Articles, Blog

How the inventor of Mario designs a game

February 23, 2020

This is Shigeru Miyamoto. If you’ve played video games any time in
the past 30 years, you’re probably familiar with his work. Donkey Kong. Zelda. Star Fox. And then, of course, this guy:
It’s a me, Mario! When Miyamoto makes games, he always tries
to do things differently than other designers. Here he is — back in 1998 — explaining
why he wasn’t focused on online gaming. And why he wasn’t adding small in-game purchases
to Mario for iPhone in 2016. Miyamoto has helped define a lot of what makes
a game great. So how does he do it? In 1981, one of Miyamoto’s first assignments
at Nintendo was to design a replacement for a game called Radar Scope. It had performed poorly in the US,, leaving the company with 2,000 unsold arcade units. This is what he came up with: Miyamoto based the story on the love triangle
in Popeye between a bad guy, a hero, and a damsel in distress. But since Nintendo couldn’t secure the rights
to use those characters, Miyamoto replaced them with a gorilla, a carpenter, and his
girlfriend. In later games, that carpenter became a plumber. And his named changed, from Mr. Video, to
Jumpman, and then to Mario, after this guy, the landlord of a Nintendo warehouse near
Seattle. This was one of the first times that a video game’s
plot and characters were designed before the programming. That change in approach came at a key time
for video games. When Donkey Kong was first released in 1981,
the video game market in North America was on the verge of collapse. It was saturated with a lot of different consoles,
and the boom in home computers made a lot of people question why they’d want a separate device
just to play games. But the storytelling in games like Super Mario
Bros. and The Legend of Zelda — which you could only play on Nintendo’s own hardware — helped set them apart as best-sellers. A lot of Miyamoto’s genius can be seen in
the first level of Super Mario Bros. — probably the most iconic level in video game history. It’s designed to naturally teach you the
game mechanics while you play. If you look at a breakdown, there’s a lot
of really subtle design work going on here. Though Mario is usually at the center of the
screen, in this first scene he starts at the far left. All the empty space to the right of him gives
you a sense of where to go. This character’s look and movement suggest
it’s harmful. But don’t worry. If you run into it, you’ll just start the
game over without much of a penalty. Next, you see gold blocks with question marks. These are made to look intriguing — and
once you hit one, you’re rewarded. That then encourages you to hit the second
block, which releases a mushroom. Even if you’re now scared of mushrooms,
the positioning of the first obstacle makes it just about guaranteed that you’re gonna run
into this thing. When you do, Mario gets bigger and stronger. And just like that, you’ve learned all the
basic rules in the game without having to read a single word. Immersiveness in a video game has a lot to
do with the controls — the more precisely you can move your character, the more you
feel like you’re part of the story. And Nintendo has always been a pioneer with
controllers. It was the first to have the classic setup of the directional pad on the left and buttons on the right, the first to have left and right shoulder buttons,
the first to have a 360-degree thumbstick, and the first to bring motion control to the
mass market. But with 2016’s Super Mario Run, Nintendo,
for the first time, made a game for a controller it didn’t design: the iPhone. The Wii U flopped when it came out in 2012,
and Nintendo 3DS sales are far below those of its predecessor. But the number of American gamers playing
on mobile phones has doubled to more than 164 million between 2011 and 2015. You can think of Super Mario Run as a shift
from immersiveness to accessibility. And that’s kind of been Miyamoto’s design
philosophy from the very start: make fun games that everybody can play. The rest is in our hands. “These controls direct the characters, the better your eye-hand coordination, the better you do.”


  • Reply Amelia Hedgespeth December 28, 2019 at 2:59 am

    bows down

  • Reply do0r December 28, 2019 at 11:54 pm

    Nintendo dies with miyamoto.

  • Reply Laos bao house December 29, 2019 at 1:01 am

    the master of programming…

  • Reply Jayakrishnan Pm December 31, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    1:41 to 2:00 Awesome!

  • Reply B V January 1, 2020 at 6:35 pm

    This guy is the creator of my childhood, wow 😯

  • Reply Ella o January 4, 2020 at 12:01 am


  • Reply Mario Mario January 7, 2020 at 11:08 pm


  • Reply bad muchacho b January 8, 2020 at 12:05 am

    how the f did you get him to do an interview

  • Reply Azophi January 8, 2020 at 4:07 am

    Miyamoto: mows lawn

  • Reply SPOOKYDUKE January 8, 2020 at 12:41 pm

    True artist

  • Reply Prince, the creator January 8, 2020 at 3:57 pm

    Miyamoto is an absolute god.

