News Article

Game Designers Reveal How Super Mario Bros. 3 Would Work As A Free-To-Play Mobile Title

Posted by Andy Green

It's not for the faint hearted...

Free-to-play mobile games have proven popular with casual gamers over recent years and there is seemingly no end of developers looking to create another addictive bird chucking or candy crushing title to harvest money from people's e-wallets.

Many people have wondered if this free-to-play model can work for much larger games - classic titles from yesteryear, for example. Nintendo has already revealed it aims to experiment with the pricing framework with Steel Diver, which will come to the eShop soon.

We're sure you've all wondered what Super Mario Bros. 3, one of the best games ever made, would be like on a smartphone. Well, we say wondered it's probably likely if you ever have you've awoken upright with cold sweat streaming from your forehead. Go back to sleep, it's just a nightmare. Or is it?

Well, three game designers, including Ethan Levy, were recently challenged to create an "evil" version of the classic NES title and they presented what they came up with at last month's Casual Connect summit held in San Francisco.

It's definitely worth mentioning at this point that Levy did state that it was all a bit of a laugh and wasn't to be taken seriously. And yet here we are still hopelessly counting sheep.

How the team went about devising a touch-based Super Mario Bros. 3 is actually quite interesting. First off, he recommended using swipe-based controls as virtual sticks on a smartphone are disastrous at best. Basically, you swipe forward to move forward, back to stop, up to jump and down to grab your hat and crouch. Meanwhile, a double finger tap will make Mario perform his special move.

This is where it starts to get all PEGI 18 - the monetisation.

Levy noted all the things that could be charged for and it's harrowing to say the least:

You have lives, you have time, you have score and you have coins. In addition to that at the end of every level, there's a special mechanic where you hit this thing and you get a little slot machine thing and after you get three slot machine things, it turns into an item in your inventory. You have an overworld, which has slightly linear gameplay content. You have mini-boss castles, boss castles, hammerheads. You have these mini-games that you can play for items in your inventory, or you can just go to Toad and pick a chest and get a straight item that goes into your consumable-based inventory. This game has everything we need to make a modrn free-to-play game on a mobile phone. Everything's already there. All we need to change is a couple of little tweaks here and there.

That's right, it's all there. All you'd need to do is add a price tag.

He then went on to talk about charging for emotions, in particular delight and achievement:

Super Mario Bros. 3 is a masterclass in surprise and delight. The player is introduced to novelties throughout the game that keeps the experience constantly fresh. In order to monetise emotion, we will introduce elements like a crafting system that allows the player you unlock new characters for use with slightly different powers which allow for more novelty.

We can build off of the slightly linear nature of Super Mario Bros. 3 to build a system dependent upon earning stars instead of pure level completion to unlock new areas and abilities. Taking queues from games like Candy Crush Saga and Jetpack Joyride, we will build in systems of achievements that will motivate players to use a variety of consumable boosts.

In order to make Super Mario Bros. 3 more like Candy Crush (why would anyone want to... never mind) Levy said the very structure of the game would change. For example, all levels would do away with simple completion and players would now need to achieve a high score that would equate to being awarded stars. There would then be a social leaderboard and you could get bonus stars for completing levels with other characters - that have been purchased of course. By collecting stars you can unlock new worlds, allowing you to progress.

Interestingly, lives would not be found in the levels and they would regenerate at a rate of one every 30 minutes. Meaning if you fall down a pit you'll have to wait half an hour to play again, or you could get your wallet out. Meanwhile, mini games are only available once every 24 hours, you want more? Visa and Mastercard are accepted.

So if coins don't grant you an extra life, what's the point? Well, they can be used for in-game currency to buy Tanooki suits, Fire Flowers or Mushrooms. Collecting them is bound to become tedious so players will have the chance to buy a pack to save them time.

However, the major "coin sink" in the game would be Toad, who would play the role of a craftsman. Essentially, you'd use coins and other rewards to conjure up bonuses like additional characters including Peach, Luigi, Wario, Donkey Kong, Samus and Link. All of these characters would have special abilities akin to Super Mario Bros. 2 and if you want these abilities then you'll need to splash some cash.

