Super Mario games are meant to be fun, exciting, and joyful, and many players would likely claim the franchise has brought them some level of happiness. However, some Mario games carry a feeling of loneliness, which can be unsettling if players spend too much time in one area.
Nintendo’s many 3D Mario games are some of the best platformers on the market, and their replayability is a testament to how well they are designed. Super Mario 64 was the first 3D Super Mario title, and although it was released in 1996, it’s still played and adored by many gamers today. Since then, Mario has been on vacation, in outer space, and across the globe, but only a couple of these games haven’t left him alone in their worlds.
The best parts of any Super Mario game are the beautiful worlds players get to explore, but they are far too often devoid of life. Super Mario 64 is the perfect example of this, as even Peach’s Castle is sparsely populated by Toads. With the exception of Bomb-omb Battlefield, the only living creatures Mario encounters are Bowser’s minions. The more time players spend in levels like Jolly Roger Bay, Cool Cool Mountain, and Big Boo’s Haunt, the more they will start to realize how abandoned these places seem. If the Mushroom Kingdom claims to have such a bustling population, why does everywhere Mario visits feel so lonely?
Super Mario Odyssey, on the other hand, shows how a Super Mario game can fill its worlds with fun and exciting life forms that expel that lonely feeling. Even though each kingdom Mario visits is under siege from Bowser’s wedding planners, they are still bubbling with native species. Even in a place like Cap Kingdom, smoking from the toll Bowser’s fleet has taken on it, the inhabitants have stuck around to keep Mario company. These inhabitants also make Mario Odyssey‘s kingdoms feel like real places where people actually live rather than set pieces made just for Mario.
Not every Super Mario Odyssey kingdom has a native species, but the empty kingdoms are few and far between. In other Super Mario titles, the reverse is true. Every few galaxies in Super Mario Galaxy, Mario runs into some penguin people, but the majority of places he visits are as empty as the vastness of space. This makes the few levels with inhabitants a refuge from the feeling of loneliness all the other galaxies impose, whereas the empty kingdoms of Mario Odyssey don’t last long enough for that lonely feeling to creep back in. Of course, players can easily blow through most Mario game stages and never feel that sensation in the first place, but those who stop to admire the beauty of their surroundings may wish they had someone by their side to share those moments with.
Super Mario Odyssey isn’t the only Super Mario game to implement a way to avoid loneliness. Super Mario Sunshine is another great example of how Nintendo used people to make levels feel more alive. Even these games’ brief NPC interactions are what every Mario game needs. Bowser’s Fury may offer the largest explorable area in a Mario game to date, but it still feels like a group of deserted islands due to its lack of people.