OPINION: The Difficulty of 3D Super Mario Titles

Bowser attacking, is it easy to dodge?

As years go by, and as technology advances, so does the world of possibility. With Nintendo’s main 3D Super Mario series, it’s no different. Super Mario 64 was a breakthrough in graphics for its time which introduced 3D elements to gamers for the first time. The challenge for one in this critically acclaimed title was to become well acquainted with the 3D environments brought out for them to explore. As one progressed, the challenges became increasingly more difficult (not nerve racking, but fairly difficult). Super Mario Sunshine also was made in a similar manner, introducing players to newer forms of gameplay possible with stronger hardware, and the difficulty of this game [somewhat] increased as one reached near the end. Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 both failed to necessarily follow this method, in fact they followed a different road: it was the road of newer gameplay experiences never seen before, but wasn’t due to the hardware power. It was the Wii Remote that helped develop new forms of playing games. For these games, the difficulty increased quite a bit as one reached closer to the end. As we gear up for the launch of the Wii U, we know a 3D Mario title will appear around a year of launch as history tells us; but how will it turn out in terms of difficulty? Will it emerge as the most difficult 3D Mario game in existence? Or will it simply rival the difficulty formats set by the previous Mario titles?

This is somewhat difficult, the first time around.

Nintendo EAD has recently been about attracting the “everyone” audience. Simply put, these “everyone” games are meant to be played whether you are 6 or 76 years of age, as in the controls and mechanics are simple enough for anyone of any age to enjoy. But just what exactly is missing in this equation? When they think of this “everyone” approach, are they just catering to each age group? Should they consider something else when speaking of audiences? Yes. One thing Nintendo seems to forget about are the skilled video game players which are large in numbers. Though the 3D Mario games do progressively increase in difficulty as one strolls along, they never reach a point where it becomes very challenging to complete. In fact, the climax of difficulty is usually reached in very few spots. A good example is Super Mario Galaxy 2’s Grand Master Galaxy. That’s quite the tough level, might lose a few lives to complete both in a regular run and with the one-hit-until-death run, but that’s about as hard as the game gets. This is only for that particular galaxy, and there isn’t much else in the game near that difficulty (arguably). The Final Battle with Bowser in that game is a joke, not very intimidating at all. The only thing that interests me in that battle is the music (epic final battle music!). Nintendo needs to at the very least introduce something that will make the more experienced gamers jump out of their seats when playing these fantastic games.

Yeah, I know how you feel Bowser. It sure is boring around here.

It was a great move for Nintendo to attract people into gaming, even those who never considered buying a video game console; however these aren’t the only gamers who play Nintendo’s great titles. Veteran gamers also exist. These are the people who have years, even decades of gaming history and they should not be forgotten. These people are capable of handling an increased level of difficulty for a multitude of game challenges, which newcomers might find near impossible to complete. 3D Mario games currently just don’t offer this challenge to the fullest extent. 3D Mario titles need to have difficulty levels of all types. Yes, I’m talking about those Easy, Medium and Hard categories.

Allow us to select from these options Nintendo. This will truly make the game for everyone since that is your approach.

If Nintendo really wants the Mario games to be for “everyone” then allowing different levels of difficulty is exactly what the series needs. The non-experienced gamers will be able to complete this future 3D Mario title at Easy or Medium, while the experienced gamer will enjoy the entire game at a much more intense difficulty. Enough of this one-minute defeat of the supposed final boss, add more to it for those who want more of a challenge. Enough of having only the difficult challenges near the end of the games, have the game start out difficult and just get even harder as one goes on. If a boss has a weak spot, make it difficult to reach that weak spot for those who choose the tougher difficulty through the game. If there’s a coin challenge which requires one to collect a certain amount of coins (as in the original find 8 red coins or collect the 100 purple coins) have enemies surround a lot of them, have different types of enemies actually attack you from different angles. The Wii U GamePad can make good use of its abilities here if enemies are coming at you from all sides. Or place the coins in spots where one may comment by saying “Aww, it HAD to be THERE!”

If there are red coins like these floating around, make it hard to grab them!

Or perhaps code something else into the game for the player, something that many games have offered in the past. Have the game automatically increase in difficulty when it senses the player going through the challenges far too easily. Of course, that’ll depend on the challenge at hand. If a particular challenge involves defeating a boss, then if the boss attacks via throwing projectiles at you, have it throw them at you not directly, but scattered throughout to make it much more difficult to dodge out of the way. That is, if you are dodging all of the attacks without breaking a sweat.

He’s preparing to attack, but how will he attack? (assuming he’s the final boss again in the next 3D Mario game.)

Since Nintendo is now giving DLC a try, perhaps EAD can expand the 3D Mario games in ways never done before. If Nintendo decides to go through its usual route for the difficulty of the next 3D Mario title, offer downloadable challenges for those seeking more! This could include extra challenges in the same levels, or even much more difficult versions of existing challenges. With DLC, a 3D Mario title can end up becoming nearly endless!

With DLC, a 3D Mario title can expand to far reaches! It’s nearly endless.

Now, difficulty is where multiplayer may come in handy. Challenges which are too difficult for one to complete alone may require asking a buddy for a hand. Nintendo claimed this case to be a fact when they announced and previewed New Super Mario Bros. Wii back in E3 2009, so why not have these similar ideas join in with the 3D Mario titles? 3D Mario titles are arguably more difficult than their 2D counterparts, so having this aspect join in for the fun will make for one truly great experience.

New forms of multiplayer were introduced here, so introduce them elsewhere as well!

Even with advances in technology, Nintendo hasn’t really pushed the difficulty of 3D Mario titles to newer potentials. With Wii U being many miles ahead of Wii in terms of power, there’s a ton of room for inclusion. Include more, more for both the newer gamers, and the veteran gamers seeking for tougher challenges. Do you believe 3D Mario titles are doing the right thing in terms of difficulty? Should there be an increase in difficulty for the expert gamers? Or should difficulty not be touched?

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