Once New Super Mario Bros. U ships, this leaves us with a 2D Mario team unaccounted for, especially considering the team has been substantially grown with the recent 'Mario cram school' (more later). In our dream future, they'd create an all-new side-scroller, akin to Super Mario World or Yoshi's Island. Just because NSMB proved the public's taste for Mario of yore, doesn't make them innovation adverse. Where 2D Mario goes, the man on the street follows.
If only the same could be said of 3D Mario. As long as commercial success and target demographics play on Nintendo's mind - and, sadly, they're at the forefront these days - expect to see more of Mario's 2D/3D hybridisation. What does this mean for us? It means further linearity. Nintendo have singled out 3D exploration as an enemy of the mainstream. Show a newcomer Bob-Omb Battlefield to explore and they go mad, apparently. A straight line with a flag at the end is all they can handle.
Linearity isn't a problem. Linearity trims away the fat and fills your maw with lean, succulent platforming. Some criticise Super Mario Galaxy for abandoning the large landmasses of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, but it had to be done. Mario becomes Mario when his feet leave the ground. Trudging around fields and mountain paths is best left to Link. Returning to Bob-Omb Battlefield now, we can only think of how many Galaxy levels could be built on that redundant grass. Prime gaming real estate, that.
That said, if you do funnel players, it has to be an incredible funnel. It has to put the fun in funnel. Both Galaxies did an amazing job taking one idea and escalating it through the course of a stage. Super Mario 3D Land has the same turnaround of creativity, but lacks the anarchic glee of pushing an idea to breaking point. We need the glee back. Oh, and we need the flagpoles gone. Sliding back to earth after a wondrous bout of acrobatics is deeply unsatisfying.
We want Wii U's processing heft used on the physics...
Speculating about what should appear in levels is a fool's errand. Galaxy proves anything - apples, woodcutting, fish bowls - can inspire a stage. Instead, we want Wii U's processing heft applied to physics. EAD Tokyo have a remarkable grasp of tactile surfaces, brilliantly conveying the pitter-patter of Mario's feet on various materials. Extending this knowhow to shifting sands or reactive liquids might prove interesting. Mario may become Mario when his feet leave the ground, but this doesn't mean his landing should be anything other than spectacular.
But any speculation is for nothing if Nintendo refuse to remove their rose-tinted glasses. The most worrying idea to emerge from Iwata Asks is 3D Land director Koichi Hayashida's sentiment that he just wants to "convey to children today the fun that [we] had as children." Wuh? Taking a trip down memory lane is one thing, but buying a house there? No. Show the kid Matthew of 1985 the Mario games of 2007 and he'd put himself into cryogenic storage to skip the next 22 years.