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Deconstructing Super Mario Bros. World 1-1

Even if you don’t play video games, no doubt you can still recognize that pudgy little guy in blue overalls, a red hat, and a bushy mustache. At the very least, you’ve heard the theme song to the original game, and you can hum it on command.

When I re-played Super Mario Bros. on Nintendo as an adult, certain questions popped into my mind like, “why did they throw in a magical mushroom, of all things?” and “why do I love Mario with every fibre of my being?” There are countless videos that dive into the nitty-gritty, but the one that gets me fired up is Eurogamer’s How Nintendo Made Mario’s Most Iconic Level. It features Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of all things Mario and every game you played in your childhood, explaining why he made certain decisions during the design process. So! Without further ado…

Top 5 Things I Learned From This Video

  1. World 1-1 was created after the more advanced levels of 2-1 and 2-2, as the ‘really fun courses’ tended to be the later levels. And I guess… the designers wanted to have fun as soon as possible.
  2. When creating simple enemies and weird items for Mario to interact with, they thought the concept of a ‘suspicious mushroom’ and ‘magical mushroom’ would be globally understood. I know that mushrooms make frequent appearances in Japanese folk tales as well as well-loved magical stories like Alice in Wonderland, but still, odd coincidence to psychedelic mushrooms?
  3. When Shigeru was conceptualizing the goomba (that’s the suspicious mushroom, and the name refers to being a member of an Italian criminal organization), his initial drawing was of a black mushroom. But a programmer was adamant that it looked more like a chestnut. In Japan, a chestnut is a ‘kuri’. ‘Kuriboh’ is goomba in Japanese and translates to ‘chestnut person.’ Confusing, but kinda cool.
  4. Mario was initially created as ‘Jumpman’ in Donkey Kong, and despite the name, his jump was really basic. Later on when he morphed into Mario, they gave him the freedom to jump farther and higher than his height. They also adjusted his ‘slipping’ tendency based off feedback, while maintaining a bit of slippage (after he lands from a jump) as it’s an action game.
  5. As they gradually added weight to the character of Mario, players formed an emotional attachment to the character as he felt more real. Super Mario Bros. was the experiment for what would come in 3D and as animation became more typical in video games.

If you’re keen to explore a great YouTube series that dives into the ways game developers think, try Extra Credits. Whether your an aspiring game developer or someone who just loves video games, their Design Club series offers great insight into level design, and one episode focuses the elegance of Level 1-1 in particular.

What’s your favorite gameplay moment in Super Mario Bros.? Let us know in the comments below!

Image credits: YouTube/Eurogamer/Extra Credits/All the video game music you want, here!

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