Mario's Time Machine
Aka the game that could have been one of the best Mario games in the series had it been non educational and the designers had made it like nearly every other game with the same theme, this game had Mario getting a time machine and foiling Bowser's plans of interfering with history, albeit in the real world. How could anyone mess up this storyline? Countless kids shows have used it just fine (and sadly, better than this game did), and entire movies and franchises have been built around time travel. It's not a bad idea like Hotel Mario's door shutting mechanics or Mario getting a magical typewriter, and you can just see the possibilities!
Mario in prehistoric times fighting off dinosaurs and avoiding T rexes and the like. Mario in ancient Egypt, or Greece, or Rome. Mario in medieval times as a knight, or Mario in World War 2. Okay, cliche ideas, but anything would have been better than Mario going on a game long fetch quest and answering history questions for a quiz.
So what could have improved this game? Well, the obvious answer, cut back on the edutainment, and send it to Nintendo proper to make rather than some bunch of talentless hacks from a random third world country who can neither program or act if their lives depended on it. Remove the quizzes, which are something kids have to put up with in school anyway, add some actual danger and excitement to the whole thing by making Mario get hurt and possibly killed by enemies, improve the technical qualities (especially the artwork and sound effects) and generally just make it the kind of game people expect when you mention Mario and time travel in the same sentence.
Or maybe just make it like Mario and Luigi Partners in Time and call it a day.
Wario Master of Disguise
A half hearted attempt at reviving the Wario Land series, the game makes it here via the few things it does do right. You see, despite being an average game, it actually does have quite of a few redeeming features in the excellent music and character design and has a general storyline concept that could well have been worked in a proper, enjoyable Wario plaltformer. Take a listen, these aren't exactly bad tunes for the game, and they could well have fit in nicely in a game like Wario Land 4:
Similarly, the core characters and such aren't too bad, and could probably be made into the focus of a decent game. Sure, Terrormisu is the least threatening looking Wario villain ever, but Cannoli and Carpaccio could easily be decent characters in a proper Wario Land game.
This time, the problems to fix are due to two things, one being forgetting that Wario isn't all about toilet humour and such, and the other being an overwillingness to try and shoehorn in bad gimmicks and turn the series into something that it's not about. The touch screen gimmicks which take over most of the game (and indeed, two otherwise important battles get basically replaced by gimmicky puzzles, including the freaking final boss) and are there almost entirely so the designers can get credit for using the touch screen of the DS... badly and the puzzle elements kill much of this game, but it's also hurt by the toilet humour in the enemy and boss design. You've got enemies which attack by ***, overuse of excretement for failing as Arty Wario and a boss called, no, wait for it... the Barfatronic Lavachomper.
So what would fix this? Again, put some more effort into the game, make the levels more action rather than puzzle based like the rest of Wario's series and remove the immature humour which kinda kills the game's tone.
Mario Pinball Land
Artemendo already covered many of the failings of this game, what with the whole overly 'frantic' gameplay style, the poor physics and the general boring gameplay, but it's a prime example of what could have been a good game, if it just wasn't a pinball game.
And there's the problem already. It's design wise a near perfect mesh between Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, it has a variety of fairly interesting bosses (including one who is supposedly not but most definitely seems to be Tutankoopa from Paper Mario) and like most missed opportunity games, has fairly good music (why is it that could be decent Mario games so often have music of around the same quality as the excellent classics?)
Does anyone get reminded of Culex from Super Mario RPG by this?
But as said, this could have been excellent as a 3D platformer of some kind, maybe even on the GBA if the graphics were possible to use for more dynamic gameplay. It looked in all honestly just like a Gamecube game, and ideally, it should have been one with Super Mario 64/Sunshine type physics and gameplay.
The point stands, you have to remember the limitations of the genre, and by design, pinball isn't a good basis for an adventure. Better such games like Metroid Prime Pinball (I hear) and Pokemon Pinball do well because they're still at heart pinball games, not attempts at a 3D Mario game with pinball physics. It's why there's thankfully not going to be a Legend of Zelda Pinball Edition where Link goes around dungeons in the style of this game, hopefully.
