Why Do Japanese Gamers Not Take To 3D Mario?

By Ishaan . May 9, 2010 . 12:47pm


The original Super Mario Galaxy has been very successful, with 8.84 million units sold worldwide as of March 2010. However, if you divide those sales up by region, Japan only accounts for 1.01 million units, while the overseas markets account for the remaining 7.83 million.


New Super Mario Bros. Wii, on the other hand, has sold over 3.6 million units in Japan, and is still selling. By now, it’s fairly common knowledge that 2D Mario games tend to be better-received in Japan than their 3D counterparts, but one has never managed to settle on any one single explanation for the phenomenon. A popular theory is that 3D platformers in general tend not to be popular in Japan, due to that audience’s well-documented tendency to develop motion-sickness from fast-moving games.


Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has another theory to add.


“As we see it, one reason why a number of people who love 2D Mario do not want to play 3D Mario appears to be because they are afraid to be lost in the 3D world by not knowing the exact directions, while they feel that they can play with 2D Mario with no such issues,” Iwata explained to investors, during a financial results briefing.


“One of the development themes of the original Super Mario Galaxy was to create a 3D world where people may not be easily lost, and the spherical shape was adopted as the game play theme for this reason,” he continued.


While not brought up at the briefing, development team EAD Tokyo also struggled with making Galaxy accessible to those with motion-sickness. Takao Shimizu, the game’s producer, suffered from motion-sickness himself, and personally playtested the game frequently, advising the team on how to change camera angles in a way that would reduce the effect.


Unfortunately, there was no way to eliminate the effect entirely, given the nature of the game, and it would appear the same applies to Galaxy’s world design. “However, when we look at the Japanese sales, I do not think that we were able to effectively tackle this challenge with the original,” Iwata concluded.


So, how are Nintendo changing Super Mario Galaxy 2 to accommodate this discomfort with wide-open 3D spaces? For starters, they’re including a DVD titled “Super Mario Galaxy 2 for beginners” with every Japanese and European copy of the game. While it’s not the most streamlined approach, they hope the videos included on the DVD will show people “how to enjoy playing with Mario in the 3D world.”

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  • There’s an element that’s clearly lost in Mario’s transition to 3D. From Super Mario Bros. 3 onward, each new 2D Mario seems to be designed to make skilled players look amazing. Check out any of the assisted or non-assisted speed runs on Youtube for some amazing acrobatic skills.

    Now look at the speed runs for the 3D Mario games… not the same. While still fun, they are missing that compact design the 2D Mario games are known for.

    • I find that outlook very interesting because, personally, I’m not a huge fan of 2D Mario games like almost everyone else that loves videogames is. New Super Mario Bros. on DS is okay, and I can play it in the loo or during a long car ride just fine, but it isn’t something I can play for more than 20 or 30 minutes at a time. I daresay the same would apply to any other 2D Mario, were I to attempt one in this day and age. The one exception might be NSMB Wii, which I could see myself enjoying due to the multiplayer.

      3D Marios on the other hand, I love. Mario 64 is awesome in every way, and while Galaxy took me a little while to get into, once I start playing, it’s very hard to stop because it’s just so…enjoyable. It’s as if they took the adjective “fun” and personified it. There’s so much to do and to see, and such an endless variety of little easter eggs that just aren’t there in the 2D games, and that’s what puts me off.

      Just to cite an example, I like 2D and 3D Metroids equally, and the same applies to Zeldas. If I were to suggest a solution, I’d say the 2D Marios need a little more incentive, like all the hidden stuff in Metroid, or the unlockable blades in Muramasa.

      • Jaxx-Leviathan

        You must have played Super Mario Bros. 3, right? Personally my all-time fave Mario game, with Mario 64 in a close second. I think you can find a lot of enjoyable moments and lots of exploration in Mario Bros. 3, so I’m wondering if this game doesn’t fit into your tastes either? I don’t really care a lot about whether a game is 2D or 3D, it all works for me as long as the game works well with its style.

        • I think my problem is more with what you do on a moment-to-moment basis. There’s not as much room for maneuverability like there is in the 3D ones, where you’re walking, running, jumping. You have the freedom to do more things. Mario is one series where they really embrace the concept of working in 3D space, and it makes so much of a difference.

          Not that I don’t love 2D games. Metroid is one of my favourites series, and both Muramasa and N+ (just two examples) are high up on my list of most-liked games.

      • malek86

        I too, don’t especially care for 2D Mario. Can’t really say why. I’ve tried many of the games, but could never really enjoy them. Not even Mario 3, which is supposed to be the best one of the bunch. On the other hand, Mario 3D is really good.

        Maybe it’s because they are too linear. To make a comparison, I also don’t really like the older Castlevania games. I guess I just prefer being able to explore a bit. On that note, it’s worth noting that I didn’t like Galaxy as much as 64, because it was more linear.

        Though that wouldn’t explain why Rayman is one of my favorite games… maybe it’s just because it was really hard?

  • Aoshi00

    Motion sickness is definitely the biggest factor, they get motion sick from everything, even from an action game like Nier (many say it’s a good game, but they have to “overcome” the motion sickness) because the open world is so expansive. It might not be the same mechanic, but I wonder how well they would adjust to the 3D effect from the next 3DS handheld, 3D movies are okay for me.

    • niconic

      I presume that you mentioning in your post ‘they’ as in Japanese?
      I’m a bit offended by this, since half of my family is Japanese, while I do agree that ‘we’ have some flaws in wacky culture tendicies, such as getting drunk very fast and having periodic inflating/deflating bustsize.

