Mario platform bosses, and what can be improved about them.

Ray Trace

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Let's face it. Boss fights in the Mario platformers have never been a particular strong point for the series. Whether it's facing a character a countless number of times in a row with slight variations (New Super Mario Bros. DS, Super Mario Bros., 2,), Koopalings who don't even perform any notable attacks before you smash them dead three times (Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. Wii) or have only slight variations between each other, bosses who only serve to look cool but otherwise don't last very long (Ruined Dragon from Super Mario Odyssey and the robot bosses from the Galaxy games), and bosses who are so forgettable that no one brings them up once their asses got kicked (name me one person other than myself and my sister who even mentioned Sorbetti or King Ka-Thunk at all the past few years).

Sure, we've got a few creative bosses. Yoshi's Island had a boss where you had to push some asshole off the cliff before he pushes you off the cliff, and the game has plenty of bosses like that. Final boss fights in the platformers can be challenging and intense (like New Super Mario Bros. Wii or Super Mario 3D Land, but ultimately, they have an anti-climax thanks to a boring switch). But for the most part, a lot of Mario platform bosses are tepid and are one of the least memorable parts of the game.

So, I'm wondering, why do Mario games have consistently weak bosses in an otherwise strong platformer series? Why are the levels inspirational and fun, but the bosses leave much to be desired? And what would you do to improve the boss fights in the Mario games?
 

YoshiFlutterJump

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Boss fights need to take advantage of power-ups, for one thing. I really liked Sunshine's bosses because each one took advantage of F.L.U.D.D. in unique ways (remember brushing the teeth of Eely-Mouth while he tries to eat you alive? How about throwing peppers into King Boo's mouth inside a casino? Good times) Hisstocrat is also my favorite boss in 3D World because of the way the Cat Suit is integrated into battle. Making more use of the abilities in Mario's arsenal could do a lot to make boss fights more fun and memorable.

Also, please abolish the axe. It's really anticlimactic and does literally nothing to make the fight better. You can defeat Bowser with fire in every game with the axe anyway, so why even have the axe?
 

winstein

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I felt that the bosses are as simple as they are to make them more easily sped through, and also because of Mario's more limited combat prowess (jumping is the only one that is definitely there). Contrast that with Donkey Kong, where the bosses are longer although it's for a whole level, and he has a bigger moveset that is not only stomping on foes. Something I like about the smaller bosses is that it's possible to defeat them quickly, even if it's not always easy. Boom Boom is the easiest one to take advantage, while the Broodals in Super Mario Odyssey are more difficult to do. The other advantage with a cookie cutter boss is that it is easier to convert to Super Mario Maker format.

But you have a point: the bosses are usually simple fare, and some of them are basically recycled: Super Mario 64 has many bosses that are bigger versions of existing enemies and are defeated in pretty much the same way, which includes King Bob-Omb, Whomp King, Big Bully & his Chilly counterpart and Goomboss in the remake. And let's not forget that the Koopalings aren't terribly notable in their methods, unless they take a page out of their unique boss fights in the RPG games.

Power-ups are a nice way to provide a twist in the fight, and that is what made a good number of Odyssey bosses stood out: like for example one of them took advantage of Pokio's wall-scaling and pecking ability to defeat a boss, while another requires redirecting a boss's fist back to its head. As mentioned by YFJ, even Sunshine's bosses utilises the FLUDD in interesting ways, and one such fight I thought was creative is a flat stingray that must be split into smaller chunks before being fully defeated. If that were the case though, there must be an unlimited source of power-ups or a stage-only power-up (e.g.: Super Mario Land's sea and sky bosses), otherwise an alternative method is mandatory (e.g.: Defeating Bowser with either fireballs or the axe).

Thank you for reading.
 

