Recently, I’ve had a real thing about games that are just damn fun to play. Dark Souls 2 (well, if I’m p,aging it fast and loose while dual wielding), Metroid 2 (don’t judge me), and of course, all the 3D Mario games (64, Sunshine, Galaxy, etc). There is a pure fun that comes about from interacting with really well designed mechanics that I just can’t get out of my usual go to (if you’re curious – it’s RPGs with simple, repetitive systems that can be executed with or without full attention (see also Pokemon and anything old)). With the rise of story being important in games, perhaps we should take a look at something that moved in the opposite direction – a series of totally unrealistic worlds trapped in paintings that were just incredible fun to move through.
Mario has never been a story heavy series (even the RPG entries tend to be lighter that your standard RPGs of the same generation), but then again that’s never been the point. The first Super Mario features physics that are truly sublime, simple to understand but difficult to master, and the series never really lets go of that. The move into 3D worked far better for Mario than most, and while a decent number of games found their stride in 3D, Mario excelled. Camera control is decent, even by modern standards, and the small number of actions combined with solid interactions with the world (generally, at least – don’t look up speed runs of this game if you don’t want to know how broken it can be) made for a three dimensional platforming masterpiece.
This takes up not only the mantle of 2D Mario titles, but also incorporates what made 2D Sonic titles fun (not to imply that the 3D Sonic titles are fun, cause, well, you know). It combines solid movement, solid level design, and a world that’s fun and interesting to interact with.
The level design of this title is based entirely around a single concept – complimenting Mario’s move set. The whole game (and even most speed running of it) is just a giant showcase of how Mario moves through 3D space. Unlike many 3D platformers, the point isn’t having a level and moveset that work well together (such as Spyro, where the moveset allows for exploration of every little segment of space), the point is having a really solid and fun moveset and making levels that work it out. Mechanically, this game is hard to top.
This is a feeling I want to capture in games I make. Sure, I’m heavily influenced by RPGs and would love to make a fantastic story focused title in the JRPG style. But I also want to make games that just feel good to play. Not just win at, or move the story forward fun, but fun to pick up the controller and just move. Here’s hoping some day I’ll find that magic formula of my own.