Posts Tagged secrets

Super Mario Bros 3 Level Design Lessons, Part 2

In my previous post, I took a look at the various level designs lessons gleaned from Super Mario Bros. 3’s first world. A lot of them naturally dealt with introductory tutorials, but I wanted to take a slightly different approach with this article.

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The elegant introduction of new mechanics is still present throughout SMB 3. In this example, the first appearance of a Chain Chomp is marked by two columns that indicate its range and allow the player to safely observe its behaviour.

SMB 3 is filled with great levels, so I decided to pick out a bunch of clever, fun or simply unique moments from the game that originated with its architecture. I skipped over a lot of possible examples trying to keep the list down to 30, but I think I came up with a good collection that complements the original post.

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Super Mario Bros 3 Level Design Lessons, Part 1

I recently decided to play through the All-Stars version of SMB 3 without using any Warp Whistles.

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SMB 3's playful title screen has Mario & Luigi messing around with a bunch of enemies and powerups. The sequence is fun to watch, but it also serves as a great preview of numerous game mechanics.

I suspect that the majority of people who replay the game are familiar with the secret and use it to skip to the last world. This also means zooming past a plethora of well designed levels. It’s been my habit as well, but this time I resolved to experience SMB 3 in its entirety.

A lot of small, geometric stages later, here’s an overview of what I found to be the most notable points in the first world:

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The Magic of Secrets

All sorts of entertainment media use the concept of secrets to add intrigue and evoke a powerful emotional reaction. A strong effect of unveiling a secret can be the validation of the observer’s perceptiveness and reasoning; a wink wink, nudge nudge for being such a smart cookie.

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Grand Theft Auto - San Andreas' Hot Coffee mod. Despite the scandal this polygonal sex caused, it was not a real videogame secret.

However, most forms of media tend to be strictly passive. Aside from the occasional dabbling in interaction, the audience exerts no direct influence over the medium’s content.

Games — and videogames in particular — are inherently different. They are interactive and require players, not just observers.

There are plenty of lists online cataloguing the “best secrets in videogames,” but before we delve into this discussion, let’s actually define the term:

Secret, n.

  1. Something kept hidden from others or known only to oneself or to a few.
  2. Designed to elude observation or detection.



Now let’s apply this denotation to design in videogames.

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