Forget its glasses-free 3D, the Nintendo 3DS is unlike any Nintendo video game before it because it will debut without Mario or Luigi. The previous nine major gaming machines from Nintendo — all of the big ones, from NES to Wii — had these guys.
The Mario-shaped hole emerged today when Nintendo released its 3DS gaming launch line-up for the U.S. Scheduled for launch day on March 27, there was Pilotwings: Resort, a flying game that doesn't star Mario. There was Steel Diver, a game about submarines, not plumbers. There was Nintendogs + Cats ( - Mario - Luigi).
Nintendo usually doesn't keep Mario from us. He (or Luigi!) has starred in a game that has launched each of the nine main gaming machines ever produced by the company.
Here's the list, console name on the left, U.S. launch-day Mario-related game on the right.
• Nintendo Entertainment System - Super Mario Bros. (The game was technically out in America about a month or so after the NES' initial limited-release launch but considered a launch game by the time the system was released widely)
• Super NES - Super Mario World
• Gameboy - Super Mario Land
• Nintendo 64 -Super Mario 64
• Virtual Boy - Mario's Tennis
• Game Boy Advance - Super Mario Advance
• GameCube - Luigi's Mansion
• Nintendo DS - Super Mario 64 DS
• Wii - ... (This system launched with a Zelda game, not a Mario game, though Super Mario 64 was made available for download to the Wii on day one.)
Sure, there were other hardware spin-offs in between, but why count the GBA SP or the DSi like it was a brand-new system? They weren't. The above all were, and they all had Mario Mario or Luigi Mario in a lead role.
Nintendo had a chance of keeping their Mario Bros. streak alive, had they launched their new 3DS game-download eShop alongside the 3DS. Maybe they could have offered a downloadable copy of Super Mario Land or some other Mario Game Boy title. The eShop, however, won't be activated until May.
No wonder Nintendo is promising a 3DS Mario Kart by year's end. At least they're putting a Mario card in the 3DS' box.
UPDATE: Some readers have said that this article should have included a listing for Game Boy Color a Nintendo system that sits somewhere between being an upgrade of an older platform, a la the DS Lite compared to the DS, and being a new platform. I've long considered it the former, but for those who point to a list of GBC-only games to argue that it was its own platform, then, the GBC would qualify as another main Nintendo machine that launched with no Mario game. Regardless of your position, the 3DS launch remains devoid of Mario Bros. star power, an oddity considering how the company has sold its previous big new machines.