Dividing my time between a number of games, I haven’t gotten a chance to finish Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, the latest DS game following the adventures of Mario and company in the Mushroom Kingdom. But I’m definitely far enough in the game to say that it’s probably one of the most innovative Mario games ever–in terms of writing.
Despite having been around for years an years and sold absurd amounts of games of every type, the Mario Bros. franchise has generally been gameplay-driven rather than relying on a story. And even when it does get a good plot going (the incredible Super Mario RPG, Paper Mario, etc.), it tends to say solidly in the realm of upbeat RPGs, with cute or mildly amusing jokes tending to be the kind that are very easy to translate and suffer from a very similar voice give to all the characters. I am pleased to say that Bowser’s Inside Story turns all this around: beyond the throwaway gags referencing internet memes, each character speaks in a unique and often very funny voice. There isn’t any pandering to the simplest gameplayers and the language is hip and modern without being desperate: Bowser, for the first time, actually seems like a guy who might actually be able to coerce legions of Koopas, Goombas and Shy Guys into following his lead. The Mario Brothers (who literally speak phony Italian throughout the game) are actually seen interacting with each other and are entertaining as a duo even when taking the backseat to the King Koopa himself.
The plot itself, while not revolutionary, actually does a great job of putting Bowser in the spotlight while still making it a very Mario game. While the Mushroom Kingdom suffers from an epidemic called “The Blorbs” that infects its citizens and makes them grow massive, Bowser plots once again to kidnap the princess. Unfortunately, it ends up being the same as always and his is quickly trounced and tossed out by the Mario brothers. Waking up in the woods, Bowser seeks revenge, punching his way through the forest until he comes upon a mysterious stranger offering him a “lucky mushroom” that will give him what he needs to take over the Kingdom and steal the princess. Naturally, it doesn’t go as planned: one stomach ache later, Bowser discovers that whatever is in his gut has the powers of a great vacuum, sucking up everything around him from trees to blocks to…Toads, Princess Toadstool and the Mario Brothers. The mystery mushroom vendor then reveals himself as the game’s villain, a swirly-eyed, grinning creature named Fawful, who has ambitions in world domination and theatre. He plans to take over Bowser’s castle with his assistant brute, Midbus, and the player must stop him before he proves once and for all that Bowser really is the lesser of two evils. The player thus controls Bowser, as well as the Mario Bros., who are joined by a chatty star sprite as they make their way through levels in Bowser’s body. The plots come together brilliantly and the twists and turns, sometimes veering into the delightfully surreal, make for an amazingly fun game.
Even if you aren’t a fan of Mario or most RPGs, the plot and writing are sure to win you over and the usual RPG combat system is pumped up to make every move interactive–meaning you can’t be passive even in battle. It’s great and I can’t recommend this game enough.
Naturally, the next logical step would be to recommend some toys, as is the rule of the blog, so be sure to check out our selection of Mario Toys. There are plush toys, PVC figures, keychains (got one of these as a stocking-stuffer for my brother this Christmas), cards, vehicles and a ton of other items. Sadly, we’re all out of the Bowser plush, but there are still some very cool toys remaining. Take a look!
And play Bowser’s Inside Story. You won’t regret it. It’s available on Amazon.com right here:
Mario & Luigi Bowser’s Inside Story