Shigeru Miyamoto has designed dozens of the most popular video games in the world: Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros, and the Legend of Zelda among them. In this video by Vox, Miyamoto shares how he thinks about game design.
This is one of the first times that a video game’s plot and characters were designed before the programming. [Miyamoto:] “Well, early on, the people who made video games, they were technologists, they were programmers, they were hardware designers. But I wasn’t. I was a designer, I studied industrial design, I was an artist, I drew pictures. And so I think that it was in my generation that people who made video games really became designers rather than technologists.”
Also worth watching is this video by Game Maker’s Toolkit about how Nintendo builds everything in their games around a fun and unique play mechanic.
It seems to me that these two videos slightly contradict each other, although maybe you’ll disagree.
Super Mario Brothers was released for Famicom in Japan on September 13, 1985.
When was the game released in the United States? Nobody knows.
Here’s Nintendo’s official anniversary video.
Legendary designers Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka broke down the first level of the game for Eurogamer. (My favorite part? The subtle way that Mario is designed to have “weight,” and how this affects the player’s identification with and affection for the character.)
Kyle Orland at Ars Technica has thirty little-known facts about the game:
The original instruction booklet for Super Mario Bros. details how “the quiet, peace-loving Mushroom People were turned into mere stones, bricks and even field horse-hair plants.” That means every brick you break in the game is killing an innocent mushroom person that would have been saved once Princess Toadstool “return[ed] them to their normal selves.”
Digg has a video on the character’s evolution (including cameo appearances in other Nintendo games):
Samir al-Mutfi’s “Syrian Super Mario” reimagines the game with obstacles faced by Syrian refugees. (Grimly, the player has 22,500,000 lives to lose.)
And of course, Super Mario Maker, the game that lets players make their own Super Mario Bros. levels, was released for Wii U. Users’ levels are already being repurposed for social commentary, from the existential dread of “Waluigi’s Unbearable Existence” to the more lighthearted “Call Your Mother, You’ve Got Time.”
In talking about an upcoming game (more on that in a bit), Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka discuss the process they used in designing the levels for the original Super Mario Bros. Much of the design work happened on graph paper.1
Back in the day, we had to create everything by hand. To design courses, we would actually draw them one at a time on to these sheets of graph paper. We’d then hand our drawings to the programmers, who would code them into a build.
Here’s the full video discussion:
Now, about that game… Super Mario Maker is an upcoming title for Wii U that lets you create your own Super Mario Bros levels with elements from a bunch of different Mario games. So cool…I might actually have to get a Wii U for this.
Miyamoto, who is responsible for creating or overseeing the creation of Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, and many other games, is stepping down from his role as manager of Nintendo’s Entertainment Analysis and Development branch to work with a smaller team on smaller games with much shorter timelines.
“What I really want to do is be in the forefront of game development once again myself,” Miyamoto said. “Probably working on a smaller project with even younger developers. Or I might be interested in making something that I can make myself, by myself. Something really small.”
Miyamoto was profiled in the New Yorker last December. (via @shauninman)
Update: Nintendo says it was a misunderstanding.
“This is absolutely not true,” said a spokeswoman for Nintendo. “There seems to have been a misunderstanding. He has said all along that he wants to train the younger generation. “He has no intention of stepping down. Please do not be concerned.”
The New Yorker’s Nick Paumgarten goes long on Nintendo’s resident genius, Shigeru Miyamoto, designer of many of Nintendo’s top games.
In his games, Miyamoto has always tried to re-create his childhood wonderment, if not always the actual experiences that gave rise to it, since the experiences themselves may be harder to come by in a paved and partitioned world. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” he told me one day. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation. I wish that children nowadays could have similar experiences, but it’s not very easy.”
In a recent interview for the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros., Mario’s baby daddy Shigeru Miyamoto revealed that the infinite 1-up trick was included in the game on purpose but that the minus world was a bug.
“We did code the game so that a trick like that would be possible,” Miyamoto revealed. “We tested it out extensively to figure out how possible pulling the trick off should be and came up with how it is now, but people turned out to be a lot better at pulling the trick off for ages on end than we thought.” What about the famed Minus World? “That’s a bug, yes, but it’s not like it crashes the game, so it’s really kind of a feature, too!”