How Super Mario Bros 3 Works

How Super Mario Bros 3 Works

Millions of people have played Super Mario Bros. We’ve run, jumped and some even used the game’s special shoe. How’d we learn how to play it? How does this game teach so much with so few instructions?

Game designer Radek Koncewicz recently broke down the way the game’s first world teaches players 30 fun things. He puts in words what players of the Nintendo Entertainment System know in the fingers, in their minds and in their hearts: Super Mario Bros 3 is one well-designed game.

Here’s one of the lessons Koncewicz describes, the way Super Mario Bros 3 taught us how to make Mario fly.


Read the rest of Koncewicz’s post for the other 29 insights he gleaned from the game’s first world. If you played the game, you’re in for a fun nostalgia trip. If you make games, you might enjoy the reminder that the classics didn’t need to be filled with flow-killing tutorials.

Super Mario Bros 3 Level Design Lessons [Significant Bits]


  • amen! I was thinking recently about how our modern games have all the controls plastered all over the screen, covering and interrupting the beauty of alot of our favourite games. Its just as bad as films/TV Shows having the credits at the start. I prefer tutorials to be seperate or not there at all – let me figure it out on my own, I’m not stupid and thats half the fun, gradually finding new things out as you go along, like in a well made fighting game. I cant stand it when games try to babysit you, one thing that does annoy me about games going too mainstream – at least let us turn the tutorials off…

    • I agree that tutorials should be integrated into the game seamlessly, but in current controllers you have 14 buttons and 2 analog sticks with which any amount of actions can be mapped to. There has to be some form of explanation as to what these buttons do at some point. Loading screens with these buttons or start menu screens with them work fine, but it breaks the flow sometimes.

      Remember, the NES only had 4 buttons (A,B,Start,Select) and a directional pad.

      After the user knows the buttons, then the gameplay element learnings should be built into the levels instead of a tutorial. But you definately need some sort of “Press A to Jump” message at some point nowadays.

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