In the Making: Mario Bros.
You know Mario — he’s the short, chubby Italian plumber who eats mushrooms, jumps on turtles, and saves the beautiful princess. He’s also the icon of the video game industry, much like Mickey Mouse is the icon for Disney. His origins go far back to the days of Donkey Kong in the arcades, but did you ever wonder what happened to him afterwards? He didn’t jump right into the NES with Super Mario Bros. like most of us would think. Let’s look a bit further and see what’s In the Making with Mario Bros.!
Remember the hero called Jumpman in our In the Making: Donkey Kong article? That same hero ended up being revived by the same two developers that worked on the game. One of the developers, Guipei Yokoi, came to Miyamoto with the suggestion that it’d be really neat to see Jumpman fall from any height without dying. Initially, Miyamoto was against the idea, doubting it had any potential. Over time, he warmed up to the idea of Jumpman’s new abilities and decided to try it out.
Miyamoto got to work, whipping up a prototype that featured Jumpman bouncing around the screen with multiple floors. Yokoi took a look at his work and brought up another suggestion. He thought that it would be more engaging if the player had to fight enemies that came in from the bottom floor. After that method was implemented, it was revised shortly after due to the process being too easy for the player. To make it more challenging, the addition of hitting the enemies after initially knocking them over was brought into play.
With this idea taking shape, Miyamoto needed to figure out what kind of enemies would work best with this method. It was only natural to settle on turtles for the job since they could be flipped over onto their shell and remain defenseless until Jumpman hit them. Jumpman also took on a new role. From his occupation of a carpenter, he then became a plumber, and this was designed around his look in Donkey Kong. The developers decided to continue design on the prototype based around his plumbing status by including pipes in the level.
Miyamoto worked out the settings for the game next. The concept of a plumber jumping around in a level full of pipes made him think of New York’s sewage pipe systems. He thought that the pipe system would be the perfect avenue for the baddies to come out of and also to exit back into. This would avoid having too many enemies on the screen. The pipes they came out of were the uncommon color of green, but Miyamoto made them that way to keep the colorful setting consistent.
So how did Jumpman get the name Mario? You might be familiar with the origins, but if you’re not, we’ll let you in on the scoop. Nintendo had rented out a warehouse for their headquarters in America to a guy named Mario Segale. During the time when Donkey Kong was about to be released in the States, their Italian-American landlord paid them a visit to collect their overdue rent. Luckily for the company, Segale accepted the promise that the president of Nintendo’s American division made to him that he’d pay their rent soon. So the developers though why not use Mario’s name for their hero in Miyamoto’s new game?
The development of this came to be what we know as the Mario Bros. Among being the first platform games made, it also introduced another lovable character we’d continue to see throughout the history of Nintendo — Luigi! His character was made to look just like Mario except with the colors swapped. He was designed for multiplayer which was inspired by another game called Joust. With the two brothers ready for action, the developers were ready to debut their newest release.
Although there was a lot of enthusiasm with the idea and development of it, the game did not do too well in America (mostly due to the 1983 video game crash), and had minor success in Japan. In light of this occurrence, the game did get ported to a handful of home consoles and introduced the Mario Bros. to a whole new generation of console gamers. Without this, Mario would not be the man he is today.