WHAT YOU DON’T HEAR OFTEN IN GAME DEVELOPMENT IS THIS: Super Mario Bros. Wonder’s development team had no deadline when the game was still in the prototyping phase. Producer Takashi Tezuka explains, “I wanted to stop people from saying, ‘We won’t make that deadline, so that’s why we didn’t do it—we can’t do it.'” Shiro Mouri, the game’s director, saw it as a very obvious and encouraging indicator. This game was not meant to be played in half.

On October 20, Super Mario Bros. Wonder will be released, marking the series’ return to the 2D side-scrolling genre that gave rise to the whole franchise. Mario is leaving the Mushroom Kingdom for the Flower Kingdom, where unique objects and flora discussions can cause the globe to tilt more quickly than an unpleasant trip.

Since the last Mario game of this type, New Super Mario Bros. (2012), it has been ten years. It has also been even longer since players have become acclimated to the play style that Nintendo helped popularize with the very first Mario game. Since everything was new when Mario initially came out, Tezuka claims, “we really didn’t have to explain anything or persuade people to do that play style.” People were able to attend because we offered the game.

But now, Tezuka asserts, that’s insufficient. Older Mario games required players to repeatedly attempt challenging levels until they became proficient enough to survive. The Nintendo team’s current aim is to develop a setting where users have greater discretion over how they choose to play.

One of the game’s two guiding concepts, freedom, is represented in-game in a few different ways. Players can choose which courses to take on first and, in some locations, are allowed to wander off the beaten path and explore about the world map. They can also choose from a dozen playable characters, including classics like Mario, Luigi, and Peach as well as brand-new ones like Daisy. All four Yoshis and Nabbit are a kinder option to the majority of characters because they don’t suffer damage and Yoshis can eat foes.


Additionally, Wonder introduces badges, some of which are aimed for more experienced players but all of which grant players various abilities like invisibility or revival when equipped. The team debated providing players the ability to utilize two or three at once or even to switch badges mid-level but finally decided against it. Tezuka explains, “It felt more like maybe something you would see in a Zelda title.” “It didn’t feel particularly Mario-like… The Mario game is far more simplistic and easy to play.

Players can always experiment with new badges if they want to try a level again for any reason. “I feel a little sad if someone plays through a course, completes it, leaves, and never returns,” adds Tezuka. “I really want players to come back and play courses again.”

The team’s second top aim was to pack Wonder with mysteries that players would be proud to discover. Regarding the game’s riddles, Mouri comments, “Something we talk about within the teams: Don’t actually make a maze.” “We just need something that feels or looks like a maze.” It’s fundamental stagecraft: Give players the opportunity to put what they have learned, whether it be a hazard or a gimmick, into practice by teaching them how to play.

The game’s power-ups, such as Wonder’s new water-spouting elephant form and one that slaps a drill bit on your skull, make this very evident. They are funny, adorable, and very useful. According to Mouri, the key to developing a new power-up is considering how it would alter gameplay.

Consider Drill Mario, who can pass through the roof or the ground. You might be thinking, “Well, why don’t you just make Mole Mario if you want to do that?” asks Mouri. “Because you can defeat foes that are encroaching on you when you have Drill Mario. And a mole wouldn’t be able to accomplish it. When the development team desired to give Mario a larger body to stomp foes and shatter blocks, but also to spray water? “Elephant was the obvious choice,” he claims.

Players can change in several ways besides only using power-ups. Additionally, namesake plants are introduced in Super Mario Bros. Wonder, which slightly alters the mood. Mario might either grow extremely large from a Wonder Flower or turn into a Goomba. Sometimes they cause the world to shift itself, causing pipes to bend and move slowly. With so many Mario games under their belts, according to Mouri, they recognized it was difficult to come up with fresh features that would surprise players. Before Tezuka delivered some insightful critique, they experimented with the idea of things that transported you to different locations. Tezuka said, “If you’re still just going to warp to a different area, it’s still the same. Why don’t you simply move from where you are now?

The designers chose to make a unique Wonder effect for each main course rather than adding them to a select few levels. Thus, according to Mouri and Tezuka, “regardless of what part of the game they were working on or how many years they’ve worked at Nintendo,” they pooled the entire staff. “We received probably over a thousand, if not 2,000, ideas.” They then honed their selections and improved what they already had.

Tezuka claims that the central theme of Wonder is activity. But he adds, “I do think it might get a little boring if we focus exclusively on that, for both players and creators.” They must continue to aim for the unexpected.

“I do think people have ideas that Mario has to be a certain way. There are certain limitations that people have in their own brains,” says Tezuka. He immediately instructs his teams to abandon their restrictive assumptions. It will be enjoyable if you believe it looks cool. Do it.”