many games at once in parallel. But as technology gets better and advances, I think there will be a lot of opportunity for both options.”
It has been five years since Miyamoto’s comments. Since then, Nintendo has gone on to publish Super Mario Odyssey in 2017, another smash hit title evocative of Mario 64’s freedom in movement and Galaxy’s unfettered creative spirit.
There have been other Mario games in the meantime, but none of Odyssey or Galaxy’s caliber. The 3th anniversary has done a remarkable job of bringing a ton of Mario games onto the Switch. The 3D All-Stars has also brought Mario’s classic 3D escapades onto modern devices without the need of an emulator. Strangely, despite being named “All-Stars”, Galaxy 2 was left out, to the dismay of many.
Why this decision was made is not clear. Perhaps Nintendo is “saving” Galaxy 2 for later when they tease a Galaxy 3 for the Switch or a thematic crossover between Galaxy and Odyssey. To be able to zip across the stars while retaining Odyssey’s myriad of transformations and movement options would be a fantasy dream come true.
Probably not, but this IS Nintendo.
They’re more than capable of doing something crazy like that.