Posted on April 4, 2017
Was the Wii inspired by Super Mario Kart?
“Game developers are unoriginal and only reuse concepts utilized in successful titles because they can’t come up with ideas of their own.” At least, that is how it seems, but the reality is much deeper than that. What we actually see happen is developers taking a long-known idea presented in a game, and revising it to keep the game play from becoming stale. Occasionally, developers take more drastic measures though. Such is the case with the Wii, which came after the explosive success of the Mario Kart Franchise.
When Super Mario Kart was released it was instantly a success with nearly 9 million sales worldwide and the title of 3rd best-selling game for the SNES. It tapped into formerly unexplored territory by focusing on the multi-player experience for a game, and as a result, it fathered the party game genre. That being said, there were multi-player games before this, but none of them had the impact that Super Mario Kart had. After Nintendo noticed how well their game performed they attempted to emulate this with other titles. Most of the games that followed soon after failed, with the exception of Mario Kart 64, and it took time for Nintendo to find out what made the Mario Kart series as successful as it was.
In order to understand what made Mario Kart successful, we first have to understand what made Nintendo successful in the first place. The success wasn’t from the graphics, as the SNES was a 16-bit console in a time when the industry standard was 32-bit. The success didn’t come from the stories crafted, as Nintendo stories tended to be rather cookie cutter. It took time for Nintendo to realize this, but what made SMK and all of their other titles wildly successful was that at the core, the games were purely fun.
I remember hearing a story once about a meeting between executives at Atari or Sega in the days of the NES. The story goes that an executive was questioning the success of Nintendo. He asked, “How could it sell as well as it was? Even if it had outdated graphics?” Another executive responded, “Yeah, but have you played it? It’s fun!”
Nintendo finally realized that the real magic of the Mario Kart games was in their beautiful blend of fun gameplay and good-natured competitiveness when they released another two video game series that would soon become juggernauts in the industry: Super Smash Bros and Mario Party. Once this simple formula had been figured out it was just a matter of doing this relatively new genre of game justice. The release of Mario Party 2 and 3 showed that that there was a definite interest in group oriented games, but Super Smash Bros. Melee went above and beyond and ended up being the highest selling game on the Gamecube.
At this point, Nintendo was nearly at its peak. It seemed that they couldn’t release a dud, and soon their success would be taken to another level. Nintendo had an idea for a home console that would be unlike any that had been released until this point. They chose to mold their new console on the lessons they had learned, and the result was a console that nearly exclusively focused on multi-player mechanics, along with a new play style in the form of a controller with motion controls as a core concept. The Console was the Wii, and it went on the be one of Nintendo’s best selling consoles, as well as one of the best selling consoles of all time. The Wii ended up selling 101 million units before the end of production and even though technically it was behind the consoles of that generation, it still ended up receiving mostly positive reviews.
Local multiplayer games ruled the market for a time and though they have since faded away, their imprint on the culture remains evident. We still see party games all over the place, but it in this modern era they are usually indie titles made by smaller developers. One place you can see party games flourish is on Steam. Games like Dead By Daylight, Gang Beasts, and Speedrunners may seem vastly different at first glance, but they all take heavy influence from early party games. Strange as it may seem, Super Mario Kart is largely responsible for the success of party games, and ultimately, the Wii.