So to improve, this game should have ideally just gone to a home console and been made into a real adventure game. It could have (if the game design was indicative) of been an excellent compromise between the 3D Mario 64/Sunshine style and a more linear 2D Mario style, instead of the awful mess the released game was.
Yoshi's Island DS (to some extent)
Now, some people are probably wondering exactly why I've listed this game here, since I'm one of those people that actually likes said game... well, I think it still needs some improvements, and I could tell why quite a few people don't like said game.
You see, graphics and music aside, much of the issue here is that the level and boss design is just far less interesting than the original, and the former seems a bit rushed and not well tested. Confusing? Probably, but it just feels very much like a Mario World Kaizo hack, what with the deliberately rather nasty level design. And that's not something Yoshi's Island ever was. Sure, it was hard, but it was more the fair sort of hard than the 'kill you because you messed up a minor thing kind of hard'.
It's just a big difficulty wall as soon as you get to about world 5, where it starts trying to outright kill you every step of the way without any warning. Being trapped forever becomes common, forced hits near guaranteed and evil little traps like lava sent straight onto Yoshi's head with no warning are quite common (and I mean it, one in the world 2 secret level is even timed so it looks perfectly safe before frying Yoshi alive and sending him three rooms back to the nearest checkpoint).
But it really does seem like a ROM hack of the original. The bosses are quite mediocre too, more so on the design end than the actual gameplay aspect. Heck, Gilbert the Gooey is worst here, he fails on pretty much all possible accounts and is the only boss I recall in Mario history you can kill instantly with a single well placed hit.
How should this be improved? Up the level and boss design. Put some more levels together that feel less like cramming spikes onto the screen and trying to design everything for pure gameplay, and more personal touches to the game. It feels very clinical if I can say that, very much like it was designed by numbers or board meeting. It's got some good ideas, but it's very much quite a dull game that has ironically got less technically impressive than the original back in the SNES days.
Later Mario Party Installments
The first likely criticised choice on the list. I'll come out immediately and say I do not at all like many of the later games and pretty much stopped soon after Mario Party 5. But to back it up, at least I can say the general sales rule has been that the earlier games have outsold the later ones, albeit with even the worst selling over a million copies.
How could it have been excellent? Well to be perfectly honest, there are many traces of good design later. Some mini games reference obscure Mario characters like Big Bob-omb and Salvo the Slime. Some board concepts are fairly good, especially in Mario Party eight. The GBA game was a Mario nostalgia fanatics dream with average gameplay. That kind of thing.
Still, the key issue I can see is that the games have got more and more generic as they've gone on. The mini games have often stayed at least relevant to the series, but you can easily tell later boards and such basically have Mario additions as last minute cosmetic changes and may as well take place on Earth or some generic other setting.
Mario Party 7's boards are a good example, possibly taking place on Earth, but still having Mario enemies and generic grunts almost as if Nintendo couldn't decide where the game was meant to be taking place and tried to shoehorn it into the Mushroom Kingdom somewhere. Mario Party 6 and 8 are much the same way, as is 5. Maybe it's just the overall generic graphics that could just as well fit in Sonic the Hedgehog Party, Crash Bandicoot Party or the upcoming Wii Party. But there seems to be something missing. Older games seemed to have more Mario references than the newer ones, and it really, really takes away from the game. Should have let me design rhe boards to be fair, I'd at least reference Super Mario Bros 3/World/64/Sunshine/Galaxy in the process.
things seem just as more problematic, like removing DK as playable
(huh?), the increasingly weird item system (what was wrong with normal
items like all other spinoffs?), and the increasing emphasis on luck. I
mean, Chance Time was bad enough, do we need Get a Rope and it's
variants in future games taking up valuable mini game space? Come on,
the dice is plenty random already.
So how would I improve these games? Bring them back to the Mushroom Kingdom proper. Tie them into the normal Mario games. Make boards where you go around Rogueport or the Beanbean KIngdom, or an airship, or Dark Land, or one of the galaxies in Mario Galaxy. Have more Mario references and characters, less generic drones, more background goodies. Bring back DK. Bring back normal items, *** speed up the gameplay in general.
And for the love of God, kill the luck based missions with fire. A board game is luck based enough as it is.
Every Mario game cloud has a silver lining...