With 3D Nintendo gaming arriving on the scene back in the late ‘90s thanks to the Nintendo 64 and then the GameCube in the early ‘00s, classic side-scrolling platformers took a back seat. Franchises such as Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong Country from the NES and SNES were no more.
At the time of the 64’s rise to fame, side-scrolling came to be considered as a limitation of gaming in the past, rather than a genre of its own. With the Wii console Nintendo had proven that side-scrolling platformers are truly a whole genre that can provide a unique and entertaining experience even today, in the world of 3D and HD.
With modern 3D graphical sprites moving in 2D or even sometimes 2.5D landscapes,Nintendo has used the Wii to reinvigorate the once forgotten genre. Let’s look back at some of the major Wii titles that contributed to the resurgence of side-scrolling platformers.
Super Paper Mario (2007)
Developer: Intelligent Systems Publisher: Nintendo
Super Paper Mario was the third installment in the Paper Mario series and the first on the Wii. The game was largely a departure from the series’ more RPG-based style of the past to platformer-focused gameplay. Even moreso than its predecessors, the Wii Paper Mario was mostly a side-scrolling game.
One of Mario’s abilities saw him able to flip the 2D landscape into a 3D environment, which was necessary to solve puzzles and advance in the story. While confused about its identity as both a platformer with RPG elements and both a side-scroller with the option of a 3D environment, Super Paper Mario gave Wii owners their first taste at a major side-scrolling platforming title.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008)
Developer: Various, Ad hoc Publisher: Nintendo
Following in the footsteps of the original Nintendo 64 title and Melee on the GameCube, Super Smash Bros. Brawl took Nintendo’s crossover fighting game to a whole new level of complexity. The Wii incarnation of Smash Bros. saw a massive roster, including third party characters, unlockales and a wealth of content.
In Brawl’s single or multiplayer story-driven campaign mode called “The Subspace Emissary” players worked their way through side-scrolling platforming-based levels, using the game’s standard combat system. While Brawl’s chief focus remained the multiplayer classic bouts, The Subspace Emissary provided yet another glimpse at the potential for a modern side-scrolling platformer on the Wii.
New Super Mario Bros Wii. (2009)
Developer: Nintendo EAD Publisher: Nintendo
After Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy and three console generations, it truly seemed as if the classic side-scrolling Mario had been buried in favor of the 3D incarnation. That changed in 2009 when a full side-scrolling platformer title came to the Wii with New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
Finally the genre was back in full force, instead of just being hinted at, and it took the world by storm, both critically and commercially. The title won numerous Wii game of the year awards and has sold well over 25 million copies to date. It was obvious that the world had been missing side-scrolling console Mario titles ever since they vanished in the ‘90s.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn (2010)
Developer: Good-Feel/HAL Laboritory Publisher: Nintendo
More side-scrolling goodness also came in 2010 in the form of Kirby: with a twist. He was made out of yarn and so was the world around him. This cute side-scrolling platformer was never intended to force players to the end of their wits, but rather to charm with is genius level design and all around cute mechanics.
If Kirby’s Epic Yarn doesn’t bring a smile to your face and a feeling of contentedness in the joys of gaming, then you may want to check that your emotions are switched on. Kirby was no stranger to side-scrolling platformers, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn showed that even with a gimmick twist he remains a master of the genre.
Donkey Kong Country Returns (2010)
Developer: Retro Studios Publisher: Nintendo
Sure, Mario gained some success in a Wii side-scrolling platformer and Kirby had some fun, but nobody truly realized that the genre was back in full force until Donkey Kong Country also made its return. Although Rare was no longer with Nintendo, the modern day incarnation in Retro Studios took up the reigns.
After the casual family-oriented New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Donkey Kong Country Returns reminded the world that side-scrolling platformers could also still be challenging while remaining charming. Retro successfully captured the spirit of the originals to prove that the genre wasn’t only back in full swing, but perhaps even better than ever.
Kirby’s Return to Dreamland (2011)
Developer: HAL Laboritory Publisher: Nintendo
The last of the major side-scrolling platformers on the Wii may have been the weakest, but it was by no means worth overlooking. Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, or Kirby’s Adventure Wii as it’s more known as around the globe, was initially a GameCube title that saw many delays, cancellations and changes before arriving just before the Wii’s life was over.
After Kirby’s Epic Yarn classic Kirby fans were hungry for the typical Kirby gameplay in copying abilities and gliding through the sky. Kirby’s Return to Dreamland provided the more core Kirby experience and showed that classic pink puff wasn’t going to miss out on the resurgence of the genre.
Whether holding the Wii remote sideways, or utilizing both the remote and nun-chuck, side-scrolling platforming found a new niche on the Wii. With words like “New” in New Super Mario Bros. Wii or “Return” as in Donkey Kong Country Returns or Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, Nintendo truly wanted to reinforce that side-scrolling platforming was back.
The only notable difference between the genre from the ‘80s and ‘90s to today is that multiplayer co-operation became a staple today, whereas in the past it was only briefly tarried in. It may have been a slow start on the Wii, but after New Super Mario Bros. and the announcement of Donkey Kong Country Returns and Kirby’s Epic Yarn at E3 2010, the genre really took off, again.
Even beyond the six titles highlighted here the Wii had a range of side-scrolling platformers from first-party to third-party and from full-releases to WiiWare downloads. Even title such as Mario Galaxy, Epic Mickey, Other M and Sonic Colors partially incorporated side-scrolling platforming elements.
The genre’s resurgence is far from limited to the Wii either, as the DS saw New Super Mario Bros. back in 2006, before the Wii. The DS also had such titles as Kirby Mass Attack and the 3DS just last year received New Super Mario. Bros 2. Thanks to New Super Mario Bros. U on the Wii U the genre continues to endure and finds itself once again a staple of the current gaming climate. Side-scrolling platformers truly are back and they are not going away any time soon with upcoming titles such as Yarn Yoshi.