Ray Trace

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I feel like bosses in Mario games, due to Mario's more restricted toolkits, should focus on platforming challenges via being their own level rather than a 1-on-1 confrontation of them. Like, the Bowser final boss fights in some games were tense platforming gauntlets, and people like those (NSMBW, SM3DL, 3DW). Since Mario's strengths rely on pure platforming, I feel like that's what the bosses should focus on as well, rather than small arenas with easily exploitable weaknesses.

Oh, and YFJ's example was great too. Have some bosses spawn power-ups for you to take advantage against them. Hisstocrat was great because it used a game mechanic unique to the game, that is, the Cat Suit's wall climbing abilities. I would love for a boss fight that would, say, use the Propeller Mushroom or Penguin Suit to its advantage, and the boss fight spawns the suits throughout.
 

Mcmadness

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I feel like if they spawned power-ups constantly you could just use that to stay alive. I prefer the power-ups in the 2D games be things that aren't necesarry but just make things easier to progress.

I also think the 3 hits and your out formula is fine provided that.
1. You can't jump on them right away.
2. They aren't all variations of the same boss
3. Comes at the end of a proper level.

If the boss was just the level in of itself then yeah, having something longer would be more appropriate and if the boss was part of the level's gimmick then thats also fine, but not absolutely necessary.
 

Ray Trace

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For use of power-ups, though, if a boss hits you, it's pretty much a punishment that you have to wait until a power-up spawns again. There are also ways around this, such as having lots of pits or instant death areas that could amp up the difficulty of the fight. It really depends on how often the vital power-up spawns, though, which could be tricky to find a balance for.

I also think 3 hits is a good, nice balance for a length of a boss fight which is why most bosses use it; one or two hits tend to kill a boss too quickly while anything exceeding four tends to get excessively long. The problem is, of course, that because of the nature of some boss fights being too...obvious and easy to see, such as the Koopaling boss fights in the New Super Mario Bros. games, it just sticks out when the number of hits in of itself isn't a problem but the extreme low difficulty and derivative nature of the fights that is. It's pretty much the same "problem" some people had with flagpoles in 2D Mario games.
 

Koops

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One problem I see is that many bosses just use the "first encounter surprise factor" as difficulty when that's just not what you wanna do to make it challenging. A new player to NSMBWii could maybe have an easy time with Larry, although they might be surprised when he suddenly jumps, and when getting to Roy, they may be offset by the ground pound he does, and then there's that fucker Lemmy who hits you with balls, unexpected after the first two used normal spells. But Wendy is where it all falls flat. The rings, while more durable, are easier to avoid and she has no sudden movement pattern. My problem here isn't that the Koopalings are the bosses, it's just that after beating them once, that's it, they lose all the difficulty they may have had, and like I said, I just think they based the challenge solely on you not knowing their patterns. That's the reason why the Bowser Junior fights are way better in that game, because he keeps pulling new things and he is somewhat more challenging than the Koopalings in the way that you have to beat him through unconventional means.
 

Mira Nova

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Give the bosses proper health. Even if it's just x number of skulls on-screen where each hit removes one. That way you can have the early-game bosses take 3 hits but increase that the further in the game you get, and of course make the bosses less conventional and mix up their moveset more when they have taken more damage.
 

zelen !!

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i think havig 3 hits is fine enough if the boss fights themselves are interseting
may i bring up rayman legends once more as an example for something 2d mario could do better, for like the 456450964th time! the bosses are pretty dam neat even if most of them really just amount to "avoid the bosses attacks until you can smack then, repeat 2 more times"
like. the mechanical dragon shoots lasers at you and each phase you gotta avoid being hit by them in a notably different way. like the phases all notably differ for every boss
 

Ray Trace

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may i bring up rayman legends once more as an example for something 2d mario could do better, for like the 456450964th time!
why I would have never guessed that this user would come in this thread and babble about this game (and concerning bosses) for the umpteenth time
 

Mcmadness

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almost like it's a really good game or something.
 

