Column: LEGO misses the mark again after the Mario movie release

By failing to capitalise on the colossal success of The Super Mario
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Bros. Movie, the LEGO Buy at Buy at Buy at Buy at Group and Nintendo have lost the chance to open the theme up to a brand new audience.

It’s fair to say that The Super Mario
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Bros. Movie surpassed most of our expectations on all fronts, becoming not only the highest-grossing film of the year both domestically and globally as of right now, but also becoming the biggest video game film adaptation that we’ve seen.

This, of course, has already filtered back into the video game industry, with several Mario games sales steadily moving up as more and more fans head back to a familiar story with characters that need very little introduction. But what does this mean for LEGO Buy at Buy at Buy at Buy at ? And what should it have meant by now?

The LEGO Group is no stranger to the video game world, with LEGO Minecraft and the popular Tallneck from Horizon Forbidden West being obvious examples. Leaning more onto the nostalgia side of things, we’ve also seen Sonic the Hedgehog getting more attention and, as you would expect, quite a few sets for Super Mario.

With the other sets mentioned above, each of them has something that the current Mario sets woefully continue to lack. We have a Sonic, we have a beautifully designed Aloy, and we have a whole range of characters from Minecraft, not just Steve and Alex. But, somehow, the LEGO Group still hasn’t given us an official Mario minifigure.

Plenty of fans from both the Mario fandom and the wider LEGO community have commented on this, and how it doesn’t really seem to make sense. When initial rumours surrounding this summer’s wave first surfaced, the potential for movie-inspired sets was there – but a Donkey Kong-shaped tease is all we’ve seen so far.

With or without DK, the interactive theme currently has plenty of universally-recognised characters, including all the big names like Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad – and that’s to name just a few. But the current models (while some of them undoubtedly innovative for being electronic) offer us nothing in terms of smaller scale plain old minifigures, unlike the new LEGO Sonic sets coming up in August this year.

With the announcement of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, many had high hopes that this would finally be the perfect moment for the release of a whole set of Mario minifigures, with plenty of characters and sets that would maybe even link into the film. But it seems so far that even this pretty reasonable expectation may not get met, which leaves us to wonder why.

As is usually the case, many people online have their own theories as to why the LEGO Group seems to be avoiding tapping into what’s already proven to be a huge market. Some reasons that we’ve seen so far seem flimsy at best, with points that a Mario minifigure may be ‘ugly’ or that it would cost the LEGO Group to make new pieces for several characters. 

Given that we’ve already seen some very questionable looking minifigures, like the fairly horrifying Dobby from 2002, or even the Demogorgon from Stranger Things, it doesn’t seem that cost or aesthetics is really much of a problem, particularly when linked to a huge IP. The newly-announced Sonic the Hedgehog sets have some new pieces too, and given the launch of the LEGO Sonic the Hedgehog theme it’s absolutely worth it to do so.

Other arguments include that a set of Mario-themed minifigures wouldn’t fit in with the current Mario sets available, and this seems to be the only argument that holds any water. But even that has a very simple solution – making more sets. With the movie out now, with so many iconic scenes that people already seem keen to recreate in LEGO form, now would have been the perfect time to get something out there.

Looking for answers leads us to the current catalogue of not just Mario themed LEGO sets, but video game sets in general. Some claim it was Nintendo’s idea for the Mario sets to be a little more complex, rather than leaning towards the more traditional LEGO set-up, but no-one seems to have a source for this.

Alongside the Mario sets, we also have the rather expensive sets like 10306 Atari 2600, and 71374 Nintendo Entertainment system
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. Given that these consoles came out in the ’70s and ’80s respectively, it’s clear these aren’t marketed at children today. And for many of us who may not have that strong emotional connection, the more specialised sets just don’t have the same appeal.

While it’s great that the LEGO Group and Nintendo have tapped into the idea of making the Mario sets themselves like a game, they naturally can’t offer the same experience. And without the nostalgia factor, a lot of the more casual fans may overlook the sets altogether.

The absolute rocketing success of the Mario movie can be attributed to nostalgia, but also maybe not just that one factor. There are so many people of all ages who really loved the film, and while there were enough Mario gaming references in there to fill a book, the plot also had a simple element that seemed to lead to worldwide success – simply, that it was fun.

LEGO Super Mario 71403 Adventures with Peach featured

With minifigures and simple sets that can be redesigned with regular bricks, that element of fun is so easy to work with. Simple, recognisable, and ideally not too expensive little characters that don’t need batteries could be a really nice addition to LEGO’s catalogue, and now is absolutely the time to get them out there. 

With no simple Mario sets available, there’s a gap in the market and the LEGO Group seems so far to be refusing to fill it. The sets we have now are fantastic, and have of course been extremely popular since launch, but even just having some minifigures available would open Mario up to that even wider audience, which right now is exactly what we need.

While the more hardcore fans have more of a desire to snag those more expensive sets, there needs to be something to appeal to the more general audience who may not necessarily be Mario fanatics, but are definitely still big fans.

The success of The Super Mario Bros. Movie has shown that the LEGO Group and Nintendo – or whichever is responsible for the product direction – really need to take that extra step and get something out there that will appeal to a wider audience. Mario minifigures would be an excellent start, even three years on from the start of the LEGO x Nintendo partnership.

Fingers crossed we aren’t still saying the same thing three years from now…

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