There is maybe no video game more universally recognizable than Nintendo's original Super Mario Bros. It evokes nostalgia for even the most casual video game players, who likely cut their teeth on making a tiny Mario bounce from blocks to Goombas and back again.
Earlier this week, Eurogamer published its sit-down with Super Mario Bros. designer Shigeru Miyamoto, who walked the publication through the game's first and most iconic level, 1-1.
The conversation is in-depth, with Miyamoto and his collaborator, Takashi Tezuka, walking through the level as the player progresses. They discuss the decision to use a mushroom as a magical item ("we thought a suspicious mushroom would be universally understood"), brainstorming how to dismiss a turtle ("we couldn't really just jump on it and defeat it"), and, most interestingly, how they considered the player's frame of mind throughout.
An animated Miyamoto talks about how the designers thought through what would make players happy and how to motivate them onward, citing the hidden coins Mario can find in brick blocks.
Later, he and Tezuka discuss the animation process. They animated more advanced levels like 2-1 first, to get a handle on the world, then went back to make a very basic level that would introduce players to the rules in an organic way. The flow of Mario's movement is an ongoing project even 30 years later. Both designers agree the game was harder than they had anticipated, but if the enduring popularity of Super Mario Bros. is anything to go by, it was well worth it.
For a more detailed exploration of 1-1's level design, take a look at this video from gaming channel Extra Credits: