I had forgotten about Mario games as of late, due to production cycles causing Nintendo to make a new Mario game only once every five or six years. I found myself not enjoying Mario games as much as I used to, but not for the typical answers older games like myself give. I don't think Mario is "teh kiddiez" or too childish for me. Mario is in the same vein as Mickey Mouse; he has appeal to everyone. Mario isn't quite the same, and it wasn't until recently that I figured out why; Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine weren't Mario games to me. I know this may come as a shock for many people, and I can see the flamers freaking out on "hating on Mario 64." Hear me out, and maybe I'll convince you too.
I have to thank the Destructoid editors for pointing this out, and thus bringing me to the eventual conclusion I was present. The original Mario games, meaning Super Mario Brothers 1, 2 (lets include the Japanese and American versions) Super Mario 3, and Super Mario World all had similar feels to them, and there was a clear evolution. The first Mario game introduced power ups like the Mushroom and Fire Flower, along with his ability to jump. The jumping trademark made Mario who he is, in the same way that when we think of Sonic the Hedgehog, we think of a character that runs fast, or Final Fantasy games, the emo protagonast (okay I kid about that last part...mostly). In the japanese release there was a minor upgrade with the introduction of poisonous mushrooms and backwards warpzones. The game was considerably harder.
The USA Super Mario 2 added the idea of getting hit more than once, and trade mark abilities that Luigi and the Princess grew to adopt in later games. While it was drastically different from any Mario game to date, it did progress the series: the idea of getting hit more than twice carried over in later games along with the removal of the time limit in the 3D games.
Now Super Mario 3 arrives with a style like the original. We have the same powerups as before like the fire flower and mushroom, Mario can jump, but he gets some nice upgrades. I'm talking of course about the suits, one of my favorite things about Super Mario 3. They added such a new dimension to the previous games that wasn't present before: a tail to fly, a frog suit to swim, a hammer suit with a fireproof shell, these were all such amazing things at the time! Super Mario World continued this trend, by introducing Yoshi and the skills he possessed depending on the color. They were all so incredible.
Then we get Super Mario 64 a few years later. Mario is in 3D, which is neither here nor there. My feelings on the move to 3D is for another day. What was strange and in a way backwards was the way powerups existed in this game; they were fleeting. They only lasted a certain amount of time and were useful only in certain specific scenarios, which made their usefulness much lower than in previous games. The introduction of the life meter also took away the motivation to get powerups as they didn't let you sustain more hits, they just added some new features. I have to give props for innovative new abilities, but the complete lack of something familiar also threw me off. Couldn't we at least have fire flowers?
Super Mario Sunshine wasn't a whole lot better in this respect (although I have always like Sunshine better than 64). FLUDD also felt like a step back and severely limited the creativity in "powerups." It was more about functionality in terms of advancing the plot then making the stages more fun. Even Yoshi was handicapped in that he would run if you ran out of juice. I wanted nothing more than to travel any stage and ride around with Yoshi until he got hit.
Now this brings me to a comment on a Destructoid podcast I heard recently. They commented on the fact that Super Mario 64 felt like an evolution but not completely like a Mario game and Mario Sunshine didn't quite feel like a Mario game, however Super Mario Galaxy DID feel like a Mario game. To be honest I hadn't been following the title because I had kind of lost faith in the Mario games in recent years (I loved the idea of New Super Mario Brothers, but felt the game was too easy). After reading up on some of the new features in Galaxy and hearing Destuctoid's comments on the game it dawned on me: I figured out what the missing piece was!
Mario is about jumping, but it isn't JUST about jumping: It's also about the powerups. The variety of powerups is what makes the Mario games so interesting! They lend themselves to a lot of creative ways to maneuver through stages and make them more fun. Since the powerups were fleeting in the previous 3D games it made them feel like something was missing (and to think all this time I thought it was because they were in 3D). This has been very enlightening for me, and made me appreciate why I like the Mario games as much as I do.
When I think Mario, I think of Super Mushrooms and Fire Flowers. Bringing the Fire Flower back is one of the best ideas Nintendo has come up with in a long time. Everything is in a 3D space now, but I feel like this could be the first true Mario game in a long time. To be honest I haven't been this exited for one of the main console Mario titles since Super Mario World. That was a long time ago kids.