Levy said there would be notifications showing the player where they could pay money for things and the game would start up by offering them $20 worth of content for a mere $5. A new survival mode would also be included to increase the game's longevity, with a new level being added every week to keep the player interested. Linear content would mean people stop playing and developers really do not want this.

We're sure you'll agree that all of that sounds pretty horrific. Thankfully it's all hypothetical.

You can check out the presentation from Levy in the video below, it starts at 21:05 and finishes at 32:00. If you fancy looking at the slides, they can be found here.

Let us know what you think to this mobile adaptation of the classic NES title in the comment section. Now if you don't mind we're all going to switch on the Wii U, load up Super Mario Bros. 3 and hug the GamePad for a bit.

Subscribe to Nintendo Life on YouTube


From the web

Game Screenshots

User Comments (78)



The_Fox said:

I'm pretty sure the well for this joke dried up a long, long time ago.



Broseph373 said:

This would just be terrible. By gosh the controls would stink and oh gosh I need to go cry in a corner...



SpookyMeths said:

And again, the only reason why so many "tech experts" and "industry experts" go on about how important it is for Nintendo to go multi-plat is that too manbrodude to admit that they really love Nintendo games, but don't want all their dudebromen to see them buying a Wii.



grimbldoo said:

Andy Green wrote:

Well, we say wondered it's probably likely if you ever have you've awoken upright with cold sweat streaming from your forehead.

This might make me wake up with cold sweats.



SkywardLink98 said:

Well, from my experience at least, when Free-to-Play is done right it's actually quite good. You can burn me at the stake as a heretic now.



Gridatttack said:


Also playing SMB3 on a touch screen only is really hard.
I already tried to play on my smartphone, but its impossible to do some jumps :<



Henmii said:

These designers don't have any passion for games! Free to play is evil!!



Einherjar said:

so, they analyse a game considered a masterpiece bar none and take it apart into all its components and STILL think that they can do the job just as good ?
And why are F2P components so much more important than, say, gameplay, controls etc ?
Its really sad to hear that modern game devs think that achievements, buy to win and f2p elements would make a game "better" ... that is simply sickening.
Free 2 Play is a format that has its benefits when done right, but sadly, there are very few examples of it, since every opportunity devs get to milk their customers is used extensively.



theblackdragon said:

there is absolutely, positively no way in hell i would play this. it's probably one of the worst ideas i've ever heard. wow.



SuperKMx said:

@WiiUExposed The problem is that as soon as anyone introduces payment options into a free title, everyone brands it as "pay to win", no matter what.

I play an online soccer management MMO. Been going for years as a free game. It isn't a short-term sort of game that you can play for five actually takes time be successful. A month or two ago, they introduced the ability to change a player's preferred role on the pitch for around £6. There's absolutely no need to do this in order to win or be successful. It's a shortcut.

In the week that they introduced it, they lost around 46% of the die-hard player base of around 100,000 people, who complained that the game had become "pay to win" and therefore decided to quit.

People just don't get it, sometimes.



LztheQuack said:

"It's definitely worth mentioning at this point that Levy did state that it was all a bit of a laugh and wasn't to be taken seriously."

And yet everyone will still be offended by it and give long speeches on how it's bad anyway. Nintendo will never delve into this business (points to that speech that Iwata himself made)



Henmii said:


It's evil because I think Nintendo worked hard on this masterpiece back in the day, and thus the least we can do is pay a little bit for it!

The thing is: Many people in the business (analists and other people) would love to see Nintendo destroy themselves. Always does Nintendo get the questions like: When will your games be free, when will they be released digital-only AND on rival consoles/smartphones/tablets?!

Sad thing is Nintendo is pushing downloads more and more! It seems they are already tainted a bit by all this pushing!

And Steeldiver will be free to play next year! It has begun!!!

You never hear people from the business asking Microsoft and Sony to dump all there stuff on smartphones/tablets AND for free!!



