Wednesday, September 5, 2012

On My Mind: New Super Mario Brothers 2's stage intro

I've recently picked up New Super Mario Brothers 2 on the 3DS, and there was a really interesting observation: A lot of stages now start with an "interactive tutorial" before the actual stage begins. Since it's kind of hard to explain what I mean, I've found a video of someone playing through it to show what I mean (at 2m 50s):

In fact, about half the stages I've encountered have shared this structure: A single static room with a tunnel that leads the player to the actual stage, with the level's most prominent "feature" shown. In the video linked above, it's the dynamically moving blocks; in later levels, other examples like giant man-eating fish, lava, and other course hazards show off what players should watch out for.

This, interestingly, is a dramatic turn from the previous standard that Nintendo has used with Mario games for quite some time now, beginning with Super Mario All Stars on SNES:

A simple visual that shows the type of enemy players will encounter in the stage. This is pretty much carried through to even New Super Mario Brothers on Wii.

The interactive introduction of the upcoming stage is an interesting design decision: when presented in isolation (and out of harms way), players can think and process the interaction at hand, and would be less surprised (and less likely to cry foul) with more later encounters on the stage. However, this does make the stage feel "choppier" and lacking in flow (stages all seem to be interrupted just as the player starts the stage).

Just an interesting observation.


  1. On one hand, this is pretty much progression design 101. Introduce a new element in a safe context so the player can get acquainted with it before adding it into more advanced situations. This is something the Mario games have done really well all the way back to the first Super Mario Bros.

    On the other hand, as you said having it be in this small "tutorial" zone does certainly break up the flow. Perhaps the Mario team felt the subtle introductions weren't enough and that players needed to be forced to partake in them before progressing.

  2. Oh I don't disagree that it's design 101, but with almost all older Mario games, these lessons were very organic (think the first encounter in Mario bros 1-1). It's kind of weird to see this type of separation.