2D Mario Evolutionary Design
Sunday, July 6, 2008 at 4:54PM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Enemy Design, Mechanics, Misc Design & Theory, Platformer, Super Mario Bros.

We've already established that Super Mario Brothers is not only a great game, but one of the greatest games ever made. So, if it is that good, how can any other game improve upon it? As impossible as the task may seem, Super Mario Bros. 3 outdid Super Mario Bros. and on the N.E.S. hardware to boot. Bros.3 took everything that was good about Super Mario Bros., refined the mechanics and added more creativity to the enemies, player, and level elements.


Many of the changes that make Bros.3 so good are natural extensions of the mechanics and options that the original started. For example, if players are free to go forward in the original Super Mario Brothers, why aren't they free to go backward? The developers of Bros.3 must have thought the same thing. It doesn't make much sense to limited the players movement backward simply because those areas have been scrolled past already. And extending off of that idea came the ability to go upward. In Bros. 3 players can fly up and over the dangers of the terrestrial world and soar through the skies. The vertical and horizontal freedoms allowed the developers to create levels unlike anything that had ever been experienced before.

But what about Super Mario World or New Super Mario Brothers? How do these games stack up against the power houses that are Super Mario Bros. and Bros.3? Because all the 2D Mario platformers are so similar, comparing their differences and how the unique design choices shaped their overall products becomes a highly instructive exercise.

Check out the chart....







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Super Mario Bros. Lost Levels Bros. 3 World New SMB

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Jump "super" jump off of enemies with precise timing of the jump button can super jump by holding the jump button before landing on an enemy twirl jump: Can destroy bricks below Big Mario. Can jump off of dangerous enemy elements. Shorter than normal jump. removed twirl jump. can turn around in mid air. added the triple jump. Added a wall kick and wall slide.

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Run ---- run meter invisible meter 3 speed rev up run

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Walk ----

2 speed rev up

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Stand ------ -------------- --------- ---------

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Duck (when Big to Compact into small Mario size) ---------- ---------- ---------- can duck when Small Mario but not Super Small Mario

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ground pound/butt stomp

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Fire Flower ------ powers up Small Mario into Big Fire Mario --------- power-ups dance to the music

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mushroom + evil mushroom removed evil mushroom ----- power-ups dance to the music

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can store power-ups in the over world menu can store power-up in a safe box at the top of the HUD in the level Stores power-up on the touch screen.

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enemies dance to the music

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Koopa --------- Mario can grab/hold shells. Koopa shells can destroy bricks. Mario can kick shells straight up. removed shell up-kick ability

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Mario can take 2 hits max ----------- 3 hits (fire/leaf power-up) 4 hits (yoshi) 3 hits (fire/blue shell power-up)

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enemies disappear if present at the end of the level --------- enemies are "zapped" ---------------- -------------

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Mario bounces off the surfaces underwater ---------- no bounce -------- ------------

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can't scroll back ----------- can scroll back ------------ ----------------

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can't go up (loops to the bottom) ------------- can go up some can go up a lot some levels are designed more vertically so that players must continually travel up.

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you get one shot to beat the game world check points ---------- + save option ---------

Without going into detail, the game I have the biggest problem with is New Super Mario Bros. The new mechanics that were added weakened and undermined the overall gameplay. Abilities like wall kicking turn what would be a threatening, dangerous pit into fun holes where players can wall kick in and out of to their hearts content. The triple jump, which originated from Mario 64 (a 3D platfomer), feels out of place in the limited and scrunched 2D world that was made to fit on a Nintendo DS screen. Because the level design in New Super Mario Bros. was so heavily inspired by the original, the developers have decided to removed the liberating vertical scrolling from the game. Without much flexibility vertically, the triple jump loses a lot of its practical use. Because of the poor design choices in New Super Mario Bros. the game feels like a watered down "Mario experience" rather than a solid platforming video game.

Oh well. At least we can still play Bros.3.

Article originally appeared on Critical-Gaming Network (http://critical-gaming.com/).
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