Super Mario Bros Wonder’s Dark Souls-style multiplayer was ironically inspired by a push to make the game easier after some devs struggled
Nintendo’s soon-to-be-released Super Mario Bros. Wonder is looking to be a wild step forward for the traditional style of 2D Mario games. Along with its bold, new visual style, it also features some intriguing changes to the conventional style of 2D Mario platforming action.
While Super Mario Bros. Wonder looks like a raucous time for a group of players, the game also features a new “live player shadow” feature for those who prefer to play solo. In the vein of Dark Souls, these shadows are real-time players who can join you in your trek to the finish in a more laid-back manner.
In a recent Ask the Developer post on Nintendo’s official site, game director Shiro Mouri spoke about the creation of the player shadow system, which allows solo players to sync up with other active players spontaneously in the stage – much like the player summons from Dark Souls. According to the developer, it grew from the idea of giving players “a casual connection” with others and offering an extra boost to make it to the goal.
“Basically, you can enjoy the game as if you’re playing solo, you don’t have to be on standby while you’re matched up with other players; matching takes place automatically behind the scenes during single player, so there’s no waiting around,” said the game director. “If someone in the world is playing the same course as you at the same time, you can connect and play online together. And so, we came up with ideas to form this casual connection with players worldwide. We call other online players ‘live player shadows,’ and if you greet them, they might greet you back, give you an extra item if they have one, or even help you when you make a mistake. But they can’t attack or disturb you. We wanted to create gameplay where only things that benefit the player can happen, and that resulted in the current design.”
Throughout the various Ask the Developers posts with the creative team, it was stated that Super Mario Bros. Wonder was about making the game approachable for all players. This aspect was focused on when producer Takashi Tezuka learned that another Nintendo developer stated they had given up on the mobile game Super Mario Run due to its challenge. This led to various ideas and pitches for what could be done for Wonder.
This aspect of design led to the creation of the game’s live shadow system, which not only gives solo players who want to focus on solitude a taste of the online co-op experience but also a way for them to make it through some more challenging levels with the help of another player going through the same challenge they are. It’s a particularly clever idea to situational co-op and give players a helping hand, especially when the series that popularized this feature is known for challenging struggles.
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