A reader examines the shocking 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. Movie on its way to becoming the greatest animated film of all time and beating Frozen 2. After Pokémon: Detective Pikachu was just a mediocre hit that didn’t get a sequel, I’m not sure what anyone expected from the Mario movie, but I don’t think it was. I also don’t think people realize what this will mean for Nintendo’s future, as Hollywood will now be knocking on their door, desperate for movies based on their games.
Just stop for a second and think about what it means to be the greatest animated movie. 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 bit of a gray area about whether the remake of The Lion King counts as live action or animated, but either way, it’s the ninth highest-grossing movie of all time . Frozen is the 13th, so that’s the kind of company The Super Mario Bros.
As GC said, a Zelda movie is now a given. There’s no way it won’t happen, as well as, I’m sure, spin-offs to Donkey Kong and Mario Kart and anything else deemed big enough from the Mario movie. Animal Crossing certainly has a lot of potential, and what about Metroid (ask Ridley Scott to direct!)? Or Pokémon, Fire Emblem, Splatoon, Kirby, F-Zero and Pikmin. This level of success means we’ll probably see a Chibi-Robo movie before Hollywood gives up on it.
All that success and yet… the film is not really very good. I watched it with my kids and they liked it, but the story is very bare bones and there are surprisingly few adult jokes. There’s a lot of fan service, but as a movie it’s nowhere near as good as I’d hoped and well below something like The Lego Movie, which had an idea that shouldn’t work and wove magic.
It seems the real reason the movie was a success isn’t because it was good, but because people love Mario and his universe. They like Nintendo. Nostalgia played a big role, but the end result is that people came to see a movie about an Italian-American plumber fighting a giant turtle, even though the reviews said it was terrible (and they weren’t really wrong). Imagine what would happen if the movie was really good!
The film’s success has so many implications. Nintendo is going to roll even more dough than usual and if they need investment for the Switch 2, they’ll get it, no problem. Businesses are lining up to get involved. They will feel encouraged to bring back older franchises not only to create new games, but also because they have potential for future movies. We always seem to get lucky with a new Pikmin, because it never sells that well, but a movie could do a great job 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 now that the superhero craze seems to be fading away. 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’re not going to have the same appeal to the general public.
Which brings me to my central point. Nintendo may have its ups and downs – because unlike Sony and Microsoft they try different things every generation – but overall they will always be more popular than PlayStation and Xbox. That’s partly down to nostalgia, yes, but it’s also the consistent quality and broad appeal of their games.
Everyone can and will enjoy Mario and Zelda games, but the gritty world of The Last Of Us and the non-stop violence of Halo and Fallout are not for everyone. Many will compare the success of The Last Of Us TV show to the Mario movie, but it’s not the same at all. The Last Of Us show is really good and is based on a game that is already a linear story with minimal emphasis on gameplay. Mario is a not very good movie based on games that are nothing but gameplay and imagination.
Sony gets it better than Microsoft, I think. They know you need exclusive games from a big name, with likeable characters, that people can bond with and enjoy, but so many of their games are single-player experiences with sad dads who, while successful, have a glass ceiling have for how big they can be. Mario, and Nintendo in general, knows no boundaries and that’s why no matter what happens in the industry, Nintendo will always be number one.
Many try to deny it, but always have been, but now Hollywood has proven it once and for all.
By reader Onibee
The reader post does not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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