How Super Mario is a Great Crash Course for Games

October 24th, 2009


Now to conclude my three part series on Super Paper Mario. There’s actually been a nice progression between articles, so do allow me to once again regurgitate:

How Super Paper Mario Doesn’t Feel Like Work

Super Paper Mario is about utilizing a palette of game modes to reach a certain means. Each of these “modes” is minimalist and presented in a structured way which doesn’t make the game as a whole feel like arduous on the player.

How Super Paper Mario Feels Gamey

Each of these “modes” are influenced by styles and genres from other games, this makes Super Paper Mario feel very game-y. That is, you’re managing a series of gameplay styles derived from other games to win the game of Super Paper Mario, giving Super Paper Mario an inherently game-y vibe to it.

And this time: How Super Mario is a Great Crash Course for Games

This argument will be very short and simple this time as much of my previous discussion has already borderlined on this argument. Super Paper Mario is a fabulous hybrid of different styles taken from different genres of plays. To complete the game, the player must form a mastery of these different styles and co-ordinate them together to solve the fundamental challenges that the game presents. This entails that the player have a thorough understanding of the workings of each play style and what separates them apart, so that they can match them together in a way that smooths the bumps between them. In terms of the theory it teaches, Super Paper Mario acquaints the player with the basics of popular game genre, particularly from traditional games such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda and games of the Metroidvania genre. In which case, Super Paper Mario is an ideal crash course on the basics of video games.

In doesn’t just end there though. The lore of the game itself is also very important, and Mario’s universe is one of the industry’s richest and longest-standing. The villagers of Flipside and Flopside (the game’s central hubs) aren’t your typical Nintendo characters though, which, in some respects pokes holes in this argument. Much the same to the antagonists which are all new to the series in this iteration of the sub-franchise.

One last point: The game’s fantastic writing draws a great deal of influence from not just the world of Mario but also from other Nintendo properties and the wider nerd and gamer culture as well. Their integration is often very subtle, but very clever as well. You can find a list of such references here under Similarities and References to Other Games. Furthermore the video below provides a classic example of the cultural integration of video games into the writing and dialogue. It’s a spoof off of Japanese dating sims, by the way:

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I guess what I’m trying to say through all this is to get your kids onto Super Paper Mario as it’d be a good way to jump start their interest in the medium.