Skip to main content

Paper Mario proves that 2020 is Nintendo’s year

All eyes are on Sony and Microsoft’s much-anticipated consoles, but Nintendo is the bigger winner of 2020. The announcement of Paper Mario: The Origami King just solidified that.

Nintendo is already well-poised, despite the coronavirus leaving the gaming industry — and the rest of the world — in turmoil. Its flagship Switch is currently the best-selling console. That’s unsurprising given the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are now long in the tooth. The Switch, now accompanied by the handheld-only Switch Lite, is among the best selling consoles in history, with nearly 56 million units sold as of March 2020.

Recently, Animal Crossing: New Horizons gave the Switch yet another massive hit. The two-decades-old franchise achieved success never seen with its previous titles and became the fastest-selling game on the Switch. As a first-party IP and an exclusive, it’s a two-fold boost for Nintendo.

Some of Nintendo’s other games, notably Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Super Mario Maker 2, are winding down, and will no longer provide updates. This leaves room for newer games like Animal Crossing and the upcoming Paper Mario, which goes on sale July 17, to take the spotlight.

Paper Mario takes center stage

Paper Mario is the latest addition to Nintendo’s lineup of 2020 releases. It might not be noteworthy in another year. But in a barren period for gaming, Nintendo’s slate stands out with indie titles, New Horizons updates, DLC for Pokémon: Sword and Shield, the remaster of Xenoblade Chronicles, and other ports.

More notable than what Nintendo has coming out, however, is how it’s announcing that news. Nintendo’s now well-known Directs already streamlined the game reveal. For most of the last 10 years, Nintendo has staged these pre-recorded videos highlighting upcoming games, DLC, consoles, and accessories.

Nintendo is free to focus on what actually matters: Making games people love.

It ushered in an era of worldwide simulcasts that lets gamers see the news directly and react at once. Nintendo eventually adopted this model for the massive E3 gaming convention, and others have tried emulating the model. Sony started hosting a series of “State of Play” presentations for smaller titles.

Still, Sony and Microsoft mostly cling to grand in-person presentations. Microsoft, for example, unabashedly leaned heavily on E3 2020 for a Series X heavy showcase (before the event was canceled). Now, it and other gaming companies are scrambling to adapt to an online-only world where Nintendo already shines.

Yet, for Paper Mario, Nintendo ditched the Direct entirely. It’s a strategy the Japanese game company has used periodically, but it remains a smart one nonetheless. This straightforward approach leaves Nintendo free to focus on what actually matters: Making games people love.

Games are just as important as consoles

That goal is a central tenet with Paper Mario. Nintendo of America President Doug Bowser has expressed his yearning to create a stable of games that can reach every kind of gamer or every age.

Paper Mario is a family-friendly game that seems to promise a strong replayability factor. This is nothing new for Nintendo, which is far more likely to offer family-friendly games than its console and PC counterparts. This is a serious advantage right now. Kids are stuck at home while school is out.

Nintendo Switch
Photo by Matteo Grobberio on Unsplash

This leaves Nintendo in an excellent position without breaking a model that worked well for it. It’s relying on its successful IP, Mario, which makes the game a sure bet.

Nintendo continues riding the Animal Crossing wave while Sony and Microsoft prepare to release high-end, next-gen consoles amid one of the worst economic downturns in U.S. history. Both Microsoft and Sony have confirmed that the Series X and PS5 should still ship on their expected holiday 2020 timeline. In terms of exclusive IP, however, that largely remains a mystery mere months ahead of release, with the major exception of Halo Infinite.

Meanwhile, the Switch sports a $300 price tag, and the Switch Lite is downright affordable at $200. For those still in the market for a console, the Switch is a much better option than a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X that might cost upwards of double that amount. The Switch also already offers a substantial library, easily accessed through its eShop.

What better hype could Nintendo ask for than a surprise Paper Mario announcement that left gamers buzzing without the flash and pomp of a formal video pitch to be picked apart by its own fans?

Editors' Recommendations

Lisa Marie Segarra
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Lisa Marie Segarra is the Gaming Section at Digital Trends. She's previously covered tech and gaming at Fortune Magazine and…
Tears of the Kingdom’s Ultrahand creations reveal its biggest strength
the legend of zelda tears kingdom review boat

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom has only been out for a few days, and players are already stretching the limits of what its Ultrahand system can do. From Korok-torturing crucifixes to trojan horses to NSFW robots, Ultrahand can clearly do a lot more than open doors or create simple vehicles. Tears of the Kingdom is a testament to how games that rely on the player’s creativity are so magical and how they quickly get ridiculous and go viral.

Tears of the Kingdom also stands in contrast to most other games that offer that type of player experience. Player creations like this are usually labeled as “user-generated content” and take center stage in creation-focused games like Dreams and Meet Your Maker, as well as more monetizable ones like Fortnite and Horizon Worlds. However, Tears of the Kingdom stands out as a tremendous single-player adventure, reminding us of the type of creative joy that only games can deliver.
The joy of creating
I’m not the best at creating things in Tears of the Kingdom, but even I have some fun anecdotes that have to do with my Ultrahand builds. I spent hours trying to build a complicated ramp for a ball in a Shrine puzzle, only for the simplest two-platform build to work way better immediately. Later, I made a little flying machine to bring a Korok to his friend, but accidentally fell off and was left watching as the Korok and vehicle crashed into the side of a mountain.

Read more
Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’s shrines are even better than Breath of the Wild’s
Link stands in front of a shrine in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

As a puzzle game fan, my favorite part of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is its shrines. These mini-dungeons often act as ingenious little puzzle chambers that test my understanding of the game’s abilities and physics. I was thrilled when I loaded up The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and immediately found that the development team kept that idea intact for the sequel. I’d have over 150 new shrines to hunt down, including a handful that were unlocked via navigation puzzles in the open world.

It’s not just the fact that shrines return, though, that got me excited; it’s the fact that they’re even better this time around. That’s thanks in large part to how they interact with the sequel’s crafting systems, serving a larger purpose beyond giving Link some scattered challenges to solve.
Driving permit exams
Tears of the Kingdom’s shrines aren’t much different from Breath of the Wild’s on paper. Each one functions like a Portal test chamber built around a specific gameplay mechanic or theme. One has players solving puzzles using buoyancy physics, while another has them ascending their way to the top of a rotating cube. Even combat-focused shrines have specific gimmicks this time, testing players’ mastery of specific item fusions or environmental interactions.

Read more
With Tears of the Kingdom, Zelda gets the spotlight she’s always deserved
Zelda with the Master Sword in Tears of the Kingdom.

For 37 years, the Legend of Zelda series has held its place as gaming’s most important franchises. It carries the same gravitas as classic literature, with several entries in the series feeling like canonical classics that should be in the syllabus of any video game course. It’s a collection of foundational tales that helped build what an adventure game plays like, but also what a fundamental hero’s journey story looks like in the medium. And of course, standing tall at the center of Zelda’s timeless nature is … Link.

Yes, despite Zelda’s name being the core of the franchise’s branding, the Hylian princess long played second fiddle to the series’ voiceless protagonist. In early games, she was a distressed damsel to be saved. She’d get to show off a bit of her power in later ones, but Link -- the hero of time -- tended to get most of the attention.

Read more