A reader examines the surprise success of The Super Mario Bros. and what it means for Nintendo’s place in the video game industry.
As I write this, the Super Mario Bros. is on its way to being the greatest animated movie of all time, beating Frozen 2. I don’t know what anyone expected from the Mario movie, but I don’t think that’s it. I also don’t think people realize what this means for the future of Nintendo, because now they will have Hollywood knocking on their door, desperate to make movies based on their games.
Stop for a minute and think about what it means to be the greatest animated film. That means it’s bigger than any animated movie Disney has ever made, and Disney has been around for 100 years. But that’s nothing, Nintendo has been around for 133 years. Apparently, there’s a gray area as to whether The Lion King remake counts as live action or animation, but either way, it’s the ninth highest-grossing film of all time. Frozen is the 13th, so it’s the kind of company that The Super Mario Bros. guard.
As GC said, a Zelda movie is a given now. There’s no way that won’t happen, as well as, I’m sure, spinoffs for Donkey Kong and Mario Kart and whatever else is deemed pretty important in the Mario movie. Surely Animal Crossing has a lot of potential, and what about Metroid (ask Ridley Scott to direct!)? Or Pokemon, Fire Emblem, Splatoon, Kirby, F-Zero and Pikmin. This level of success means we’ll likely see a Chibi-Robo movie before Hollywood gives up trying.
All this success and yet… the film is not really very good. I saw it with my kids and they liked it, but the story is very simple and there are surprisingly few adult jokes. There’s a lot of fan service, but as a movie it’s not as good as I hoped and well below something like The Lego Movie, which took an idea that shouldn’t work and has woven magic.
It seems the real reason the movie was a hit isn’t because it was good but because people love Mario and his universe. They love Nintendo. Nostalgia played a big role, but the end result was that people gravitated toward a movie about an Italian-American plumber fighting a giant tortoise, even though critics said it was terrible (and they didn’t really wrong). Imagine what would happen if the movie was really good!
The success of the film has so many implications. Nintendo is going to be rolling out even more dough than usual and if they need investment for the Switch 2, they’ll get it, no problem. Businesses will line up to participate. They’ll feel encouraged to bring back older franchises, not just to make new games, but also because they might have potential for future movies. We always seem lucky to have a new Pikmin, because it never sells so well, but a movie could very well do and fully justify Pikmin 4 and beyond.
It also means we’ll be drowning in new video game adaptations for the next decade or more. Especially since superhero fashion seems to be collapsing. But I think Hollywood will find out pretty quickly that Mario and Nintendo are special and no matter how many platform mascots they sign up, they won’t have the same mainstream appeal.
Which brings me to my central point. Nintendo may have its ups and downs – because unlike Sony and Microsoft, they actually try different things in each generation – but overall they’ll still be more popular than PlayStation and Xbox. Partly it’s because of the nostalgia, yes, but it’s also the consistent quality and broad appeal of their games.
Everyone can and loves Mario and Zelda games, but the grim world of The Last Of Us and the relentless violence of Halo and Fallout aren’t for everyone. Many will compare the success of The Last Of Us TV show to the Mario movie, but it’s not the same thing at all. The Last Of Us show is really good and is based on a game that is already a linear story with minimal focus on gameplay. Mario is a not-so-good movie based on games that are all gameplay and imagination.
Sony gets it more than Microsoft I think. They know you need big-name exclusives, with likable characters, to get people hooked and having fun, but a lot of their games are single-player sad dad experiences that, although they succeed, have a glass ceiling for their size. Mario, and Nintendo in general, has no limits, and that’s why no matter what else happens in the industry, Nintendo will always be number one.
Many try to deny it, but it has always been true, but now Hollywood has proven it once and for all.
By Onibee Reader
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