Super Mario Bros. Encyclopedia closeup

Sewing spinoffs to development shortcuts: 8 things we learned from the Super Mario Encyclopedia

Contributed by
Oct 16, 2018

Nintendo's most famous character celebrated his 30th anniversary a few years ago, and now Dark Horse has collaborated with the gaming company to produce the definitive guide to his three-decade escapades. The Super Mario Encyclopedia: The Official Guide to the First 30 Years comes out on Oct. 23, but SYFY WIRE got a sneak peek at all the Starman-empowered goodness triple-jumping off the pages.

The 17-game-spanning book offers an introductory interview with producer Takashi Tezuka, bright artwork, enemy descriptions, and tons of trivia. It doesn't give quite as much space to games Mario-adjacent (like Super Smash Bros. or Mario Kart), but the games it does cover get the full treatment, with all their levels and secrets unpacked for perfectionist gamers. Here's the best stuff we learned:

Tezuka got hired out of desperation.

Tezuka, who served as assistant director and designer of Super Mario Bros., said, “Normally I’d have had to wait for April 1 to start work at a company like that, as is the norm in Japan. But before I was officially hired, they called me up and asked if I’d work part-time on an arcade game called Punch-Out!! ... I was drawing pixel art. At the time, Nintendo was so understaffed, they would have hired cats if they thought it would help.” Cats, huh? Animal employees would have to wait for Animal Crossing.

The original Mario inventively cut corners.

The first Super Mario game had very limited memory. That meant anything that could be reused or repurposed was, just to save space. Need a flying enemy? Slap some wings on a Koopa Troopa. Need some bushes? Just paint those cloud sprites green and sink them down below the ground. Seriously, they're exactly the same.

The music wasn't always original.

In Mario’s first foray into mobile gaming, Super Mario Land for the Game Boy, whenever the plumber would gain invincibility, you wouldn’t hear the music you might expect. Rather than the classic star theme, you’d hear a segment of music taken from Jacques Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld -- you may know it as the French can-can.

Speaking of music...

Super Mario 3D World's flora loved to boogie. Flowers and grasses move to the rhythm of the game's music, altering their dances when the music changes. If you want to sneak a peek, try looking for it as Mario reaches the end of the level.

A familar level.

In Super Mario Bros. 3, the final castle and pipe in Water Land is a small archipelago that looks strikingly familiar... is that Japan? The castle is about where the capital (and Nintendo HQ home) Kyoto is, and who's that on the throne? This looks like a whole nation full of Marios!

Remember chasing that infuriating yellow bunny in Super Mario 64?

That quick little star thief, evading you all over Mushroom Castle, actually had a name. Its name is MIPS, which is even stranger than most of the monikers Mario characters have, but it comes with a sweetly nerdy reason. It's named after the N64’s microprocessor: Microprocessor without Interlocked Pipeline Stages.

Nintendo has been encouraging gamers to build their own Mario content since 1984.

Family Basic for the Famicom allowed enterprising programmers to use Mario and Donkey Kong's sprites in their creations. Super Mario Maker's a throwback, really.

Mario’s been many things -- a doctor, an athlete, etc. -- but he’s also been the subject of a video game sewing lesson.

In 1986’s I Am a Teacher: Super Mario Sweater, an educational sewing simulator, on-screen instructions and the included patterns helped would-be tailors craft designs displaying Mario and Goombas.

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