Mario is a difficult character to love. It’s a deliberately generic shepherd, and while that works in games like Half-Life when we’re encouraged to see the hero’s eyes, Mario is pretty boring compared to not just the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom, but other platform mascots like Sonic, Crush, and Spyro. It’s hard to love him, perhaps, but it’s easy to love him. Everyone loves Mario enough. That’s why, although not very popular on its own, it is able to carry not only the world’s most beloved platform series, but also the much loved party series and kart racer. Add in his forays into golf, soccer, baseball, tennis, basketball, and the entire Olympic Games, not to mention games like Mario Maker, and you’ll see how much Mario has expanded himself. But whatever match he’s in, he’s always just a guy. Luigi’s Mansion is a more interesting use of the Mario lore, and we need more games like him.
Mario Tennis is just a tennis game. The characters don’t need to be Mario and Peach, they can be Steve and Brenda and nothing will change. Some of the side characters have more character, but even then, it’s just one metaphor that’s made pretty loud. We don’t keep playing Mario Kart and Mario Party because of the Mushroom Kingdom gang, but because the core gameplay is very good. It’s the same reason that even Princess Daisy couldn’t get me back in Mario Strikers: Battle League – the game underneath wasn’t all that good.
This is why Luigi’s Mansion is such an interesting concept. Most of the games with the Mario outfit set are pretty basic (if very good) once you remove the aesthetics. golf sim. tennis sim. Who can shake that soda can faster? That whole deal. Luigi’s Palace though is a much more engaging experience. It has dialogue beyond a few phrases, real plot, character growth, and brings his own ideas to the table while still using iconic Mario icons. It’s very hard to get Mario-ness out of a game like Luigi’s Mansion because the game was created with these characters and their characters. The third game in particular has been wildly underrated and rarely talked about among the best games on the Switch, but apart from the giant Breath of the Wild, it’s as good as any of them.
Luigi’s Mansion is a great Halloween game because there is absolutely nothing scary about it. It contains spooky ghosts and spooks, but no one will be afraid of it which makes it the perfect entry game for Halloween. At first, I was going to explain this issue in much more depth, but I realized that it wasn’t just an original idea. However, it put Luigi’s mansion on my mind, and I realized how it could serve as a blueprint moving forward. We’re still on our way to getting major Mario games with all the following Odyssey, as well as kart and tennis games, but why can’t we get more like that?
Peach and Daisy had one-off adventures, but they were boring versions of Super Mario Bros. without a soul Why can’t Daisy lead her own game, which is very different from Mario’s platformer in the way that Luigi’s mansion is? Why do we need to wait for her to hit the tennis court afterwards to see her thrive? These sports show that there is a market for Mario titles beyond expectations, but Luigi’s Mansion is the only one who ever wants to challenge those expectations.
Daisy has always appealed to me with her booming voice and competitive arrogance, managing to bring out more character than Princess Peach and the girl model she is. But then even Peach came out of her shackles in Odyssey to be a much stronger character in her own right, so there’s clearly a desire to develop in Nintendo. Unfortunately, Mario’s basic formula means that most of the characters are pushed to the side. Luigi’s mansion offers spotlight, and more characters need their chance.
This Halloween, you might settle in for some animated adventures at Luigi’s Mansion. As you play, just think about how much the game uses its characters more creatively than the usual Mario adventures, and how cool it would be for your favorite Mario character to have a game of their own. I can guarantee it’s not Mario, and he already has a billion. Give Daisy the spotlight already.
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