Did you know Super Mario Bros. used to have its mustachioed star shooting bullets?
After learning that the original Super Mario Bros. clouds used the same graphics as its bushes, I didn’t think the game held any more secrets. However, Shigeru Miyamoto recently sat down with Famitsu magazine for an interview published this week that contains some really interesting reveals.
For example, the concept behind Super Mario Bros. didn’t come from wanting to make an interesting platformer necessarily, but wanting to create an “athletic” game. “I wanted to build upon our tradition of what we called ‘athletic games’ at the time — games where you controlled a guy and had to jump a lot to overcome obstacles,” Miyamoto said. “We felt strongly about how we were the first to come up with that genre, and it was a goal of ours to keep pushing it.”
The key mechanic of jumping on enemies’ heads, which feels so natural today, wasn’t always in the cards either. The previous Mario Bros. title had Mario and Luigi knocking turtles over only by smashing platforms below them, but Miyamoto determined that it didn’t make sense to be killed by touching a turtle shell with your feet. “We realized it made no sense that you could get killed in Mario Bros. when you jumped on a turtle’s back,” Miyamoto admitted. “If you did that, the turtle would come out the worst from it, wouldn’t it? So we decided that, if we had the chance to make another Mario game, we’d definitely have it so that you could jump on turtles all you want.”
Miyamoto also revealed that those classic Super Mario Bros. glitches weren’t all accidents. The game’s code was actually specifically created so the trick where Mario can jump on a turtle shell multiple times near the end of a level for extra lives would be possible. “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.” However, the “Minus World” glitch wasn’t intentional, but Miyamoto says: “It’s not like it crashes the game, so it’s really kind of a feature, too!”
Further, Miyamoto talked about how Mario’s fireball wasn’t always a fireball, and how a button wasn’t always used to make Mario jump. “During much of development, the controls were A for shoot bullets, B to dash, and up on the control pad to jump,” he said. “The bullets wound up becoming fireballs later — we originally thought about having a shoot-’em-up stage where Mario jumps on a cloud and shoots at enemies, but we dropped it because we wanted to focus on jumping action. The sky-based bonus stages are the remnants of that idea, you could say.” Miyamoto also revealed that he was in favor of keeping “up” as the jump button, but says things worked out just fine anyway.
Those shoot-em-up stages actually made it into the Game Boy’s Super Mario Land, so now we know that those seemingly odd additions were a concept cut from Super Mario Bros. As for the plot of the game, it came from Miyamoto’s knowledge of folk tales. “Since the game’s set in a magical kingdom, I made the required power-up item a mushroom because you see people in folk tales wandering into forests and eating mushrooms all the time,” he added. “That, in turn, led to us calling the in-game world the ‘Mushroom Kingdom,’ and the rest of the basic plot setup sprung from there.”
With Nintendo celebrating the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. this year, everywhere but North America so far anyway, it seems like now all of the game’s secrets may finally have been uncovered. Until 25 years later, when we’ll find out that Mario was really just hallucinating through the entirety of Super Mario Bros. as he sat in a mental institution, but Miyamoto decided to cut that part out of the ending.