One of the greatest strengths of the Super Mario brand is its ability to adapt to new game types. Mario and friends have explored all kinds of genres aside from platforming, producing a plethora of beloved spinoff franchises, from Mario Sports to Mario Party to Mario Kart. Mario has even dabbled in RPGs in a few different franchises: Paper Mario and the Mario and Luigi series of games. While Paper Mario has shed many of its RPG elements, the Mario and Luigi games stuck to turn-based combat and a leveling system that set it apart. Unfortunately, the franchise's main developer shut down in 2019, leading many to believe that Mario and Luigi won't get any more entries.
There's still hope for the series, though, especially since Nintendo trademarked Mario and Luigi again in 2020. It's simply a matter of finding a developer and getting the right concept for a game together. Nintendo might be wise to return to Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, the third entry in the franchise and one of the most beloved entries to date. Bowser's Inside Story takes a unique perspective on Mario and Luigi's historic nemesis that Nintendo and another developer could repurpose in a brand new game, rather than simply remaking Bowser's tale.
Mario and Luigi's Fall From Grace
Mario and Luigi was once a very influential franchise for Nintendo, selling tons of copies and supplying Nintendo's handheld consoles with solid games. The first three Mario and Luigi titles were all beloved by critics and fans, establishing another potentially long-lived Super Mario spinoff series. Unfortunately, the series declined in popularity in the late 2010s while AlphaDream started focusing on remakes of previous Mario and Luigi games instead of new entries, even though the franchise wasn't really old enough to justify leaning on remakes. After the Bowser's Inside Story expanded remake Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey sold poorly, AlphaDream declared bankruptcy.
However, many fans suspect that the Bowser's Inside Story remake didn't sell poorly because it was bad; on the contrary, critics were fairly positive about it. Instead, many blame AlphaDream's broader reliance on quick, easy remakes instead of wholly new games for both the studio and the franchise's downfall. What's more, the Bowser's Inside Story remake's platform may bear some blame. The original game released for the Nintendo DS, but the remake came to the Nintendo 3DS in its final days of relevance. It was definitely a confusing move to put the remake on the 3DS, even though it had the backward compatibility necessary to play Bowser's Inside Story already.
All of this leads to one important fact: Mario and Luigi as a franchise didn't let Nintendo down. Reception of the Mario and Luigi games before the Bowser's Inside Story and Superstar Saga remakes was still positive. In other words, Nintendo can still return to this Super Mario spinoff and give it another chance. A fresh start on the Nintendo Switch might be just what Mario and Luigi needs. What's more, the direction for the franchise's return looks clear. Mario and Luigi should get a new game based on Bowser's Inside Story, rather than a remake.
Imagining a New Mario and Luigi Game
If AlphaDream was going to remake any Mario and Luigi game alongside Superstar Saga, it was right to choose Bowser's Inside Story. Critics loved the game's charming writing, changes to combat, and use of Bowser as a protagonist instead of an antagonist. That's why Nintendo should imitate Bowser's Inside Story in the next Mario and Luigi title. There's a lot of strong broad concepts in Bowser's Inside Story that could help get the subseries back on its feet.
The chief among those concepts is the use of Bowser as a playable character. Although he doesn't realize it, Bowser cooperates with Mario and Luigi throughout the entire game as they help Bowser fight off the scheming Fawful from inside their nemesis. It'd be great to see another game where Bowser teams up with Mario and Luigi to stop some greater threat; maybe Bowser is aware of their teamwork this time, and fight directly alongside Mario and Luigi instead of unwittingly cooperating. Seeing these three characters butt heads and face threats to the Mushroom Kingdom together sounds like a fun way to take Mario and Luigi back to its roots.
Rebooting Mario and Luigi would also be a great opportunity to innovate on the franchise's mechanics, just like Bowser's Inside Story did by its changes to the special attack system. The games that came after Bowser's Inside Story received some criticism for excessive tutorials and low innovation, so Nintendo would be wise to rework combat, leveling, and so on if it brings back this Mario RPG series. Mario and Luigi fell by the wayside in part because it got mired in its past; Nintendo ought to look to the franchise's future and search for new potential by forging a team out of Mario, Luigi, and Bowser.
A New Generation of Mario Spinoffs
Nintendo's recent enthusiasm about Super Mario's spinoff franchises might bode well for Mario and Luigi. Fans thought that Mario Sports games were largely done for until Mario Golf: Super Rush came forward, introducing new mechanics and characters to the series while reigniting interest in the sports spinoff series. Similarly, Nintendo's Super Mario Party and Mario Party Superstars take new approaches to the Mario Party series, and fans have responded positively so far. Hopefully, Nintendo takes that positive response as assurance that it can get Mario and Luigi to work again too.
Super Mario fans certainly wouldn't complain about getting a new Mario RPG of some kind. Paper Mario's divergence from its RPG roots remains a sticking point for the series; many critics asked questions about Paper Mario: The Origami King's limited use of RPG mechanics and whether or not the franchise should revive traditional turn-based combat. If there's no clear sign that Paper Mario will resume being an RPG, then Mario and Luigi has a great potential playerbase among Nintendo fans longing for a Super Mario RPG. Mario and Luigi may have faltered, but it shouldn't lay down and die. Nintendo can still keep the franchise moving by taking inspiration from one of its strongest entries.
Super Princess Peach, one of the best-selling Nintendo DS titles and the second game to feature Peach as a protagonist, deserves a Switch remaster.