TsunamiSensei said:

I wanted to make a comment before the bias began, but... it seems I'm too late. This was just proving how regular games can be converted to a free-to-play format, and I'd say they did a good job. Us self-proclaimed "gamers" would never play it, but think about who f2p games are directed at. The hardcore audience? No. The casual audience who will play for 5-10 minutes? Yes. Their idea makes sense, and it would be fairly successful is SMB3 as we know it never existed.



DePapier said:

"It's definitely worth mentioning at this point that Levy did state that it was all a bit of a laugh and wasn't to be taken seriously."

Good Lord, thanks for mentioning it, I was about to LMAO in the comments section...



Mk_II said:

Seems most commenters here did not read the actual article...

challenged to create an "evil" version of the classic NES title

In other words: it was all done to demonstrate the evilness of f2p games.



WiiUExposed said:

@SuperKMx In my opinion, there has to be skill to unlock stuff, not a will to pay money. People who don't pay should be able to compete with payers without a game changing difference.



SuperKMx said:

@WiiUExposed Couldn't agree with you more. The problem is though, that even when that's the case and you can get exactly the same results with a little more work - as in my example - people don't seem to realise that's the case. They just see the ability to pay as being some sort of barrier.



MetalMario said:

"In addition to that at the end of every level, there's a special mechanic where you hit this thing and you get a little slot machine thing and after you get three slot machine things, it turns into an item in your inventory. "

WRONG. You get extra lives.



SwerdMurd said:

not all free to play is soulless and evil. Plant vs. Zombies 2 is actually quite solid.



Kirk said:

Man these types of people sort of make me sick.

They turn the simple innocent pursuit of fun and happiness into carefully calculated and engineered manipulation tools for the purpose of monetary gain.

Have they really lost all sense and meaning of what it is to be a human being?

God I hate them.

PS. This isn't about free to play. It's about the way people like this guy think about the world around them, they just utterly taint and destroy what was once so pure and good, and the fact they actually have even the smallest impact on and in it.



kondabasu said:

@SwerdMurd @SkywardLink98 I agree, but the F2P model is still just a response to unsustainable pricing expectations users have of smartphone games.

We should all bookmark this article to use as a response next time someone brings out the old "Nintendo should stop making hardware and just sell games" argument. If you want to stay competitive in the App or Play stores, these are the sort of tactics you have to use.

Please stay on the high road, Nintendo.



LztheQuack said:

Maybe it would help to read the article before commenting on it

He was challenged to make this and if anything he's only pointing out the flaws of F2P rather than getting Nintendo to release this version



Caryslan said:

This is why the concept of Free to Play is nothing but a sham. At the end of the day, it is a fancy modern term for what old-school gamers used to call shareware. The only difference is that Doom gave you an entre episode and you only paid for the later ones. Now, it's a matter of bleeding as much money from the consumer as they can. And it's not just "Free to Play games"

Paid games have a serious issue with this as well. I have no problem buying DLC for a game like Fallout since it adds to the core game. But I have been very unhappy with God of War Ascension thanks to the fact that an entire weapon class is locked behind a paywall. "Want to use the Gauntlets in multiplayer? Pay up sucker!"

Never mind the fact that I paid 49.99 to buy the game in the first place.

This pay to win and pay for features is going to kill video games. A product is not free if you have to pay to make it complete. Would this mindset really fly in any other indstrudy?

Let's suppose Mcdonalds offered a "Free to Eat" Big Mac that includes the bread but you have to pay for the veggies, meat, and sauce. Let's guess how long that would last before Mcdonalds would be shamed into giving up that plan as people go to Burger King or Wendy's instead.

I am sick and tired of features, characters, and weapons being hidden behind a paywall. And this does not just apply to "free to play" games, but full retail games as well. It's cheap, and it really angers me when I have to either choose between being bled out of more money or paying for content that should have been in a core game.

I lam not opposed to the idea of DLC, and I don't mind things like Expansions for games like Elder Scrolls or Map Packs for Call of Duty. Those games are finished before they head out the door, and the DLC only adds to it.

But the "Pay to win!" DLC trend needs to stop. If anything kills video games, it will be that. People are getting sick of being nickel and dimed, and I don't blame them. If I pay full price for a game, I want the complete game and if it's "free to play" then it better be free. Ads are fine in some cases, but that about it.



