I’ve talked to a lot of people on the occasion of releasing the Super Mario All-Stars – 25th Anniversary Edition, which commemorates the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. Some readers of “Iwata Asks” may be a little tired of hearing about it and thinking to themselves, “Are you still asking about that?!” but today’s theme is developers born in the 1980s. Since you were all born in the ‘80s, Super Mario Bros.1 already existed in your earliest childhood. Put another way, you grew up with Mario. I’ve had all of you gather here today so I can ask you about what it’s like to grow up in that situation and then become a developer who makes the games. Thank you for coming today. 1Super Mario Bros.: An action game released for the Family Computer System (Famicom) in September 1985 in Japan.
It’s our pleasure.
First, I’d like to ask you to introduce yourselves, including, if you don’t mind, the year you were born.
Okay. I’m Amano from the Software Development Department of the Entertainment Analysis and Development Division (EAD). I assisted the director of New Super Mario Bros. Wii2 in planning the overall structural elements. I was born in 1981, so Super Mario Bros. was released when I was four. I still didn’t have a Famicom then, though. 2New Super Mario Bros. Wii: An action game released for the Wii console in December 2009.
So you encountered Super Mario Bros. fairly late?
No, my friend had it, so...
You played it to your heart’s content at your friend’s house?
Yeah. (laughs) I played the original Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 33 at my friend’s, and when the Super Famicom came out, I finally got one for myself and got particularly into Super Mario World.4 3Super Mario Bros. 3: An action game released for the Famicom system in October 1988 in Japan. 4Super Mario World: An action game released simultaneously with the Super Famicom system in November 1990 in Japan.
I’m Nishimura, also from the Software Development Department. I was a designer on New Super Mario Bros. Wii. I was born in 1982, so I was playing Super Mario Bros. with my little brother as early as I can remember.
That means the Famicom came out when you were one, and Super Mario Bros. came out when you were three.
Right. I was really into the Famicom when I was in elementary school. I have fond memories of my brother and I fighting over who was the better player, wrestling over the controller, and taking turns playing Super Mario Land5 on the Game Boy. 5Super Mario Land: An action game released for the Game Boy in April 1989 in Japan.
I’m Yoshida, also in the Software Development Department. I was mostly in charge of programming the enemies for New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Like Nishimura-san, I was born in 1982, so Super Mario Bros. came out when I was 3. The Famicom was in my older brother’s room. If I remember correctly, when I was in the first grade of elementary school, I got home earlier than my brother, so I would sneak into his room and play Super Mario Bros.
You snuck into your brother’s room and played Super Mario Bros.? (laughs)
Yeah. And after I’d been playing for a while, my brother would get home and be like, “Get out of here!” But the next day, I would just sneak in and play again.
I’m Matsuura from the EAD Technology Development Department. For New Super Mario Bros. Wii, I worked on debugging and the Hint Movies. I was born in 1984, so...
The year after the Famicom came out.
Right. So as early as I can remember, there was a Famicom in my house. When I was in elementary school, the Super Famicom was in its heyday, so all my friends were playing it. I bugged my parents to buy me one, but they coldly turned me down, saying, “You’ve already got a Famicom, don’t you?!” So I just played the Famicom, without even getting a Game Boy, until I went to junior high in 1997.
But 1997 was the year after the release of the Nintendo 64. (laughs)
Right. In 1997, when I became a junior high school student, they finally bought me a Nintendo 64 and Super Mario 646, and I played it like crazy. 6Super Mario 64: Mario's first 3D action game, launched simultaneously with the Nintendo 64 home game console in June 1996 in Japan.
I’m Fujii from the Sound Group in the Software Development Department. I was in charge of a few background songs in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. I was born in 1984. I think I got my first Famicom after I started elementary school, and at that time...
You got Super Mario Bros. along with it.
Right. My parents said, “You can buy one game.” I talked it over with my little brother and we said we wanted Super Mario Bros.
It seems like a lot of you remember playing it with a sibling.
Yeah. But I’m no good at action games. If I played on my own, I’d mess up right away, so I remember how, much of the time, I would watch my brother play and get excited over it with him.
I’ve been involved with video game work for a long time, and something I always think is how a good game is one that you can enjoy simply by watching someone else play. Super Mario Bros. isn’t just fun for the person playing, but the people standing around watching are also gripped with excitement and even shout out together with the player. You’ve experienced Super Mario Bros. as part of that gallery of sorts.
Yeah, I enjoyed that.
Now I’d like to have you talk about what made an impression on you as you encountered Super Mario Bros. Amano-san, you said you didn’t have a Famicom at home, but...
I got to play one at a friend’s house. But I didn’t really understand how to play.
Someone who has his or her own Famicom has an overwhelming advantage.
That’s right. But when I watched my friend play and mess up, I’d think, “I could do that...“
Yeah, that’s really weird. Super Mario Bros. isn’t easy, but for some reason, when seeing someone mess up, even a beginner will think, “I could do better!” But then when you actually play it, things don’t go quite so well! (laughs)
That’s right. When my friend messed up and then I had him let me try it, I couldn’t do it. I wanted to practice but didn’t have a Famicom at home, so when I got home, I’d be like (gesturing as if holding a controller), “At that one spot, you time your jump like this...“
Visualisation training. (laughs)
Yes. (laughs) But that has its limits, so when I was little, I couldn’t move beyond World 1 of the original Super Mario Bros. or Super Mario Bros. 3.
But you practiced in your imagination, so you must have been deeply into it.
Yeah. I knew everything about World 1.
Like, “Ask me anything you want about World 1!” (laughs)
Yeah. (laughs) That’s really how it was. I didn’t know what Worlds 2 and later were like until I got quite a bit bigger.
Nishimura-san, do you remember anything particular about playing together with your brother?
One game I played a lot was Super Mario Bros. 2.7 To be honest, at first I thought the picking-up action was a bit of a pain, but as I was pulling up stuff here and there, I gradually became addicted to that feeling. 7Super Mario Bros. 2: An action game released for the Famicom system in September 1992 in Japan. Sold in Japan as Super Mario Bros. USA.
It felt so good that you went around picking up stuff without any particular reason.
Yeah. Small turnips would appear or big turnips would appear, or a bottle like a flask would come out and make a door appear... There was a surprise every time I pulled up something.
The action of pulling up something stuck in the ground is a motion that exists in reality, so the idea is easy to understand, but when I saw Mario jump on an enemy and pull him up, I thought, “What kind of a brain do the people who thought this up have?!” (laughs)
And aside from the turnips, the series of actions feels really good when you defeat Birdo by jumping on an egg, picking it up, and then throwing it . I remember how easy that was to grasp. That caused me to take a strong interest in how games provide a challenging and rewarding experience.
Huh? As a child playing Super Mario Bros. 2, you took an interest in the rewarding experience of video games?
Oh, sorry. I forgot to add “That’s what I think looking back at it now anyway.” (laughs)
You mean as a developer today.
Yeah. When I think about it now, I experienced in Super Mario Bros. 2 the importance of games providing a challenging and rewarding experience.
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