The Strange World of Super Mario Bros. Wonder

Super Mario Bros. Wonder contains a lot of odd ideas. With magical flowers that, once collected, introduce unexpected new elements, players experience everything from Piranha Plants bursting into song to Mario becoming a sentient pile of goo. In fact, director Shiro Mouri wasn’t confident the team could pull it off because it had so many ideas. Coming up with so many strange ideas was not the hardest part for the developers, though. They needed to figure out how to make each idea fun to play with.

The team at Nintendo first started by writing down over 2000 possible magic flower powers on sticky notes. Everyone put their notes on a big board so everyone could see all the ideas. They even got ideas from famous Mario music maker Koji Kondo! He thought of turning Mario into a real person. But that wouldn’t be very fun to play.

They narrowed it down by thinking about how each magic power could connect to right before and change the gameplay. Some ideas like making Mario pixelated didn’t work well. Then small teams worked on making quick prototypes of better ideas. This helped them figure out which ideas could be tricky levels.

Some ideas had to be removed like Mario’s head turning into a giant 8-bit brick block that enemies eat. This level was just a straight run to the end. Other ideas like charging rhinos changed to runing blue bulls that could knock over everything, like the flag at the end.

Tweaking familiar Mario elements was key too. The map is more open, special badges add skills, and green pipes or gravity can’t always be counted on. They had to think about which parts from classic Mario games really fit and which could use an update. Changing things up likely keeps the formula from getting boring after almost 40 years!

It seems no idea is too weird for Super Mario as long as it’s fun to play. The strange world of Super Mario Bros. Wonder shows their wild creativity and keeps players surprised until the end.

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