The Next 3D Mario Should Be A Legit Open World Game

The Bowser’s Fury reveal surprised a lot of people last week with its sandbox level design. Unlike the fixed camera position and linear stages of Super Mario 3D World, Bowser’s Fury uses a 3rd-person camera and open world where Mario can freely explore and complete challenges in seemingly any order. The island of Lake Lapcat, where Bowser’s Fury takes place, looks like an extra-large Kingdom from Super Mario Odyssey that uses the items from Super Mario 3D World. As much as I love Super Mario Odyssey, isn’t it time for Mario’s first truly open-world adventure?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to fundamentally change the 3D Mario format. I’m not interested in Mario becoming some kind of 200 hour Ubisoft open-world epic where Mario has to climb to the top of vantage points to discover all the side quests on the map. I’m not looking for a “big map” game at all, but I think there’s a Breath of the Wild-type argument to be made for big open-world Mario.

Related: Nintendo UK Reveals Further Details On Bowser’s Fury Plot In Super Mario 3D World

If I had to identify the 3D Mario secret ingredients — the aspects that make 3D Mario games like Super Mario Odyssey so special — it would have to be the wide variety of tight platforming and excitement of exploration and discovery. Odyssey is basically just 14 scavenger hunts to find the 880 Power Moons hidden throughout each world. There’s no progression at all, Mario doesn’t get stronger, and the only things to unlock are cosmetic items. The only thing that meaningfully changes from one stage to the next is the level design. I find these to be essential components to 3D Mario, and I think a truly open-world adventure would only emphasize what makes 3D Mario so great.

Here comes the pitch: imagine a sprawling Mushroom Kingdom with Peach’s Castle at the center and a full-scale Toad Town below it. Beyond Toad Town lies the Forest of Illusion from Super Mario World. As you continue to explore the Mushroom Kingdom you’ll discover all of the famous world and locations from throughout Super Mario history, such as Rose Town from Super Mario RPG, Freezeflame Volcano from New Super Mario Bros., and yes, Yoshi’s Island.

Using a Breath of the Wild-esque approach, an open-world Mario game would establish the geography of the Mushroom Kingdom in a way that would be extraordinarily gratifying for lifelong Mario fans. And like Breath of the Wild, completion could be self-motivated by the player.

In Super Mario Odyssey, you need to collect 124 of the 880 Power Moons to finish the game. There’s really no incentive to collect the other 756 Moons beyond the simple pleasure of discovery. An open-world Mario could work much the same way. Instead of moving from World to World linearly, suppose you could explore any number of biomes throughout the Mushroom Kingdom in any order. You would ultimately need to collect a certain number of Moons (or comets?)  to enter Bowser’s Castle and finish the game, but whether you find them all in one zone or a few from every zone would be totally up to you.

I think the 3D Mario series has been working its way up to an open-world game from the very beginning. The series has only improved as the stages have gotten bigger over the years, so it stands to reason that a completely open-world game would be the best one yet.

Next: Nintendo Reveals Second Player Can Control Bowser Jr. In Bowser’s Fury, More Details Confirmed

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Eric Switzer is the Livestream News Editor for TheGamer as well as the lead for VR and Tech. He has written about comics and film for Bloody Disgusting and VFXwire. He is a graduate of University of Missouri – Columbia and Vancouver Film School. Eric loves board games, fan conventions, new technology, and his sweet sweet kitties Bruce and Babs. Favorite games include Destiny 2, Kingdom Hearts, Super Metroid, and Prey…but mostly Prey. His favorite Pokémon is Umbreon.

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