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Why Nintendo needs to give Mario another chance on mobile

With a new Switch game on the way, isn't it time the gaming legend got a new gig on the world's most popular platform?
Why Nintendo needs to give Mario another chance on mobile
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It’s been almost seven years since Mario first platformed his way onto mobile, and it’s high time for him to do it again.

Yesterday, August 31 2023, Nintendo held a presentation giving fans new information on the upcoming Super Mario Bros. Wonder, this year’s hot holiday title for the Switch.

While watching said presentation, I began to notice subtle references to the 2016 mobile game Super Mario Run, and from there a thought just clicked: Now is the perfect time for a new mobile Mario.

Taking inspiration

One could argue that any easter eggs, references and iterations from existing mobile Mario games in Wonder are purely coincidence. However, given Nintendo’s precedent for using mobile games as a testing ground, I would argue these were intentional decisions.

The most telling sign is the inclusion of Daisy as a playable character. Relegated to spinoffs, Daisy has had plenty of experience as a kart racer, golfer and Olympic athlete, but she has never been playable in a classic, side-scrolling Mario experience until Wonder. Not once in over 30 years.

Except for Super Mario Run.

The mobile side-scroller also includes green, red, blue, yellow, and purple Yoshi as unlockable characters. Usually, Yoshi can only be ridden in the main series of side-scrollers and isn't otherwise a playable character, but mobile marked a change; and now, green, red, yellow and blue Yoshi are confirmed for Wonder too.

Outside of character nods, special Badges will be obtainable in Wonder with each unlocking unique effects. One of these, the Jet Run Badge, makes Mario run constantly for the duration of a level… AKA the entire premise of Super Mario Run…

So, if Nintendo has been looking to a mobile game for reference, why not look to mobile again for a new game?

A new path

Super Mario Bros. Wonder is all about change. New ideas. The unexpected. That’s why now is the perfect opportunity for Nintendo to develop a sister title on mobile.

So what's the problem?

Frankly, Super Mario Run hasn’t performed well at all. With a paywall certainly not helping its chances, since the game’s release, Nintendo has seen ample first-party evidence that free-to-play with in-app purchases is a stronger model. Such things have worked out far better for its top mobile performers Fire Emblem Heroes, Mario Kart Tour and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. Heroes has even surpassed $1 billion in revenue.

Then again, it doesn’t even have to be about cashing in on mobile money. Nintendo has held firm its stance that mobile games are a promotional tool more than a revenue source, and even with this in mind, Wonder lends itself so well to a sister title that promotion would be a breeze.

So how might such a thing work?

In a new mobile game, the aforementioned Badges could act as rewards for course completion (as will be the case in Wonder), function as daily login bonuses, or be exchanged for premium currency. The diverse nature of the Wonder Flower would give room for endless new levels and power-ups in mobile updates. The featured drill power-up could become its own farming minigame… The possibilities are infinite.

Online elements in Wonder could be transferred smoothly to mobile, maintaining timed races and more, though likely in different levels depending on the platform. As for an incentive to play on both mobile and Switch, which Nintendo already likes to encourage, it could implement connected online scores; gamers who pair the same Nintendo Account to both titles could build a shared score, where playing one game bolsters the other.

If a sister title is beyond Nintendo’s current ambitions, I’d even take a Bowser Jr. mobile spinoff! His new design is the perfect app icon if ever I saw one.

Bowser Jr. in Super Mario Bros. Wonder
Bowser Jr. in Super Mario Bros. Wonder

When asked about Mario’s future on mobile earlier this year, Nintendo stated that it does not see mobile as the "primary path" for Mario. And yet, Mario is changing. With the recent movie and Super Mario Bros. Wonder representing big shifts for the fairly fixed franchise, finally adapting to modern times and audiences should surely include an embrace of mobile?

It may not release at the same time as Wonder, and it needn’t be the series’ primary path, but a mobile side path would indeed be welcome.