Where the Familiar and the Unfamiliar Meet

The original Wii U release of had eluded me during a nomadic time in my life; and so I finally got an opportunity to experience it for the very first time when it recently came to the Switch. At last I was able to close what had felt like a glaring gap in the series that had been my personal entry point into the world of videogames many years ago. Prior to this playthrough I only had a few fairly vague ideas regarding what to expect: While I did know about the versatile cat suit and the existence of a Bowser theme park for example, everything that would happen in the sizeable post-game was completely new to me. Eight years after its initial release I was thus still fortunate enough to begin this journey without too many preconceptions.

Very quickly I realized that I had once again come across something truly special. Every new stage felt unique and was filled to the brim with charming details and vivid colors, displaying an extraordinary degree of creativity and playfulness. The experience never felt stale or predictable; and in a series that has run for over three decades now, this undeniable willingness to keep embracing change and explore new ways for a rotund plumber and his zany friends to gallivant around all kinds of quirky locales never fails to win my admiration.

And yet, what feels most remarkable about to me is how plausible of a link it represents between the Mario games until the Wii era and which followed several years after. At the same time it provides a logical progression to what had come before and a crucial stepping stone on the path toward what was yet to come. Looking back at it from a distance now shows well just how beautifully it all dovetails.

This is also what I believe to be one of the most important reasons for why every new Mario game I play captivates me anew: The effortless interplay between an indomitable wish to move forward and an acute awareness of Mario’s past. It is this rare ability to create engaging experiences from what is ultimately a fairly simple formula while adding new elements with each iteration that allow the series to keep evolving — be they innovative mechanics or adorable details. The outcome is a batch of adventures that avoids blind nostalgia and makes for a cohesive whole, whose entries are simultaneously recognizable to those who have played at least one Mario game before replete with genuinely new twists and turns. Newly arranged familiar components and components that are altogether new are skillfully juxtaposed and, as a result, the familiar and the as of yet unfamiliar never feel antagonistic. Instead, it all simply works!

At least it clearly does in the case of . And it makes me look forward to whatever antics will be added next to Mario’s ever-growing list of wacky exploits.

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Markichin

A collection of short personal pieces on videogames and the culture that surrounds them. Marki’s stream on Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/markichin