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Miyamoto: Mario Initially Couldn’t Jump

by Tim Turi on Nov 25, 2009 at 08:40 AM

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If you were to mime Mario in a game of charades, chances are you’d jump into the air with one fist and knee raised in tribute to the plumber’s classic form. It’s hard to imagine the video game landscape of today without this iconic gameplay, but Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto recently revealed that this almost wasn't the case.

Way back before Mario was called Mario, and instead went by Jumpman, Miyamoto was developing the character for Donkey Kong. The debut of Nintendo’s icon was originally designed to be played with only a joystick, thus no jump feature was planned.

“I also recall that the cabinet we were making the game for had one joystick and one button, but initially I intended it to be controlled using only the joystick,” said Miyamoto.

When asked by Nintendo president Satoru Iwata if it’s possible that Mario may have never jumped if the Donkey Kong cabinet didn’t just happen to have an extra button, Miyamoto replied, “Well, that might have been the case. Originally it was a game where you had to escape from a maze,” Miyamoto continues. “To allow players to jump and avoid dangers would have spoiled the strategic element of the game. But then we thought: "If you had a barrel rolling towards you, what would you do?"

“I think that if we hadn't allowed Mario to jump, it would have most likely proved to be a horrendously difficult game to play,” Miyamoto adds.

There you have it. Without the dumb luck of Donkey Kong being developed on an arcade cabinet with a superfluous button, your childhood may have never been filled with the visual of an Italian plumber bashing his head against glowing bricks.