Mario is a hard character to love. He's a deliberately generic cypher and while that works in games like Half-Life when we're encouraged to see through the hero's eyes, Mario just feels very dull compared not only to the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom, but to other platforming mascots like Sonic, Crash, and Spyro. Hard to love, maybe, but easy to like. Everyone likes Mario enough. That's why, despite not being all that popular on his own, he's able to carry not only the most beloved platforming series in the world, but the most beloved party series and kart racer too. Add in his forays into golf, football, baseball, tennis, basketball, and the entire Olympics, not to mention games like Mario Maker, and you see how far Mario has stretched himself. But whatever game he's in, he's always just a guy. Luigi's Mansion is a far more interesting use of the Mario lore, and we need more games like it.
Mario Tennis is just a tennis game. The characters don't need to be Mario and Peach, they could be Steve and Brenda and nothing material would change. Some of the side characters have more of a personality, but even then it's just one trope done very loudly. We don't keep playing Mario Kart and Mario Party because of the Mushroom Kingdom gang, but because the underlying gameplay is very good. It's the same reason why even Princess Daisy couldn't bring me back to Mario Strikers: Battle League – the game underneath it all just wasn't that good.
That's why Luigi's Mansion is such an interesting concept. Most of the games with the Mario set-dressing are very basic (if very good) games once you take away the aesthetics. A golf sim. A tennis sim. Who can shake this can of soda the fastest. That whole deal. Luigi's Mansion though is a far more involved experience. It has dialogue beyond a couple of catchphrases, a real plot, character growth, and brings its own ideas to the table while still using recognisable Mario iconography. It's much harder to take the Mario-ness out of a game like Luigi's Mansion because the game has been built using these characters and their personalities. The third game especially is vastly underrated and rarely talked about amongst the best games on the Switch, but aside from the behemoth of Breath of the Wild, it's as good as any of them.
Luigi's Mansion is a great Halloween game because there's nothing scary about it at all. It has ghosties and spooky shenanigans, but nobody is going to get frightened by it which makes it the perfect entry level game for Halloween. Initially, I was going to make that case in far more depth, but I realised it wasn't all that an original thought. However, it did lodge Luigi's Mansion in my brain, and I realised how it can act as the blueprint going forward. We're still going to get main Mario games with whatever follows Odyssey, as well as kart and tennis games, but why can't we have more like this?
Peach and Daisy have both had one off adventures, but they were dull copies of Super Mario Bros. without the soul. Why can't Daisy lead her own game, entirely distinct from Mario's platforming in the way Luigi's Mansion is? Why do we need to wait for her to next get on the tennis court to see her thrive? These sports titles show there's a market for Mario titles beyond expectations, but only Luigi's Mansion wants to challenge those expectations at all.
Daisy has always appealed to me with her booming voice and competitive arrogance, getting to show more of a personality than Princess Peach and her stock damsel model. But then, even Peach broke out of her shackles in Odyssey to be a much stronger character in her own right, so there's clearly an appetite for development at Nintendo. Unfortunately, Mario's basic formula means most characters are pushed to the side. Luigi's Mansion offers a spotlight, and more characters need their chance.
This Halloween, you might be settling down for some cartoon adventures in Luigi's Mansion. While you're playing, just think about how much more creatively the game uses its characters than Mario's usual adventures, and how cool it would be for your favourite Mario character to get a game of their own. I can guarantee it isn't Mario, and he has a billion already. Give Daisy the spotlight already.
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