Often while playing a game you might wonder about mechanics or visuals. Sometimes this implies innovation, as with classics like Half-Life or Resident Evil, or suggest atrocious gameplay (I’m looking at you History Channel: Battle for the Pacific). One of the most renowned video games ever, Super Mario Bros. blossomed into an icon among a franchise of Mario hits. Creators Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka broke down a few aspects of the classic Super Mario Bros.
Miyamoto and Tezuka’s provided neat insight into some of the enjoyable, and wacky, aspects of Super Mario Bros. According to Miyamoto, they wanted players to really enjoy the large Mario, which is why you begin as the small Mario. Apparently the mushroom which makes Mario huge was intended to be a psychedelic mushroom.
“Next we started thinking: how do we make him bigger? What is that magical item that we need? And we thought a suspicious mushroom would be globally understood.”
The general premise of players understanding abstractions is the tone of Super Mario Bros. world 1-1. Shigeru explained that essentially world 1-1 plays out like a tutorial. Players discover gameplay mechanics through experimentation. For instance, if there’s a question block, players instinctively want to hit it and discover what happens. Seeing a coin provides incentive to try again, and eventually the mushroom appears. Initially, these look like adversaries, but when a player is hit, they’ll become bigger, a clear sign of success.
Certain quirks are satisfactorily explained, like Mario slipping. Mario is character on a 2D background, so when Mario slips it’s his movement being reflected on a flat surface. Jumping and landing on a 3D surface however there’s a momentary pause. When creating a game, there’s development and design. When Super Mario Bros. launched, design didn’t influence development as much as development shaped design. Tezuka and Miyamoto brought a design-first approach that was revolutionary at the time.
“Focusing on animation as an integral part of game development wasn’t common. Up until then it was mostly technical people making video games.
In addition to breaking down Super Mario Bros. world 1-1, Tezuka and Miyamoto designed a level in the recently-released Super Mario Maker. It’s definitely worth watching, especially to hear the Super Mario makers’ thoughts on level design and mechanics.