The One-off games
Or "Why Mario Bowling isn't Such a Bad Idea"
As long ago as Pinball, and as recently as Mario Tennis, Mario has been thrown into games that many would argue he has no right to be in. "If Mario is a plumber from Brooklyn, why is he racing against a giant turtle in a go-kart?" they would ask angrily. "Keep Mario in platform games" they say, to which I say "Be quiet!" Mario belongs in all these one-off games, and adds quite a bit of value to them, as I will show in this rant.
First off, do not try to justify the one-off games in the Mario storyline. You will almost definitely end up sounding like an idiot. Trying to explain why Mario and Baby Mario are both in Mario Golf or guessing when Mario Party takes place will just discredit you. Consider these games in seperate bubbles from each other and from the main Mario games. You can't put them together easily without popping at least one, so don't try. With that said, there are a few major reasons why Mario belongs in these types of games.
Most importantly, putting Mario in adds a wide range of easily recognizable characters, items and locations to the game. Everyone knows that stars make you invincible and that jumping in a pipe warps you around, so these can be put into the game with little to no explanation of their function. The Mario universe has characters of almost every shape, gender, and species, as well as personality type, so whatever type of player you want, you can fit it into the game too.
Secondly, Mario gives a game credibility. As any marketing executive will tell you, if you want a game to succeed, you need something to make it stand out. A really great game could just sit on the shelves unless something makes it seem attractive to the customer. Mario is often that something. When a kid sees Mario on a games packaging and advertisments, they're instantly gonna be interested. This helps to explain why Mario Golf did so much better than Hot Shots Golf, despite the fact that they are almost exactly the same game. Having Mario in the game also means Nintendo, and probably Miyamato, have a hand in the development, which just helps to instill confidence in the consumer.
Third, Mario characters are just likable. Often games are fun to play technically, but the characters are just so hollow and boring, you end up not wanting to play it (Final Fantasy VIII comes to mind). With Mario characters, you automatically have likable characters with likable character flaws like meekness (Luigi), greed (Wario), and an obvious chemical imbalance (Yoshi). It may not seem important, but likable characters help make a likable game.
As I've shown, Mario actually enhances a game in many ways just through his inclusion. For these reasons, I will always love Mario's one-off games. Well... at least until "Mario Figure Skating" comes out.
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