There comes a time when we just have seen enough coins. Much like how the tantalizing reward of a candy bar hits less as you start having your own money. Finding a quarter doesn’t mean much anymore. Something that used to make your day walking in a parking lot for the family grocery shopping trip just doesn’t matter so much when you honestly don’t need it. You got a pay check in your pocket, you are getting a bag of mini Reese’s Cups. 1-Ups don’t mean anything when you rarely die. So why even bother with gathering up a hundred of them? So for that matter why grab any out of your way? Sure you will still snag some secret coins. Those are rewarding to find. Not everyone knows they are there. Those are your coins, use ’em when you need them. The bulk of every early strategy guide could have been called “Free coins Nintendo Doesn’t Want YOU To Know About!”
It didn’t have to be that way. I already can hear the arguments about game design. From the comparative Sonic Rings idea that aside from providing one mans the rings serve tertiary purposes. Extra lives, hit nullification, and a super power time limiter make you crave every last ring you can find. That uh, that doesn’t really hold water here because we are comparing apples to oranges, or coins to rings literally as it were. So let’s move on to the bigger argument that could be had.
When the rings scatter or are burned away the score remains. High scores are a hold over from arcade games. No one would fault you for not even giving your score a second thought on home console titles. Why would you care when it’s just going to be wiped away when you power off the system anyway. So too have lives become largely antiquated. From save states to built in level selects you don’t need to pad out enough spare tries and continues to reach the end credits in one go. Super Mario World, Super Mario All Stars, and Super Mario Land 2 effectively made the life limit irrelevant in the Mario series as a whole. So why not just remove them? I mean lots of games use either save points and passwords like Metroid and Mega Man, or just focus on a slow progression permadeath title that let’s you add unlocks to the save file while starting over from the beginning everytime. I mean come on I don’t even like Binding of Isaac, but I kinda love Binding of Isaac.
Now I’m not saying Nintendo isn’t aware of this or that they don’t keep things fresh. Mario Odyssey uses coins to buy cosmetics. When you die you just lose a handful of coins each time. So the only thing that gets hurt is your pride. Holding you back from buying Mario a new shirt or funny hat or something. That is until post game where you can convert coins to Power Moons to help you reach the insane late game stages that require you to find almost every Power Moon in the game to grab if you didn’t spend a few thousand coins to pad your numbers. So why bring up score at all? My point exactly. Coins might have been birthed from generic point modifiers in arcade titles. Even Mega Man had those in the earliest title.
Those little pills did absolutely nothing but make that self esteem score go up. Incidentally also later replaced with bolts used for buying upgrades and even extra lives themselves. Score has nothing to do with the want, or lack thereof, to collect 100 items for a second try. Now some might just say it’s an outdated game mechanic. Something there if you need it, and designed to offset difficulty until you memorize the later stages. True collecting these tokens typically slow down your progress. Giving you more time to get comfortable with the controls and the moves you have at your disposal. I mean just being honest here. If I couldn’t get through a section as Fire Mario, what makes the game developers think I stand a chance as small Mario? All it forces me to do is learn that area. More often then not, learning my jump arcs and enemy attacks. Something I would have learned anyway if I was crawling around every corner of the stage snagging up coins.
There is a solid case for why collecting coins still stays a valid choice in games even today. The fact that they subtly teach you how to play without a momentum pausing tutorial screen or section, and that they can be used to hint at secret areas or off screen platforms is a no duh statement from anyone who has thought about game design for more than a few minutes. That’s not the reason you should go for those little spinning trinkets. It’s just fun. Everything about it is designed to be rewarding. The implied value of being collectable, the actual realized value of being a fraction of a life, the look of them themselves, and a satisfying jingle when snagged the very act of walking over one is enough to trick your brain into feeling good. The only reason it doesn’t would be if you decide it’s not worth it. It’s the mindset at which you approach the act of gathering them up that will color how you feel towards it. Like getting a job in something you used to have as a hobby it never really feels that bad to have to go out if your way to pick up a few coins. Just it’s easy to get frustrated. Sure you like baking, but if you got six cakes to finish before you can grab lunch and you skipped breakfast, well yeah you will be grumpy as you just get it done. As new mechanics and better secrets compete for space in each stage you might see a room of coins very disappointing. It could have been a colored Yoshi or some awesome P Switch to add a permanent power up block set into the overworld. It almost feels like the old argument I used to get from my mom when I’d get upset at a death or game over. I’d be complaining about having to start over or go really far back. She’d just ask me “Doesn’t that just mean you get to play longer?” A statement I used to assume was just obtusely ignoring my desire to beat the damn thing. Little did I know that, well like almost always, she was right. Collecting coins is fundamental to playing Mario. Be it for lives, points, or playing dress up those are just the rewards for gathering them. Getting them in the first place, that’s the game. When you stop ignoring them, or even worse actively disliking them you can start to see a new little bit of the game many of us stopped caring about.
Platforming, yes the very thing that named the genre. It’s not about getting the coins. Rather it’s how you grab them. Sure there is no pits in large amounts of each stage. More often than not it might just be a little tricky jumping or a fun little arrangement of areas to jump around. Like a little jungle gym you might want to see how fast you can grab them all, or how many you can get with the fewest amount of jumps. Just a little quick self made bit of fun. Treating the game as a toy. Not a thing to be completed, but something to be played with. I’ve finally learned that it’s not just about saving the princess each time. Sometimes you just want to look around. Not everytime I grabbed my Lego men did they have some epic adventure. Sometimes they just went to a poorly made forest or a small little inn that had it’s beds next to the tables. There is a difference in wanting to play a game and wanting to overcome a challenge. So why would I always treat every time as a desperate push to see the credits? Especially if I don’t care at the moment. Dieing in a stupid way or just stumbling into a platform play ground of worthless coins suddenly had a decent amount of charm. If I’m just playing to mess around, then why not waste my time seeking out some man sized money? Sometimes, as sad as it is to say, we train ourselves to not have fun. So desperate to validate what we’ve done with our time that if we can’t point to something we accomplished we feel like we wasted our day. Well maybe that’s what we accomplished. Maybe doing nothing was exactly what we set out to do. No deadlines, no agenda, and nothing wrong with that. Just running around looking for coins I might have missed as a kid. Finding new little dark corners that I have just walked past for years now. Still finding something new in a game I can beat in my sleep is a feeling far more satisfying than reading the credits for the tenth time. That’s something you can bank on.
Huh, would have thought I would have went with a bank picture. Though I did make a rather far reach to mention dark areas, so I guess it works. Also no, I didn’t forget about New Super Mario Bros 2 or DuckTales where gathering coins and trinkets actually provide a distinct visual pay off in the end. If I was going there well then I’d be talking about Wario Land as well as Luigi’s Mansion. Those games already provide an incentive for grabbing the goodies so they aren’t exactly what we were talking about here now were they? Exactly. So since I have you here, and we are already talking about coins… I’m gonna plug our Patreon.
See if you got some spare coins hanging about, and want to help us grow, then perhaps consider supporting us over on Patreon. Many of our articles only happened thanks to the contributions we get. As well as the feedback and requests from our community too. Now we understand if you can’t or don’t want to help out, but still want to hang out with everyone. So half the bulk of our Discord community is open to everyone. So either way you go about it we’d love to hear from you. Especially as the big YouTube roll out is coming very soon so if you want to help shape that project from launch then come on over.