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The Creators of Super Mario Drafted The Game on Graph Paper

The levels were originally planned out one at a time by hand

smithsonian.com

The side-scrolling adventures of two plumber brothers, Super Mario Bros., has long been iconic and influential. Now, during a discussion at Nintendo's E3 Press Conference, Super Mario Bros. creators Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka describe how they designed the original video game, writes Jason Kottke for Kottke.org

"Back in the day, we had to create everything by hand," Tezuka says through a translator in the video. "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."

For later versions, they used a special creator instead of pencil and paper, but even that experience was delightful enough that it inspired a game of its own. At the conference, they announced the upcoming Super Mario Maker, which allows players to build their own levels that blend favorites from many games and art styles. It also includes features from early in the design process.

Tezuka describes that the early concepts of Super Mario included concepts of land, air and sea. He shows an early drawing depicting Mario floating on a cloud and shooting fireballs. In Super Mario Maker, players can do the same.

Jessica Roy has collected photos of the drawings for The Los Angeles Times. At NPR, Laura Sydell interviewed Miyamoto and asked him about the game’s enduring appeal. He replied:

I think that Mario became so popular because the actions in the Mario game are something that are innate to humans everywhere. Everyone is afraid of falling from a great height. If there is a gap that you have to cross, everyone is going to try to run to jump across the gap. These are things that are uniquely human and are a shared experience across, really, all people. And I think because of the simplicity of these experiences as well as the interactive nature of controlling the character and seeing the response on the game screen — that's what really resonated with people and made Mario such a popular character.

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