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Super Mario at 35: Mario’s makers on Nintendo’s most enduring mascot

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September 14, 2020 at 11:30AM

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The joyful jumping plumber has been on every Nintendo console and inspired a generation of players. Shigeru Miyamoto, Kenta Motokura, Takashi Tezuka and Yoshiaki Koizumi reflect on his legacy

Almost everyone who has ever picked up a video game controller will have played at least one Mario game. Whether you had a Nintendo Entertainment System in the 1980s, the N64 in the 90s or a Wii in the 00s, the joyful little jumping plumber has graced every generation of Nintendo’s consoles – and touched every generation of players. Over 373m Super Mario games have been sold to date, which means hundreds of millions of siblings uniting to find Star Road in Super Mario World, commuters escaping with Super Mario 3D Land on the train, and parents soaring from planet to planet in Super Mario Galaxy with their kids.

These are in essence straightforward games about the pleasure of running and jumping, of moving a character around in colourful, abstract space. What makes them better than a thousand other platformers, as this genre is known, is the finesse and responsiveness in Mario’s movement. The soaring jump, the slight inertia that carries him forward after a leap, and the sudden acceleration of his run all translate to pleasure when you play. There is such skill and satisfaction in mastering his movement, in stringing together backflips and wall-kicks and long-jumps to scale the geometry of the levels and find their secrets, and this is what has enthralled children (and adults) for 35 years. Mario’s designers know to hide things in the nooks and crannies of these levels, to always answer the question “what happens when I do this?” with “something fun”.

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