Later this week,Super Mario Bros. Wonderwill release for the Nintendo Switch. It’s notably the first 2D entry in the series since 2012’sNew Super Mario Bros. U,and the key staff onWondersaw this new game as an opportunity to revitalize the 2D subsection of the franchise.
Coming up with that sense of surprisewasn’t easy at first, according to director Shiro Mouri. Because the initialWonderteam was so small, it took time for them to find the core mechanic which would give players fun surprises.
Mouri eventually looked to Hayashida for help. Hayashida, who previously directedSuper Mario 3D Worldand directedSuper Mario Odyssey,held an idea meeting where “everyone from programmers to designers and sound designers”wrote down ideas on what would be 2,000 sticky notes.
One of those suggestions involved twisting and bending pipes, and the eventual prototype helped the game find its “core,” according to Mouri. Pipes in Mario games are static, solid objects, but he noted “you’ve got to take everything to the extreme. If you think you’ve gone too far, you can make adjustments later.”
At the time, Mouri remembered Tezuka asked about making so the course transforms without players needing to warp. Hayashida thought at the time he was “asking the impossible,”but the pipe prototype helped him see how this could be an “interesting gameplay mechanic”to implement.
“We took great pains to create a world that could incorporate this idea,” said art director Masanobu Sato. To justify the pipes’ transformation, the team came up with what he dubbed “the Wonder effect,”which would be conveyed by “unconventional visuals.”
The Wonder Effect in action
The transforming pipe became the baseline for other ideas the team incorporated, and their prototypes had to match the Wonder effect. It eventually led to the creation of Elephant Mario: the team wanted a mechanic that made him bigger in size, let him hit blocks from the side, and spray water—things elephants could do, obviously.
“Just when I was thinking that something was missing, Mouri-san suggested Elephant Mario, and I liked it,”recalled Tezuka.Mouri and Hayashida previously worked onSuper Mario Sunshine,which came to inform the elephant transformation.
As fun an idea as the elephant transformation was, the team cut abilitiesthat would’ve let elephant players carry their co-op partners through a level, and one that let theminflate shells with their trunk. Still, being an elephant Mario (or Peach) has been an attention grabbing feature that validates the work put into it.
“In hindsight, ‘asking the impossible’ was exactly what we needed,”said Mouri.