Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is getting a remake, and a tiny detail in the new trailer has fans hopeful that we might finally be seeing the end of what's been called the "Mario mandate."
As noted by Mario trivia account Supper Mario Broth on Twitter, the Nintendo Direct trailer for the remake of The Thousand-Year Door features what appears to be a brand-new Toad in one area. This Toad is dressed a little differently from his brethren, with a purple stitched jacket and some sort of additional adornment on his head.
The fact that the remake might be getting a bit of fully new content - however minor - is notable enough on its own, but what's even more interesting is that this is one of the vanishingly few times in the past decade that Nintendo has designed a Toad that doesn't look exactly like every single other Toad in the Mario series.
Part of the charm of both the original Paper Mario and The Thousand-Year Door is that they imagined little societies for all the major races in the Mario universe. You'd run across generic Goombas as enemies, sure, but you'd also meet individual Goomba characters with their own looks and personalities. Similarly, you'd meet Toads who wore different clothes based on their jobs or where they lived, adding a bit of life to the world.
These sort of unique designs for familiar Mario characters popped up here and there across the franchise - not just the RPGs - in the mid-'00s, but for whatever reason, they abruptly stopped afterwards. Even in Paper Mario sequels like Sticker Star and The Origami King, almost every Toad looks like the same generic Mushroom Retainer we all know, and the same goes for many other characters in those games, too.
In a 2020 interview with VGC, The Origami King producer Kensuke Tanabe said, "Since Paper Mario: Sticker Star, it’s no longer possible to modify Mario characters or to create original characters that touch on the Mario universe. That means that if we aren’t using Mario characters for bosses, we need to create original characters with designs that don’t involve the Mario universe at all, like we’ve done with Olly and the stationery bosses."
The phrasing of "it's no longer possible" always seemed to imply that Nintendo implemented some kind of mandate against creating new versions of iconic Mario characters that contrasted with their established designs. Fans eventually took to using the term "Mario mandate" to describe the lack of character design variety in modern Mario games.
Discussion of this Mario mandate has always felt a bit conspiratorial - I'll spare you from the 4chan and Reddit threads that helped popularize the terminology among fans - but there's no denying that Nintendo has shied away from original takes on familiar characters in the past decade. That's why there's a fair bit of excitement over this new Toad, as you can see in the tweets below.
Toads with hair finally return. Nature is healingSeptember 14, 2023
Mario mandates finally dead 6 feet underground I couldn't be happierSeptember 14, 2023
The mandates are finally 100% dead. I don't know what to say.... N64/Gamecube era Mario artstyle is coming back!September 14, 2023
While games like Super Mario Odyssey certainly haven't suffered from a lack of creative thinking, here's hoping that the familiar Mario crew can continue to take on new forms, and not just when revisiting the franchise's classic spin-offs.
Princess Peach: Showtime! at least shows a new direction for one Mario mainstay.