      But it is for me the first time that I hear that ‘we’ get motion sickness by everthing. As a testing case, I didn’t got motion sick in NieR while playing for 70 hours. Then again as the article above mention, some people do get motion sick by playing fast-moving games (shooters) especialy playing Mirror’s Edge without the crosshair enabled.

      Hmm, I like both 2D and 3D Mario’s (except Sunshine..) but now lately playing NSMB Wii with friends is a blast :P So when Galaxy 2 gets released, hopefully it will be as fun as NSMB Wii

      • Aoshi00

        No offense intended, if you look at reviews from Amazon Japan, they (yes, Jpn gamers themselves) often mention motion sickness from many games. For one thing, FPS is not a popular genre in Jpn and one of the main reasons is the free camera and first person view, it seems that Jpn gamers are much more prone to motion sickness than Western gamers compared to static camera (say FFX). Don’t hold me on this, most Jpn gamers said it themselves. I was surprised some even mentioned getting motion-sick from Nier (I’m only 29 hrs in, awesome game). And if I were to say the majority of US gamers are gun-crazy and like shooting anything that moves on screen, would I be very far off or would they be offended? It doesn’t apply to everyone, but it’s a fact for most, just part of the imbedded culture, not necessarily good or bad.

        This article was addressing why most Jpn gamers prefer 2D Mario, it might be nostalgia (like sticking to Dragon Quest series which doesn’t change much over the years) or not being fond of 3D, and I see the latter being a big factor. Yes, I would say Mirror’s Edge is an extreme example, doing first person Parkour jumping from building to building would get people’s heads spinning and disorienting. But it seems more games cause Jpn gamers such problem as well, like GTA IV, one which usually doesn’t cause problem for Western gamers.

        Like you, I also like both 2D and 3D Mario, didn’t like Sunshine either, the water jetpack thing.. NSMB for both DS and Wii are all fun, and so was Galaxy. Actually I didn’t like Mario 64 much, I didn’t play that during the 90’s, so it looked very dated to me when it came out on the DS and on virtual console on Wii.

      • Jellybit

        I’ve heard talk about motion sickness in Japan since polygonal graphics in consoles first hit the country. Several big designers/producers admittedly suffer from it there. In fact, an interview with Hideo Kojima in the late 90s said that he suffers from it, and worked hard to design the MGS1 camera around avoiding that feeling. At first, they were going to use a more behind-the-character view like they later did in MGS3/4, but it induced too much motion sickness. That interview also said it was a country-wide problem.

        Sorry this information offends you, niconic. I don’t know if it’s a physical thing, or cultural (like the type of camera movement used in kids’ TV shows growing up), or whatever, but many Japanese developers have talked about it. In fact, they bring it up as a Japanese-specific thing in talks/interviews exponentially more than westerners. Western developers don’t often bother to design their games around that issue, but it’s apparently a big thing to consider in Japan (comparatively). I don’t know how the hell they’re going to feel with 3DS. From what I hear, headaches from stereoscopic visuals aren’t uncommon worldwide, so pretty much everyone will get a taste of gaming discomfort in one way or another. That being said, I want it.

  • mach

    As much as I can sympathize with motion-sickness sufferers, I’m kind of disappointed that an otherwise well-designed game might have to be reconfigured just to prevent nausea in a small segment of the audience. It’s obviously necessary when you’re target demo is highly motion sensitive like Japan, but still, I’d love to see how trippy a game like SMG could be if they weren’t constrained by the need to reduce motion sickness.

    Ah well, maybe the next Mario game can come prepackaged with a bottle of Dramamine.

  • Jaxx-Leviathan

    Interesting. I have never heard about this Japanese problem with motion-sickness. I do feel sorry for them, I sometimes get motion-sickness while driving and it’s the worst.

  • Only 3D Mario I’ve ever liked is Mario 64. Did not care for Galaxy one bit. Nothing but frustrating gameplay.

  • kupomogli

    Because they’ve played Super Mario 64 and were like. Man. This game sucks. Terrible camera. Extremely small stages with pretty much no content. What a slap in the face to gamers.

  • Lysis

    What’s interesting is that New Super Mario Bros. Wii has significantly outsold Super Mario Galaxy in all territories, not just Japan. 2D Mario is way more popular than 3D Mario, good as the latter may be.

  • Jirin

    I love the 2d and 3d Marios for different reasons. The 2d ones for the adrenaline rush and twitch reactions, the 3d ones for the exploration and ‘cool’ factor.

    I don’t mind a tutorial so long as it’s 100% optional. Have as much of a tutorial section you want. Just don’t *force* it on me. And definitely don’t hold back elements of the combat system for hours and slowly roll them out with obligatory tutorials. (I’m talking to you Square.)

  • Motion sickness? but japan have lots of 3D games, like zelda, and i dont think that game isnt well liked over there

    • Zelda actually isn’t very popular in Japan.

      • Justinzero

        Neither is Metroid, begging the question: WTF is wrong with them over there?

  • EvilAkito

    Personally, I just think that 2D action games are innately more fun than 3D action games. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of 3D games that I love, but to be honest, the simplicity of dealing with the action on a 2D plane can make the whole experience more manageable and satisfying. In 2D Mario you can worry about killing goombas and jumping over pits without having to fight against a sometimes obstructive camera.

    • Joanna

      camera, that is what can make or break a 3D game for me. I agree with you 100%. Having to constantly adjust the camera is annoying. I’ve gotten used to it, but I still prefer 2D or a fixed camera (or at least fixed in combat).

      edit: sorry about the spelling, fixed it now. I was really tired yesterday. ^^;;;

  • Justinzero

    “Why Do Japanese Gamers Not Take To 3D Mario?” – Because they live on an island that is essentially a straight line :P

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