It appears Mario's dalliance with the mobile game market has come to an end. Speaking to Variety, Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto told the outlet that phones "will not be the primary path of future Mario games."
Nintendo first jumped to the mobile space with 2016's Super Mario Run for iOS and Android. Within a few weeks, it racked up 90 million downloads. It also led to the release of other Mario phone games, Dr. Mario World and Mario Kart Tour in 2019.
Of the three titles, Dr. Mario World has been the only one to get shut down and delisted. In general, Nintendo doesn't appear to talk that much about its mobile Mario games unless it's to disclose important information, such as removing the gacha mechanics from Mario Kart Tour.
Speaking candidly, Miyamoto told Variety that bringing the series to phones was "challenging" to figure out, given that phones are more "common, generic devices" when compared to consoles.
"The intuitiveness of the control is a part of the gaming experience," he continued. "That is why I played the role of director for Super Mario Run, to be able to translate that Nintendo hardware experience into the smart devices."
That said, he did admit that phones allowed the Mario brand to grow and include those who couldn't afford (or don't want) a Nintendo home console. "[It expanded] the doorway for far more audience to experience the game, and the Mario gaming experience, where you only need your thumb on one hand.”
Does Nintendo need Mario in its mobile future?
Following Super Mario Run, Nintendo created mobile spinoffs for several of its high-profile franchises such as Fire Emblem, Pokémon, and Animal Crossing.
Some of those titles have taken off more than others, such as Pokémon Go and Fire Emblem Heroes. Per Sensor Tower, the latter game surpassed $1 billion in global player spending this past June, and is said to be Nintendo's top earner in the mobile space.
To date, there've been nearly 20 phone games from Nintendo, and five have been completely discontinued.
Despite being a staple of home consoles and handhelds, it may be just fine that Mario's success can't be replicated for phones. It isn't like the brand is hurting for attention or revenue at the moment, particularly with the Mario movie set to release later this week.