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I've never been a fan of bosses in platformers. Most of the time you've spent the past few level learning how to overcome new and unique challenges using your platforming skills, when you suddenly have to kill an enemy in an arena. There's not much platforming, and the challenges you learnt to overcome in the previous worlds don't really mean anything (a problem with Mario in general).

I'll use Rayman Legends as an example on how to fix this. Firstly theres's the Luchador boss fight. You have a small platforming area that you need to get through, and then you're launched off to hit the boss. The Luchador can still hit you from the background, meaning he's still a threat. In the Toad boss fight, he uses Missiles and Homing Missiles to attack you, enemies that we're in previous levels. In the other three fights you have a platforming section in between each phase. Making it a platforming challenge where the boss is chasing or you have to jump up to the boss to hit them could be interesting.
 

Wakko Warner

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What about a boss that follows you around the level and tries to attack you?
 

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I feel Super Mario Odyssey TRIED to have you avoid attacks before the bosses expose themselves (robot Wiggler thing, Cookatiel), but they actually seem to last TOO short to feel like beating them had any impact. It feels anticlimatic to beat them rather than satisfying. I guess the three-hits formula gets way too predictable to get any satisfaction from beating them, so I'd like to see them mix it up. The Pokio/Hammer Bro fight's a good one because there's some coherence to hitting them several times; you actually see parts you need to chip away get chipped away. It also lasts longer than others too. It doesn't help that the most common boss fights are the Broodals and they're ridiculously predictable. I guess Spewart can throw you off for his increasing radius but learning to just stay at the edges of the arena is basically how you beat him since he just walks so slowly and in a straight line toward you.

I think Odyssey has better boss fights than Super Mario 64, but I can't say if it's better than the Wiggler train in Sunshine (though that one's annoying), Gooper Blooper (seems easy to beat), but I haven't played enough of Sunshine as I lost interest on that game.

I've never been a fan of bosses in platformers. Most of the time you've spent the past few level learning how to overcome new and unique challenges using your platforming skills, when you suddenly have to kill an enemy in an arena. There's not much platforming, and the challenges you learnt to overcome in the previous worlds don't really mean anything (a problem with Mario in general).
I had this feeling too, but I feel the boss in Mario usually is way less challenging than the level. The boss doesn't feel like a boss, more like a goal with extra steps. But should they up the ante of the fight, you might be needing checkpoints more, and Mario's classic checkpoint system won't cut it. You guys bring up Rayman as an example, but Rayman has such generous checkpoints, they probably allow better and longer fights to happen without having to frustrate the player.
 

zelen !!

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why I would have never guessed that this user would come in this thread and babble about this game (and concerning bosses) for the umpteenth time
it is incredibly obvious what series im currently into and keep bringing up all the dam time! and also the checkpoints thing in the previous post is a good point actually i didnt realise that
 

Koops

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Hey, I can relate to that. I keep bringing up Fire Emblem at times where it's not needed - like right now -.

Checkpoints during the boss fight could mitigate a boss fight being too hard, so it may be an excuse to make the bosses as hard as possible. Honestly? They should have that as an OPTION. Boss checkpoints exist on easier difficulties but are removed the harder the playthrough.

And I'm also once again saying that Mario should have a difficulty setting. Playing the game all the time in the same difficulty just makes it easy the second time around and really only makes you wanna play the game just because it's been a while.
 

Ray Trace

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And I'm also once again saying that Mario should have a difficulty setting. Playing the game all the time in the same difficulty just makes it easy the second time around and really only makes you wanna play the game just because it's been a while.
I feel like a good idea should have options on playthroughs, like a cheats menu if you will. Imagine unlocking a mode with no power-ups at all, or all enemies are Koopas, or all enemies are Buzzy Beetles. Or bullet bills constantly fly off screen, or flying cheep cheeps attack you, at set intervals. Like, Left 4 Dead 2 has a mutation mode that mixes up typical gameplay with things like that (and some games in general have, like, wacky stuff in their options or cheats menu, like Diddy Kong Racing's Magic Codes), what about Mario games?
 
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