How Nintendo's 'Mario Cram School' Resulted In A Brand New Mario Game

I've said it before and I'll no doubt say it again, but Iwata Asks — where Nintendo President Saturo Iwata interviews the developers behind upcoming games — is pretty much my favourite thing on the internet. By God it's just full of stories! This time, hear how a Takashi Tezuka led 'Mario Cram School' led to the development a brand new, fresh Mario game by the name of New Super Mario Bros. 2.

"The Software Development Department of the Entertainment Analysis & Development Division has always made the classic side-scrolling Super Mario games," said Yusuku Amano, the Director of New Super Mario Bros. 2, "but this time, there was an opportunity where (Takashi) Tezuka-san gathered people not only from EAD, but also from the Software Planning & Development Department, and from other departments to explain how to make Super Mario stages. I was also involved with it as one of the students.

Mario Cram School was designed to help teach younger Nintendo staff members how to create Mario games.

"I heard Tezuka-san believes that the course design plays a key role in determining the fundamental elements of 2D Mario games," said Amano, "so he opened the cram school in hopes to spread that knowledge across others within the company."

With the majority of staff working on New Super Mario Bros. U, the plan was to train up younger staff to create the 3DS game, so the two games could be released almost simulataneously.

Amano feels as though he was almost tricked into being the Director for New Super Mario Bros. 2.

"You looked at it from the corner of your eye as if it were someone else's concern," said Iwata.

"Yes," said Amano. "That was what I was thinking, but Tezuka-san suddenly asked me if I would like to be the director for the next Super Mario game for the 3DS. I was like, "Uh... that's why they had me play those courses...""

"You thought you weren't involved at all, and all the sudden you became the person who would be most involved with the project!"

It's worth reading the whole thing. What I personally find most interesting about the development of New Super Mario Bros. 2, is just how committed the younger team is to shaking up the formula — almost as if the Mario Cram School enabled them to learn a discrete set of rules just to break them!

Iwata Super Mario games in 2D have always had a traditional graphics style, but in addition to extending and developing the gameworld from games past, did you try anything new?

Ishikawa This time, we added some night and evening scenes. It feels very different than before.

Iwata It was always a blue sky.

Ishikawa Yes. But this time, the designers had a desire to change that a bit. Design-wise, it's an extension of what has come before, but the night scenes make a slightly different impression.

Iwata It's definitely Super Mario, but at the same time it's a world we haven't seen before.

Ishikawa Yeah. I thought it would be good if everyone would be thrilled and—in a good way— it would be great if a sense of something unusual arose. And with regard to the characters, there's a new enemy named Boohemoth, who's sort of like a giant version of Boo. When facing Mario, Boo gets bashful and stops.

Iwata Boo's called Teresa in Japanese, because the word tereru means to be bashful.

Ishikawa Yeah! (laughs) So at first, Boohemoth gets shy and covers its face with its hands, but then peeks out and creeps after you.

Iwata Yeah. (laughs)

Ishikawa We thought it might be fun because people familiar with Super Mario games so far may be caught off guard and be like "Huh? Boo's sneaking after me!" You may be taken by surprise here and there in this game in a good way, and I hope that makes it feel fresh.

Iwata I suppose many people may take a quick glance at New Super Mario Bros. 2 and think, "Oh, it's the usual Super Mario."

Ishikawa Yeah.

Iwata But I get the impression from when I actually played it that if you think it's the same and don't take it seriously you'll run into trouble.

Amano That's right. The staff had a strong desire this time to think of tough things that people might even get angry about. And we've changed some things with regard to the setup to make a fresh impression.

I find it really fascinating the Nintendo, as a company, actively attempts to teach its staff how to make specific games — to the extent it would create a Mario cram school! It makes perfect sense. The stalwarts of Nintendo won't be around for ever. It's sort of made me anticipate New Super Mario Bros. 2 in a new way — because I'm interested to see how Mario has been approached with a fresh set of development eyes — eyes that are well versed in what it means to make a Mario game, but who are coming to the project with new ideas of their own.

Check out the new Iwata Asks in its entirety here.


    Working in a creative feild you learn what makes a brand tick (or in this case a creative layout for a mario game) and you can now build those established blocks to start twisting it around

    I had planned to say more than this but this website on gingerbread has defeated me!

      Yep me too, could not share a lot of my words on this article either.

    I thought NSMB Wii felt too similar to NSMB DS, and to this day I haven't really put a whole lot of time into it.As much as I love Mario, and 2D platforming, it's still on my pile of shame.
    I hope the fresh perspective brings new ideas to the table rather than just the endless "ba-ding" of coins which, as far as I can see, is the only significant change so far.

      NSMB Wii is a brilliant game -- but it's next level if you play with four people. Never had so much fun with a game.

        Totally agree! It is a brilliant game with 2+ players. It's in my top 10 gaming memories of all time easily (along with Portal, Journey, HL2). I love the Mario Galaxy games, but in terms of pure enjoyment, NSMB Wii walks all over them. That last level with Bowser was awesome too. Please don't play it single player Stu, get a friend involved and enjoy the game the way it was meant to be played!

          I've played it with one other person who just threw me off ledges all the time, and didn't really go back to it. I know I should, but ... well ... it's called the pile of "shame", eh? I don't feel good about ignoring it, just complacent about playing it.

    I really liked New Super Mario Bros Wii, but it has nothing on Rayman Origins. So much unexpected complexity. So much prettiness. Mario will always have a place in my heart. If I get a Wii U I'd probably buy Rayman Legends over this, though.

      I haven't gotten far in Rayman yet, and haven't tried it co-op, but it definitely has the magic so far, and it is visually incredible. I'm so glad good platformers are still being made .

    Oh wow, Nintendo is making a NEW super Mario Brothers...number 2. How original of them, its such a surprise to see Nintendo doing something NEW and fresh. People complain about Call of Duty!? being the same game over and over again? Yet how is it, its always the top selling game? Well, they certainly learnt from the best, because Nintendo have been doing it for Generations.

      Yeah Nintendo really knows how to milk an IP - but saying that, they usually produce real quality when they do, and they have so many really strong IPs largely because they do continue to build and refine upon past games. Each Mario or Zelda game is more different from the previous one than each Call of Duty, or Madden one is - I can still go back and enjoy the old Marios and Zeldas for themselves, whereas with Madden and to a certain extend CoD, the latest one is the only one worth playing. Still, I'd love to see some new IP from them, something that's given the same amount of love as their core series.

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