The first level of Super Mario Bros. is a masterclass in game design. And now Shigeru Miyamoto–the genius game designer who gave us some of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises–explains why. Within the first few seconds of the game, a player is enticed to jump and hit that question mark block, learns how to stomp a goomba, and eats a mushroom to become super.
But while most Mario fans have heard these stories, Miyamoto shares other interesting tidbits, too. Exactly how Mario moves is of incredible importance to Nintendo’s game designers. And in fact, the company keeps an internal programming team just to handle the physics of Mario’s running and jumping.
Notably, Mario slips just a bit as he moves, and every game, that slippage is tweaked. As Miyamoto puts it, “he never really stops,” because slipping adds a perceived weight to Mario, and otherwise, he’d just feel like a flat figure drawn on a 2-D screen.
As Mario transitioned to 3-D, they needed to simulate even more weight. When the 3-D Mario lands after a jump, he actually squishes into a ground a bit. Not too much–because too much would kill the action–but enough to make him slip to get his momentum going again.
Of course, this makes the games all the more gratifying to play. But Miyamoto–who’s been widely credited for bringing narrative storytelling to video games–sees another result.
“Adding weight helps the player believe it’s a real character,” Miyamoto says. “This helps them form emotional attachment.”