Mario’s newfound immortality looks to shake up the function of one in-game item in a huge way.
Despite being one of the longest-running series in video game history, the Super Mario franchise has never been afraid of innovating. That mixture of familiar and fresh looks likely to continue in Mario’s newest adventure, the upcoming Super Mario Odyssey for the Nintendo Switch.
For starters, there’s a brand-new gameplay mechanic that allows Mario to take on the form on enemies and acquire their powers by tossing his hat onto them. In addition, the lyrics of the theme song heard in the game’s trailer promise “Here we go, off the rails” and “It’s freedom like you never knew,” hinting at sandbox environments and exploration, which Nintendo did to soaring success in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
▼ Trailer for Super Mario Odyssey
But Nintendo isn’t just adding new things for the next Mario. It’s also taking away something old, as it’s announced that no matter what happens in Super Mario Odyssey, you’ll never get a game over.
マリオの体力が0になったり、奈落に落ちると、持っているコインが10枚減ってしまいます。ただし…！いくらミスしてもGAME OVERはありません。 https://t.co/6oEia6LcVr—
スーパーマリオ オデッセイ (@mario_odysseyJP) July 04, 2017
In a GIF-accompanied message from the game’s official Twitter account, the developers say:
“If Mario’s health drops to zero, or if he falls down a bottomless pit, you’ll lose 10 of your coins. But…! No matter how many times you’ll mess up, there’s never a game over.”
Sure enough, the GIF shows Mario running right into a jumbo-sized Spiney, whose sharp spikes cause ten golden coins to burst out of Mario in a manner evocative of old rival Sonic the Hedgehog. The screen goes black and coin counter pops up before the displayed number drops from 315 to 305.
The removal of game over condition could have significant implications on how the game progresses and players’ objectives. Traditionally, Mario levels are scattered with coins to collect, because getting 100 of them grants you an extra life. The 10-coin penalty for running out of health or falling almost seems like it’s just a currency revaluation (one life is now worth 10 coins instead of 100), but the fact that there’s no game over makes the entire concept of lives somewhat pointless, which in turn seems like it would make the task of looking for 1-ups, a staple of the Super Mario series since the very beginning, equally meaningless.
And yet coins are, quite clearly, present in abundance in Super Mario Odyssey. So what do they do now? The fact that you lose them for playing poorly, but don’t need them to continue playing, suggests that instead of granting extra lives coins now serve some other purpose to incentivize skillful play.
Doing away with game overs is a bold move, but it might also end up being an ingenious one. Outright difficulty hasn’t been a selling point of the Super Mario games for a long time, as the series is now much more about reasonable yet casually enjoyable challenges. Checkpoints, save points, and plentiful 1-ups have made running out of lives a far less likely scenario for Mario players in the modern era. At the same time, some long-time fans have been honing their <em>Mario</em> skills for over 30 years. Removing the toothless threat of a game over, and instead providing some sort of reward for avoiding mistakes instead is a fascinating way to please both newcomers and veterans alike, and is definitely an idea that’s crazy enough to work.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he still says Super Mario World is the finest pack-in game ever.