As a guy who doesn’t have a Switch, I go over to a friend of mine’s every weekend to play various Switch-only games that I’ll never own. This weekend I wanted to try Super Mario Bros. 35, and ended up expending over eight hours on it. When Tetris 99 came out, it seemed like an amusing gimmicky idea, but the idea of competitive puzzle games where players send garbage blocks at each is over 30 years old at this point, so there was no real reason it wouldn’t work with 99 players. Adding a competitive garbage mechanic to Mario, however, is a much weirder idea. Playing the game, I was impressed with how much potential the idea actually has.
Essentially, the strategy of the game comes from picking what levels you go to and what enemies you kill. Every time you kill an enemy it is sent to other players. So if you kill dangerous enemies, like Lakitus or Hammer Bros., then whoever you’re targeting will have to deal with them as well, often in places that they wouldn’t be expected, making them trickier to maneuver around.
However, the two issues with this are (1) the original Super Mario Bros. doesn’t offer that much room for choices in what paths you take, and (2) the levels were all meticulously designed in the original game to have a certain amount of enemies, so once there are a crazy amount of enemies on the map, it’s often impossible to get through some situations without power-ups. Therefore the game lets you buy power-ups with coins at any time. This means that as long as you have coins, if you are decent at Mario then you’ll stay alive, taking away a lot of the tension of the game. Pretty much every match ends up coming down to time (the clock turns red and starts ticking faster after awhile).
So, if you ask me, the game needs a complete redesign – preferably so that it has nothing to do with Mario. This got me thinking of what other forms the game could take.
I quickly realized how Sega-ish the whole idea of a 35-player competitive-garbage-tossing 2D platformer is. It feels like something that could have been on the Dreamcast (probably with not quite so many players – which wouldn’t make THAT big of a difference). I am also completely certain that if Sega made this, they would actually do it right and design a whole game around this weird multiplayer mechanic. I feel like they wouldn’t even try to work one of their established franchises into it. They’d probably design a whole world and cast of characters that appear only in this game, never again to star in anything else.
I feel like there are certain qualities of Sega, or at least 90s Sega – like their willingness to spend big money on bizarre ideas and weird technology, and their deep understanding of arcadey action (compared to Nintendo) – that make them particularly adept at making certain kinds of games. Super Mario Bros. 35, to me, definitely feels like a game Sega should have made. With how distinctive yet encompassing Sega’s general game design aesthetic is, there must be a lot of other games that feel like they should have been made by Sega. Can you think of any?