Is Mobile Mario Enough to Save Nintendo?

The change has been happening for some time, but soon we might see an even more radical shift in how we think of portable gaming. Mobile games for smartphones became the standard for most people years ago, but there has been one holdout that hadn’t yet taken the plunge.

Nintendo, once commanders of the mobile market through the original Game Boy and now the 3DS is finally developing games for mobile devices, and the move comes not a moment too soon.


Nintendo Embraces Mobile Gaming At Last

Nintendo announced last year that it was developing five different mobile titles to be released before March 2017. That amount was recently amended to four, but things are still looking positive.

The Wii U, while a great system in its own right, failed to meet sales projections and lags significantly behind both the PS4 and Xbox One. The mobile market presents an important opportunity to make back some of that lost money for the company and Nintendo isn’t take that for granted.

The company already introduced the first of the four games in March with Miitomo. Ir served as a more of a social media interaction app as opposed to an actual game and that was reflected in its performance.

The initial response was enormous on the name of Nintendo alone with a reported 10 million users, but the app failed to retain those customers. This could be attributed to a lack of any substantial gameplay that would have been able to entice users to stick around.

Mario Marks the Move of a Major Franchise

Thankfully, the second game in the line-up is looking far more promising for fans of Nintendo. Super Mario Run is a side-scrolling, auto-runner game where players tap the screen to make Mario collect coins and jump on enemies, over gaps, or up onto platforms.

So really, the gameplay is remarkably similar to the traditional Super Mario games of old. The game is already expected to be a huge success for Nintendo and early footage is making Mario maniacs more than a little bit excited.


A major focus in the marketing has been the ease of use, particularly the ability to play with one-hand. To demonstrate this, gaming legend Shigeru Miyamoto played the game while eating a hamburger, and that’s just one of the many ways gamers will be able to multitask with Mario.

Having a game with a recognizable character should go a long way to attracting players and the fun, simple gameplay will likely keep them playing for a long time.

The application of Mario specifically is exciting for gamers for a number of reasons. Not least among these is the nostalgia factor. Mario is arguably the most iconic gaming mascot of all time and has a level of popular recognition that is practically unmatched.

Virtually everyone has fond memories of the classic Mario games and the early looks at this title are reminiscent enough of the gameplay from the NES and SNES that it will likely appeal to older fans while also helping to create an entirely new audience.

Furthermore, the game looks to be an innovative take on an established mobile gaming genre. We’ve seen the auto-run gameplay done before to great effect with games such as Temple Run but the transition to a side-scrolling platformer is particularly exciting.

The action looks so natural adapted to a traditional Mario level that it’s honestly surprising that it hasn’t been done before. By combining familiar characters with conventional mobile gameplay the title should be able to appeal to a wide audience, which is exactly what Nintendo needs to happen.

Mobile is Essential to Developer Success

In today’s environment, having a strong mobile presence is vital to the health of pretty much every game publisher. Whether it’s a small indie developer or a giant like Square Enix, the multi-billion dollar market is simply far too large to be ignored.

Everything from sweeping, multi-hour epics like Final Fantasy to small-screen spins on popular pastimes have been adapted for mobile devices, and it’s not hard to see why. Mobile devices provide a level of user engagement that can exist at any time and any place making portable play a must-have for any and all kinds of games.


This is evidenced through a variety of browser-based bingo games that allow players bring the bingo parlor home. These games are typically extensions of real-life gaming parlors that have been optimized to allow players to also bring the experience on the go. Similar treatments have been done card games, sports, and game shows in addition to major franchises like Uncharted and Deus Ex. Really, virtually any game that would have once required you to go to an arcade, a television or a specific location to play boasts a quick and convenient mobile version.

Mobile gaming is all about fun and convenience. Without the requirement of being tethered to a console or computer, developers can appeal to many more fans. Nintendo wasn’t the first major game publisher to go after the mobile market, and you can bet that they definitely won’t be the last.

While mobile will never replace the experience of gaming on a home console, the wide-reaching drawing power of the device makes it one gaming system that just about everyone already has and is sure to play.

Super Mario Run is expected to launch on IOS in December with a release for Android to follow sometime in 2017. The game will ultimately be followed by mobile adaptations of both the Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing franchises. Super Mario Run could be a make or break moment for Nintendo as well as major publishers creating original mobile games as a whole.

If Mario is the success that everyone is assuming it will be its influence could be enormous. Who’s to say that Sonic the Hedgehog wouldn’t be next?

Kyle Ridgway is a freelancer writer based in Seattle focusing on video games, comics, and most everything nerd. He has a deep-seated passion for retro games and firmly believes that the Super Nintendo was the greatest console of all time. When he’s not begging his cat to push things off the table he’s spending far too much money on new records.

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