Apart from his prodigious jumping abilities, Mario’s key defining feature is his hat. He’s been wearing that thing since the days of Donkey Kong. Another little slice of the ongoing Nintendo leaks, however, reveals that the iconic red cap wasn’t always glued to the plumber’s head in Super Mario World.
Nintendo Metro, a fantastic resource for keeping up with Nintendo leak discoveries, recently shared some early Super Mario World sprites that depict Mario without a hat. Much like Luigi flipping the bird, the unused human pilot in the Star Fox 2 prototype, and that really cool smoking Toad, these hatless Mario graphics never saw the light of day… until now.
— Nintendo Metro (@NintendoMetro) October 22, 2020
While interesting from a development perspective, these sprites would have also changed the course of Mario history had they been included in the final game. Super Mario 64, released a full six years after Super Mario World, was the first game in the main series to introduce Mario losing his hat as a gameplay mechanic. This would continue into Super Mario Sunshine, in which he takes constant damage if an enemy steals his headwear.
Sure, this isn’t a world-shattering discovery on its own, but it does show just how vital the ongoing Nintendo leaks have been for illuminating and preserving esoteric bits of video game history. Maybe the unused hatless Mario sprite created for Super Mario World eventually blossomed into the gameplay mechanics seen in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. Then again, maybe not! But with each new leak we gain a slightly fuller picture of how these games were created and possibly even iterated on previous development.