Big Picture Mode
Industry issues given the widescreen treatment
Nathan Brown has a Super Mario Odyssey family moment
The kid, in case you were wondering, is still appalling at Mario Kart. I spent the first three years of his life longing for the day when he’d ask me if we could play a videogame, but now it is merely the latest addition to an ever-increasing list of things I’ll tell four-years-ago me about becoming a father when they finally invent time travel. It’s a weird sensation: he barrels over to me (boys of this age can only barrel; no other verb quite captures their ungainly, wayward, terrifyingly powerful hurtle) with steeringwheel controller in hand, asking if we can play A Mario Driving Game; my heart suddenly swells with pride, then almost immediately deflates when I remember what’s about to happen. I am going to sit and watch him run out of time in Time Trial mode – because, yes, you can actually do this, after ten minutes, a fact of which only parents are aware – and I am going to have the Mario Kart Stadium music stuck in my head for the rest of the day.
Suffice it to say that my son is not quite ready for videogames yet – but he knows who Mario is, and understands that he is brilliant and exciting even when he’s not gormlessly bumping his go-kart into a trackside wall for ten solid minutes at a time. One evening he saw me watching the Super
Mario Odyssey trailer on my phone, put his tantrum into standby and sat on my lap, watching, enraptured, unable to contain either his excitement or his curiosity.
When I hear an E3 crowd go nuts for some ho-hum announcement or other, I assume the crowd is full of paid-for, bussed-in hype merchants. When a magazine or website publishes some lengthy speculative tract based on nothing more than a trailer, I assume it’s because they have pages to fill, or SEO content to produce, or whatever. But kids are genuine to a fault, and for a minute or so there we were united, albeit for very different reasons, in our unfiltered excitement for Super Mario
Odyssey. A pal’s three-year-old insisted on watching that trailer five times on the spin, getting more excited every time, until his father put a stop to it because he was worried that, if he continued, the kid would spontaneously combust.
You don’t need to have children to understand that a substantial part of the reason we love games is because they make us feel like kids; that they allow us to dodge the expectation that, once you reach a certain age, you no longer need or have time for the simple pleasures of play. Yet no company brings out my inner child quite like Nintendo, and so it’s no surprise to find that my son and I were brought together by the sight of Mario gambolling around in the
Odyssey trailer. Perhaps it’s a question of timing. Ours is, after all, the Nintendo generation; Mario et al feature in our earliest gaming memories, and have been a constant ever since. Watching the Odyssey trailer, my son may just have been wide-eyed at the colourful, carefree playfulness of it all. But I was thinking about the first time I found Top Secret Area in
Super Mario World. About the day I got an N64 and practically sprinted home with it. About the evening before the UK GameCube launch, when a Woolworths (remember that?) advert in the paper (remember those?) alerted me to a bundle offer that I simply couldn’t refuse, and the weekend-long Super
Monkey Ball session that followed. And then there’s the Sunday afternoon when I lay on my bed, face down and propped up on my elbows, for four hours finishing Super Mario
Bros 2, and my forearms went numb during the end credits.
And when I thought about all those moments, I saw my kid’s abject uselessness at Mario Kart 8 in a different light. As Lakitu’s starting light goes green and Yoshi veers immediately into the nearest bit of roadside scenery, I realise that my kid, too, is just a couple of feet over the starting line of his own journey with Nintendo – a company whose games have been part of my life for almost all of it, and which I hope will prove a similar gaming fixture for him. Switch is almost upon us, and there’s no way he’s ready for Zelda. But in six months or so, when Mario Odyssey arrives, things might be different. Perhaps we’ll actually sit and play it together; maybe I’ll even be able to watch him play without grinding two more layers of enamel off my teeth. I’m looking forward to it. If he goes barrelling around the lounge with that expensive tablet controller in his hands, though, he’s in for a right old hiding.
When I thought about all those moments, I saw my kid’s abject uselessness at Mario Kart 8 in a different light
Nathan Brown is Edge’s deputy editor. No kids were harmed in the making of this column, though plenty of go-karts were