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Platforming Mario Games are Surprisingly Innovative

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We've all heard someone say this before: "All platforming Mario games are basically the same thing." I mean, our heroic plumber always seems to be saving Princess Peach (except she's always 'in another castle'), there's always a platform to jump on here and there and we seem to be squishing Goombas, Koopas or some other baddy in nearly every game. It's easy to make blanket statements and lump all the games together and pretend like they're all the same thing over and over again. But…. are they?

I mean, not counting ports and direct sequels, my experience with Mario games is that they tend to be some of the most innovative experiences there are. Quite the opposite from being the same thing, it's almost like no 2 games are exactly alike! (Not to mention that our friend in a red hat has been in way more than just platforming games. Though I know that much can be said about the RPG and various other types of Mario games that we all know and love, I'd like to restrict this discussion to the Super Mario Bros. series and the 3D adventure series.)

Right from the start, though not the very first 2D side-scroller ever invented, Super Mario Bros. certainly has become the pioneering archetype for the genre, they practically invented 2D side-scrolling as we understand it today.

It's well recognized in the gaming community that Super Mario 64 and Zelda truly invented standards still found in the 3D games today. ( In 2012, Dan Houser, a prominent figure in the development of the Grand Theft Auto series, stated, "Anyone who makes 3D games who says they've not borrowed something from Mario or Zelda is lying." – Wikipedia). Then, after inventing these standards, Super Mario Sunshine proved that Nintendo still wanted to experiment with creative ideas using FLUDD.

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Then we get to Super Mario Galaxy….. and all of us can agree that this was a BOLD new move in the series. The very concepts of 3D platforming are physically pushed to previously un-explored limits. Yes, literally the physics of platforming was re-invented and explored in fascinating new ways.

Even the Super Mario 3D world has innovation, consider the clear pipes, twisting piranha plant vines, and trying to incorporate a 4 player simultaneous Mario experience in a seamless package, to name a few things.

Though the 'stories' in our platforming Mario adventures tend to be a bit more on the "same thing every time" side, I find that by almost all other metrics: physics, game mechanics, music, artistry, utilization of controller capabilities, different power ups, etc… While still keeping true to the 'Mario feel', it seems that the platforming games still tend to be pretty dang innovative, in many respects.

I'd actually like to hear how many of you think that Mario platforming games are innovative. I've certainly not covered everything here. What do you all think? Do you agree, or disagree? I'm happy to hear all sides.

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