‘Super Mario Bros. Wonder’ Almost Had a Live-Action Mario

Super Mario Bros. Wonder’s titular flowers can make the game Get Weird, whether it’s by changing the game’s stage or turning Mario into something slightly terrifying. One prototype idea in particular, however, would have temporarily turned the game into a live-action one.

During the development process of Wonder, the game’s team had an unprecedented amount of time to prototype its most important feature, Wonder Flowers. “At first, there were no rules on what constitutes a good Wonder effect vs. a not-so-good Wonder effect,” director Shiro Mouri said at the Game Developers Conference this week. Some were pretty simple, such as the first-year Nintendo employee who simply wrote “A Wonder Quiz Starts” on a sticky note with nothing else (that later became the game’s trivia flower). Others were more complicated and ambitious, but ultimately didn’t work with the game.

Like, for example, sound director Koji Kondo’s idea for a Wonder Flower that would have turned Mario into a live-action version of himself—a regular guy who would hum the background music and make the game’s sound effects himself.

“As an idea, it’s very funny,” Mouri said. But ultimately the idea was rejected because it was hard to see the connection between pre-Wonder flower effects, and during the live-action Wonder effect. It was also “hard to imagine the gameplay changing much by having Mario turn into a live-action version of himself,” Mouri said.

As humorous as it would have been, it also might not have gone over well with players. Long-term Nintendo fans likely still remember the ill-fated 1993 live-action movie Super Mario Bros. movie, featuring Bob Hoskins as Mario. No offense to Hoskins, but the movie was a dud (even he thought so), and cemented the idea that maybe the overalls’d plumber is better when he’s animated. (See also: The Super Mario Bros. Movie.)

Wonder Flowers, though, ended up being Super Mario Bros. Wonder’s secret weapon. Still, for every great idea, there were many left in the discard pile. More than half of the Wonder Flower prototypes didn’t make it into the final game, Mouri said, including one that turned Mario’s head into a giant block that enemies have to eat. (Developers felt Mario’s head was so large there was no strategy to avoiding enemies and the mechanic turned the game into a mad dash to the end.)

Live-action Mario didn’t get totally scrapped, though. The team liked the idea so much they modified it to create the game’s final badge: Sound Off?, which replaces the game’s usual sound effects with an acapella version. (Think: A person saying “boing” when Mario jumps, rather than the usual sound.) “It was such an interesting idea it would have been ‘mottonai’ (a waste) to not use it,” Mouri said. The voice players hear when they use that badge? That would be Kondo, of course.

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