TrueWiiMaster said:

Ugh. So disgusting. F2P may not always be bad, but it almost always is. Worse, though, is how it's spreading. It's like a virus, spreading to money hungry publishers everywhere. I'm still reeling from the atrocity that is Plants vs Zombies 2. I was hoping for a release on the Wii U and/or 3DS, but now I'd rather it never come to the platforms than come as it is.



kondabasu said:

@Kirk @feline2 That's unfair. F2P is a popular pricing model for smartphone games because:

1. Users expect smartphone games to be dirt cheap. (Of the top 50 paid games in Apple's App Store, only 3 are $4.99 or higher. The most expensive is only $6.99. The majority are $1.99 or less.)

2. There's a ridiculous amount of competition (~60/70 new titles a day). People forget this when they assume cheap = more downloads = more money.

3. With such an insane amount of competition, constant updates are the best way to keep squirrel-minded smartphone users focused on your game and get more downloads. (Of the top 10 paid iPhone games, 9 have had at least one "update" in the last 2 months. The odd one out hasn't been updated since May...)

F2P is a recourse developers are taking to make sure they can compete with free and low-price titles but still make money and fund post-launch development.

It's not that smartphone developers are necessarily more greedy — I'm paying more up front for 3DS games than I'd ever invest in a F2P title — but Nintendo controls release schedules and minimum pricing of its systems' retail games which means developers can't compete on price like they can on smartphones and don't have to be so aggressive to obtain mindshare.



Sleepingmudkip said:

@kondabasu its just some time there greedy and plus i hate f2p i want to buy the full game so i dont have to keep on buying lives of bonus or damn subscription.



SomeBitTripFan said:

Nintendo has already done this. They just charged a $40 entry price. You should all know exactly what game I'm talking about.



GamerZack87 said:

@SkywardLink98 (#10): He's a witch!

Just kidding! I agree that free-to-play can be fun, and there are many F2P titles that are perfectly fine without splashing ridiculous amounts of cash. I enjoyed MapleStory without abusing the Cash Shop for ridiculous things like doubling the amount of XP earned for an hour.



Odnetnin said:

"We're sure you've all wondered what Super Mario Bros. 3, one of the best games ever made, would be like on a smartphone. Well, we say wondered it's probably likely if you ever have you've awoken upright with cold sweat streaming from your forehead. Go back to sleep, it's just a nightmare. Or is it?"

This article is dripping with bias. No indication that this was just a suggestion by a random person not associated with Nintendo in the headline; it reads as if this is the only way Super Mario Bros. 3 could work as a free-to-play title.



tanookisuit said:

I know it was all in good sport, problem is I wouldn't be surprised if that already existed somewhere on ios and android as that all is just so perfectly evil.

Say Iwata quits one day and his replacement is into mobile and doing crap like that, I'd ban Mario from my household if the 30min per life, etc came into play. I wouldn't pay a few hundred or thousand bucks to chip away at SMB3 to see it all, ever, even if I was new to the game and never touched it before as that's just awful.



SetupDisk said:

I am finding that some of these serious responses to a joke are more humorous than the joke itself.



WinterWarm said:

"...Donkey Kong, Samus, and Link."


This is awesome. I literally bookmarked this.




rjejr said:

@SetupDisk - 80% of the people here are nuts.

@1337man1233 - Pretty funny. I was going to reply to TBD w/ "Who watches the watchers?"

Whats w/ the pay to play hate? Are you all too young to know where home video games come from? Video arcades. Do you know how those games work? 1 quarter at a time. Pay. Play. Die. Repeat. Thats the model the entire video game industry was birthed from. Pay. Pay. Pay.
Now if you want to lament touchscreen phone and tablet games thats another story. Those controls suck. They suck so bad that Nintendo put them all in their flagship WiiU game Nintendo Land. We love the multiplayers but those 6 single player games are garbage.



jayclayx said:

@rjejr you cant compare Nintendo land touch controls with the one in phones, first because while some part of the gameplay are touchscreen the main gameplay is by the analog joystick and buttons, you are taking about arcade era and guess what? many years ago the people adopt another way to play at home, fortunately nobody at nintendo cares your opinion.



