(Written as of 2015)
After the immense popularity and critical acclaim garnished from the original Mario Bros arcade game, the character’s creator Shigeru Miyamoto and long-time Nintendo employee Takashi Tezuka, actually intended to create Super Mario Bros in order to give a last hurrah to the Famicom (the NES in Japan), which was at that time considered to be fading out ahead of the release of the Famicom Disk System and to further progress the development of what Nintendo was calling “athletic” games.
At first, the game was going to involve shooting mechanics, which would have likely involved the NES zapper if history had taken a different direction. Eventually, it was decided that his may have featured as a bonus level at the end of the game, but the developers instead decided to focus more on the platforming and jumping, as that was considered to be more enjoyable, and would also keep true to Mario previous namesake, Jumpman; though the shooting element would later make an appearance in Super Mario Land under the direction and influence of Gunpei Yokoi and his own NES series, Kid Icarus.
Unlike in the original Mario Bros game, in which Mario would be hurt if he stood on turtles without first flipping them onto their backs, it was decided that Mario would be able to defeat them by stomping on their upright shells since the developers decided on the previous mechanic to be illogical. But although a lot of elements of Mario Bros appear to be very illogical, this element, along with every other, has helped to popularize the series immensely. The feature of having Mario change size upon eating a mushroom was the result of basing the game’s level design around the smaller incarnation of Mario, afterward intending to make his size bigger in the final product; but ultimately, it was decided that this feature should be included as a power-up, as it would provide a greater level of challenge for players.
The intention behind some of the earliest level designs of the original Super Mario Bros was to help players be able to differentiate between the mushrooms and the Goombas; as in the first level, for example, the first mushroom was difficult to avoid. Folk tales, whereby people wander into forests and eat magical mushrooms, influenced the use of mushrooms as a power-up in the game. I also have a theory that the use of flowers in the game as a power-up was inspired by Nintendo’s earliest history, whereby they manufactured playing cards for a popular Japanese card game called Hanafuda (Japanese for Flower Cards). The use of mushrooms in the game would also inspire the developers to name the in-game world the Mushroom Kingdom.
But one of the main intentions of the developers during the entire process was to keep things simple when they created Super Mario Bros, in order to have the new game out to retail by the end-of-year shopping season. But Nintendo’s hardships paid off, and Miyamoto’s vision was fully realized for the first time. The game has left a long-lasting legacy, helped to re-popularise video games all over the world, and has garnished a level of critical and commercial acclaim that very few other video games have been able to achieve as well as helping to spawn the most successful and recognizable franchise in video gaming history, as well as the most recognizable video game character of all time. Nowadays, Mario is even officially more recognizable than Mickey Mouse. It suggests to me how far the franchise has come since the NES days and the power of what one good idea can do. Although the idea of Super Mario may seem ridiculous to some on paper, the fact of the matter is that it has captivated people’s imaginations and bedazzled gamers all over the world for over 30 years.