Some games have universe spanning, multi-dimensional stories that encompass every possible character you could ever dream of. These games are either bloody fantastic, or fall flatter than Sega’s favourite mamal hit by a truck. Nintendo often come under fire by palming us off with the same bare bones plot game after game – I mean how many times has Mario saved Peach? At least 25 times, i’m sure. But what if I told you Nintendo have secretly mastered the art of story telling?
I am sure the vast majority of you have clicked off the article and blacklisted me. To the remaining few, let me explain. Some games have their story front and centre. The gameplay serves the story and the story delivers all the beats it needs to. Bam, you have yourself the original Mass Effect. A deeply flawed gameplay experience that delivers a plot with multiple alien factions, mind control, galactic politics, universe destroying AI and lets not forget, super awkward alien snoo-snoo. You can’t knock it, its just a solid story that keeps you engaged throughout, janky gameplay be damned.
Then you have a game like Mario. Mario packs a deeply philosophical story whereby you, the aforementioned Mario, have to rescue a Princess from what is essentially a fire-breathing-spiky-turtle-dragon. That’s it. No, seriously. That’s it. And despite the unimaginable cerebral strain that puts on you, it’s perfect. You see, Nintendo do the opposite of Mass Effect – The story serves the gameplay. The story is simple because the focus is squarely on the delivering a top notch gameplay experience. Always.
To help prove my point, there are a bunch of other games that fall in line with this method of story telling. I mean Zelda and Metroid mostly follow this pattern, albeit with a bit more flare (although not much). But outside of Nintendo we have games like Shovel Knight, Super Meat Boy and Megaman. Games that give you a very simple goal and then lavish you with a super tight experience that makes your partner green with envy.
Now there are some games that should absolutely adopt the Nintendo approach to story telling, but instead try to envelope a more complex style. Lets take Sonic as a prime example. A series of games that once had a very simple plot, and delivered an experience that got many gamers into gaming. Nowadays the Blue Blur has lost his way. Now we have a rogue gallery with a larger population than that of a small country and an equally large cast of anthropomorphic monstrosities that distract from our main character. Lets not forget they have tackled time travel, multiple apocalypses and have been known to give questionable scenes that border bestiality. Sega, I love you, I really do. But please, for the love of God let me play as Sonic. Let me jump on the fat man until he dies. Give me that story, take all the money you were going to invest in multiverse theory and put it into gameplay. Just for old times sake. Please?
Is Nintendo’s way the only way to do video game story telling? Hell no. I want me some Witcher 4 damn it. But there is a magic that can only be found in the simple things. Nintendo harnesses the power of the aether and provides us with outstanding gameplay experiences that continue to knock our socks off 36 years later. Less is sometimes more my friends.