You are working on a new Super Mario Bros. game. You have a new idea for a Mario power-up, something that could be as delightful as the original fire flower or the invincibility star for Mario to headbutt out of a block and temporarily try on.

How do you do that? Real people have to figure that out every time they make a new Super Mario game.

One tip: don't recommend turning Mario into a bunch of bones. When some of his top men at Nintendo suggested a Bone Mario while making 2010's Super Mario Galaxy 2, Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of the whole Super Mario Bros. series, turned that one down .

"When we show a power-up to Mr. Miyamoto, we get a bit nervous," Nintendo developer Koichi Hayashida said in an interview. "But he usually understands our ideas."


It's not easy to come up with new power-ups, not for Super Mario developers like Hayashida who have the pressure of trying to add new ideas to a classic series. It's like they're proposing new types of chess pieces... with the guy who invented chess looking over their shoulder.


Despite the pressure, recent Mario games have introduced several new Mario power-ups. Here's how those select few got through. We got these explanations, translated, via e-mail, from the two top Nintendo designers of the new Super Mario 3D Land:

  • The Bee Suit and Boo Suit in 2007's Super Mario Galaxy: "We start thinking about power-ups in terms of functionality, and then we add the visual attributes. We introduced the Bee Suit and Boo Suit to add some variation to the feel and tempo of ordinary play so that players wouldn't get bored. In both cases, we wanted to add the ability to temporarily escape from the law of gravity through floatation. Since the power-ups were unique, we wanted to make the visuals also have a lasting impression. Mr. Miyamoto had an inscrutable expression when we showed him the designs; he isn't a big fan of making Mario cute (laugh)." —Yoshiaki Koizumi, producer of Super Mario 3D Land
  • The Spin Drill and Cloud Suit in 2010's Super Mario Galaxy 2: "In Super Mario Galaxy 2, we added the Spin Drill and Cloud Mario. Mr. Miyamoto liked the idea of winding up on the opposite side of a planet after falling into a hole. We thought it would be interesting if you could do this anywhere, and that's why we added the Spin Drill power-up. We created Cloud Mario based on the idea that it would be interesting if Mario could create a foothold by spinning." —Koichi Hayashida. director of Super Mario 3D Land
  • "Mr. Miyamoto had an inscrutable expression when we showed him the designs; he isn't a big fan of making Mario cute (laugh)."
  • Boomerang Suit in 2011's Super Mario 3D Land: "In Super Mario 3D Land, when the enemy character Pom Pom started throwing a boomerang, we thought it would be fun if the player could use a boomerang too, and that's why we created Boomerang Mario." —Koichi Hayashida. director of Super Mario 3D Land


These all sound like good ideas and the explanations for their inclusion in the series make sense. Good for these Nintendo guys for getting the power-ups right. From the sound of it, Miyamoto deserves some of the credit. Regarding his feedback, Hayashida said, "We typically get lots of suggestions, and we try to use them to make the game more interesting."

We'll have more from our interview with the makers of Super Mario 3D Land tomorrow.


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