Mario is Supposed to Be Weird

first_imgStay on target Of all the announcements from the recent Nintendo Switch presentation, the one that probably caused the most buzz was the debut of Super Mario Odyssey. The trailer showed Mario’s return to expansive 3D platforming for the first time in over a decade. But that’s not all it showed. Let’s talk about New Donk City.The most… polarizing aspect of Super Mario Odyssey comes right at the beginning of the trailer. We see a colorful but semi-realistic city, one that seems modeled off of New York. Sharp-eyed viewers may see several Donkey Kong references, but it’s unclear what the game actually is. Then Mario pops out of the sewer. Then Mario runs around New Donk City. Then Mario meets realistic-looking, racially diverse human beings while still being a cartoon. Then people lost their minds.Folks compared seeing Mario in the real-world to everything from the Mario/Grand Theft Auto mash-up from Robot Chicken to 3D Homer Simpson in the real world to the infamous Sonic 2006 (the one where the cartoon hedgehog kisses a human woman). Meanwhile, I’ve been laughing about the name “New Donk City” for days. The game looks great, but it also looks very, very weird, perhaps weirder than Mario has ever looked before. But you know what? That’s magnificent. Mario is supposed to be weird.Mario is the biggest gaming mascot on the planet. He’s the face of the medium. Therefore, his ubiquity over the past three decades has left us all numb to just how bizarre, illogical, and almost upsetting Mario’s world is. Let’s just state the facts. Mario is a working-class (24-year-old?!?) Italian plumber from Brooklyn who travels through pipes to a fantasy land full of mushroom people under attack from an army of turtles and walking mushrooms and squids and man-eating plants all led by a giant dragon-turtle thing who kidnapped a fairy tale princess. Mario eats good mushrooms to get superpowers like throwing fireballs. Plus, all the clouds and hills have eyes for some reason.And that’s just the first game! You could fill an encyclopedia full of the strange stuff that the Mario series expects players to accept without question. Mario rides on a dinosaur and gets trapped in paintings by ghosts. He visits vaguely Middle Eastern dream lands and fights frog kings in his own subconscious. He gets arrested on sludge-filled tropical islands. He plays tennis and races go karts with rivals like his greedy doppelganger Wario and an ape wearing a tie named Donkey Kong, who are both weird and fascinating in their own right. He’s a dwarf who jumps impossibly high and smashes bricks with his head. He’s a doctor and boxing referee on the side. Mario wears all sorts of magic animal costumes in stagecraft worlds, and he hangs out in space with sad goddesses who care for star chickens to distract from depression over dead moms.When you consider the sheer, dense insanity of the Mario franchise, you start to wonder how anyone on the outside could even begin to parse it. This challenged the creators of the Super Mario Bros. movie were faced with. That’s a really bad movie, but translating Mario’s nonsense to a mainstream film sounds literally impossible. Mojo Nixon as Toad? Makes as much sense as anything else.That brings us back to Super Mario Odyssey. People were taken aback by how weird the trailer was. But as we’ve demonstrated Mario has always been weird. The only difference this time is that by putting Mario in the real world, by having his cartoon body interacting with real people three times his height, it puts the weirdness right back in front of our faces. It resensitizes us to this strange little man and his ludicrous world we’ve all become accustomed to. Some find this alarming, but I love it. It’s the freshest Mario has felt in years.Super Mario Odyssey will probably be a fantastic game. The Mario team is operating at the height of its power using the most technically advanced hardware it has ever developed for. The visuals look gorgeous, and the new platforming moves using Mario’s hat seem like a ton of fun. But more importantly, the game is taking Mario back to his wonderfully weird roots. New Donk, I love you.Want to learn more? Here’s everything you need to know about the Nintendo Switch. Trade In Your Nintendo Switch For a Better Battery (With a Catch)Controller Patent Teases SNES Games on Switch last_img

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