  • Reply YOXOMO 's January 10, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    Ok, this is fun and all but, mister brainiac, can you explain WHERE IS PIKMIN 4?!?!

  • Reply Jacobus Kurnia Kaalapaking A.K.A Lord Promodus January 12, 2020 at 3:53 am

    Nintendo is probably the oldest game company that still exists because ea killed the rest and the rest got bankrupt like atari

  • Reply mopbrothers January 12, 2020 at 11:49 am

    The devil brings eternal misery, Miyamoto brings eternal joy. How many lives have experienced happiness because of this man? So many.

  • Reply DoublePounch January 13, 2020 at 2:12 pm

    I wish the video game industry will still have men like this for ever.

  • Reply Yu Qi January 15, 2020 at 3:46 am

    man, some vox videos including this feels incomplete.

  • Reply YEETENDO DS January 19, 2020 at 7:34 pm

    0:24 That. Did not age well

  • Reply Alex Topping January 20, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    Miyamoto have my kids

  • Reply G-Max January 27, 2020 at 12:22 pm

    I guess Mario really was created in Japan

  • Reply RuizuKun_Dev January 30, 2020 at 6:17 pm

    So much wisdom from this guy

  • Reply Carlos Gabriel Hasbun Comandari January 31, 2020 at 12:38 pm


  • Reply ninten dude February 5, 2020 at 12:16 am

    Who's mario?

  • Reply KoishiWii8 February 5, 2020 at 1:08 am

    I've actually watched this whole video during the time of the Nintendo Switch presentation which was also before that console's launch. I've completely enjoyed watching it like a documentary film and I've also learned from him on how a game is designed. Therefore, I finally know the truth on why he has made my childhood super awesome starting with Super Mario 64. I wish other people could learn from him as well.

    cough Newgrounds cough

  • Reply Chaasse One February 12, 2020 at 2:23 am


  • Reply Ricardo Navarro February 13, 2020 at 2:31 am

    Today i beated Super Mario Bros.!

  • Reply The Stopmotion Kid February 14, 2020 at 2:25 am

    It's Gonna Be A Sad Year When This Man Dies

  • Reply VGamingJunkie February 14, 2020 at 9:09 pm

    Mario Run is the first to play controls they didn’t design…. if you discount the spinoff games on MSDOS.

  • Reply Robert-Jan van Driel February 16, 2020 at 11:43 am

    I'm so sorry for miyamoto. He works so hard and people nowadays brush nintendo as a whole just to the side because they think it's 'childish' Bayonetta 3 is coming out soon and let me tell you something: That game is the opposite of childish

  • Reply Captain Cat February 17, 2020 at 1:33 am

    I appreciate Miyamoto, but I don't like how lazy the recent 2d games are.

  • Reply Shy Guy The Great February 19, 2020 at 6:11 pm

    Is he dead or not in 2020

  • Reply Linda Carrasco February 20, 2020 at 4:03 am

    This makes me sad that more people are playing on phones now. Nintendo is iconic

  • Reply DragonX Crack February 20, 2020 at 6:55 am

    They should have continued super Mario 64

  • Reply TheFearlessDeath500 February 20, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    Before Miyamoto's death, I wish we could be around him one last time to thank him for what he did… Probably one of them could give them a hug. <3

  • Reply SevenDeMagnus February 20, 2020 at 4:08 pm

    Cool, thanks.

  • Reply GMO_ Gpirela February 21, 2020 at 1:47 am


  • Reply Jack _ February 21, 2020 at 7:50 pm

    Yeah N64 might he the first analog stick, but Dualshock was the first to be designed for human use.

  • Reply TheChickenNagget February 22, 2020 at 10:39 am

    1:42 motto motto

  • Reply The Sprawl February 22, 2020 at 6:18 pm

    One of my all-time heroes. He pretty much defined my childhood.

  • Reply The Sprawl February 22, 2020 at 6:31 pm

    Matt Groening

    Shigeru Miyamoto

    Steven Spielberg

    Three of my all-time childhood heroes.

  • Reply Narata February 23, 2020 at 6:02 am

    My first gaming system was the Nintendo Entertainment System. My first videogame? Of course, Mario Bros./Duck Hunt that came packaged with it. Thank you, Nintendo, for making my childhood, and my adulthood, so memorable and fun. πŸ˜ŠπŸ€—β­

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