Do you like Rhythm games? If you don’t (since you’ve said you don’t like games with only one way to beat them), how would you make them better?
Nope, you pretty much hit the nail on the head. Low/No depth, despite being challenging.
Obvious move is to introduce interesting choices in some way, like star power in guitar hero, alternate note charts like in Amplitude, maybe even a puzzle thing like Audiosurf (I did like audiosurf). The idea is, make there more ways to score, force players to choose between them, have them compound in different ways over time. Similar to Go, if there’s a lot of possible branching points, and the value of a given branch is difficult to evaluate in the short term, it becomes more difficult to solve the game by simply doing the optimal short term thing all the time. Having resources like star power mean you need to use those resources at the right time to maximize score. Having multiple possible notes you can pick up in a given section, and having them build on each other and combine, much like in audiosurf, make it so you need to pick between notes and prioritize some for the big score.
I don’t have any specific thoughts, only those general ones. That and freestyle DDR routines are pretty neat.
What’s wrong with games being strictly about execution skill? Many speedruns devolve into just that. And SMB is that as well. Sure you need to time your jumps, but that isn’t a meaningful decision, you still end up playing the game the same as anyone else.
I had that same perspective before I actually got into speedrunning. I thought speedrunning was a horribly repetitive experience like playing super meat boy or this one really precise run of Dark Souls’ first area I tried to do, resetting with every small fuckup. Sure, when the game gets really optimized it can be that way, but the world record holder isn’t the only guy running the game. The game lives through all its players for a speedgame, and getting faster frequently means pursuing local maxima rather than trying to go for the strictly optimized route, which is probably too hard for you to do every trick. In watching other Mirror’s edge runners, I’d learn something new about the game every single time, everyone had different strats.
And yeah, Super Meat Boy can be that way, but I wouldn’t say Super Mario Bros is. Depth is the thing I say differentiates the two; there’s just more to do in Mario levels and with Mario’s mechanics. There are more and more sophisticated ideas in Mario levels.
The more subtle point is that Mario’s levels being looser allows for a larger range of relevant game states. For any given challenge there are more subtly different ways to play it, where kaizo levels or super meat boy levels are so much more restrictive.