Soon we will see two brand new 2D Mario games: New Super Mario Bros 2 and New Super Mario Bros. U. Yes, it looks like old-school 2D Mario platforming is back in full swing. So what does the future of Mario hold? What can we expect from the ever-popular plumber as 2D platforming comes to a new generation of game consoles. Well, to figure that out, you only have to look at the trends in more recent Mario releases. These new patterns in gameplay show us what Nintendo has in store for Mario's future. So let's take a look.
The first new trend to take note of is the general hands-off approach to game difficulty. In fact, Nintendo does not seem to care if their games are difficult at all anymore. Random tricks that allow you to rack up tons of lives have become the norm, and it appears as if Nintendo is fine with that. Instead of repeatedly bashing your head against the controller, they would rather you see the game through to the end, even if you have to "cheat" to do it.
Look at the "super guide" functions that Nintendo added to Super Mario Galaxy 2 and New Super Mario Bros. These functions essentially allow you to let the computer play for you if you ever get stuck on a particularly difficult section. This essentially devalues the worth of a single life, as spending enough lives can get you through any section of the game, even if you're unable to do it yourself.
While similar super guide functions are not yet confirmed for New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Mario Bros. 2, something else that devalues lives has: coins. Both games have ways to get near-infinite coins, which means near-infinite lives. For example, the Wii U GamePad player in New Super Mario Bros. U can create coin block simply by double tapping the screen. This allows the players to sit in one place and rack up infinite lives without even trying. New Super Mario Bros. 2 has several power ups that increase your coin output exponentially, allowing you to rack up lives into the hundreds without even trying.
It seems pretty clear that Nintendo is changing their policy on 2D platformers to be more of an "experience" than an actually difficult "game." Look at Kirby's Epic Yarn, which literally has no fail condition. Instead, it just has goals to strive for, allowing the gamer to get better and better without ever really losing the game. While you can still fail in New Super Mario Bros., it's hard to do—so hard, in fact, that failure barely ever enters into the gameplay equation.