XCWarrior said:

These are the type of people that shouldn't be allowed to make video games.

God I really hate Fee to Pay games.



dadajo said:

WTH? Can we just go one day without somebody saying Nintendo is doing business wrong and need to do this? This would be a horrible idea and could potentially ruin the original game. (At least I have it on nes and gba. Try making that free to play lol)



sleepinglion said:

There are also many free NES emulator apps for smartphones. Granted if I were to use such an app it would only be for titles I already legally own on a cartridge. Hypothetically. And playing on an actual NES or as a Virtual Console title would come out on top every time. In theory.



xevious said:

Screw this. Mobile gaming ruins the world. Nintendolife, stop posting these "Nintendo should/would go mobile gaming" articles!!! I understand it's clicks that you're after, but come on, it's not funny!!!



DarkCoolEdge said:

Horrific? Try disgusting or "the stuff nightmares are made of".

And by the way, Candy Crush is bullcrap, just as most of mobile games. Usually the good ones can't shine because of the stupid touch controls.



unrandomsam said:

You cannot compare mobile f2p games with arcade games. Arcade games were the original from which everything was ported. Designed to be good from the second you.start until it ends.
DOTA2 is completely free to play everything you pay for is cosmetic that is the only acceptable way.



Rensch said:

This pretty much explains why I do not play games on a mobile phone and why the argument that handheld dedicated gaming systems are outdated is complete nonsense.



Kirk said:


"PS. This isn't about free to play. It's about the way people like this guy think about the world around them, they just utterly taint and destroy what was once so pure and good, and the fact they actually have even the smallest impact on and in it."



Kirk said:



I didn't actually notice it was a joke response.

My bad.

Still, I hate the actual guys that do actually think exactly like this.




retro_player_22 said:

Damn if every game coming out soon are free-to-play, the gaming industry as we know it would die again. Back then videogames didn't die because of people didn't buy games, videogames died because people didn't want to buy expensive crappy junks, and it was quality and innovation that revived the industry. Now it looks like instead of going above and beyond to offer something refreshing and innovative for the gaming future, we got to deal with half-donkey ripoff and incomplete games that required DLC, day one ripoff, requiring real money to buy fake stuffs, etc.



BestBuck15 said:

Are these people on the dole and they've nothing better to do? Boring and not funny..



Player4 said:

Great ideas! Now Nintendo only needs to partner with EA and make these games ASAP!



Hamguar said:

Holy crap this has sincerely made me physically ill. I hate how FTP is mucking up gaming.



rjejr said:

@jayclayx - What parts of the Falcon Racing game and that balloon game required joysticks or buttons? And the Donkey Kong game only used them sparingly, could have easily been done on a phone.



Senario said:

This was traumatizing why would you ever do this to that game?! WHY?!
goes into fetal position in the corner ><



SomeBitTripFan said:

@Archgamer :
I was talking about Fire Emblem: Awakening. I know my opinion will likely be beaten into the ground by someone too blind in their love for a company than to actually see that Nintendo has already shifted in the direction of Free-To-Play style games, just without the limitless potential for stealing money from people, but charging for them at the price of a regular games and being under an obscuring veil hiding that the games at their core are designed to make you buy the DLC, whether by taking advantage of the compulsive need for things to be complete or by locking the best content or content that makes the game more enjoyable behind a paywall. Think about FE:A. The maps are designed so that grinding takes precedence over strategy. "To save time why not buy the DLC that nets you more experience so you can grind faster? But, if you can get that DLC bundled with other DLC for cheaper, so buy the bundle." The game pretty much forces you to buy all the DLC, which ends up costing $50.50, more than the entire game, at least. And yet Nintendo fans love the game and bash all other games because the DLC should have been, "included in the original game". If people care about Nintendo, they should be telling them to not do this, as it will hurt customer loyalty, but for some reason, when Nintendo does something, they are always right. If Nintendo announced a Free-To-Play Super Mario Bros. 3 just like the description in this article, they would be lavished with praise for making a game available to a new generation.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...