Nintendo talks about how Mario and Zelda have been related for almost 40 years

Since Nintendo’s flagship franchise burst onto the scene nearly 40 years ago, the Super Mario Bros. franchise has maintained its popularity, relevance and status since its revolutionary debut. But this is not the only thing; The Legend of Zelda series, which began at the time, remains a genre leader all these decades later. During our discussions with Nintendo during our Super Mario Bros. Wonder cover story (and other interviews earlier this year), we tried to drill down into why these franchises — specifically, the Mario franchise — have maintained their popularity and quality. Other series struggled to hold it for a while.

According to Takashi Tezuka, producer of the Mario series, the staffing involved is a key part of keeping series like Mario and The Legend of Zelda industry leaders. “They’ve been working on these franchises for a long time,” he says. “For example, Mr. (Eiji) Aonuma became part of the Zelda team at some point and has been there throughout, and for Mario, it’s me! I think the most important thing for the Mario series is, of course, the level. – design philosophy.”

Super Mario Bros. (1985)

That level-design philosophy, as well as an emphasis on repetition, has been instrumental in positioning the Super Mario franchise as a premier platform franchise since its 1985 debut. “When we create each course, we iterate on it, we keep looking at it, we keep looking at it, we work on it until we believe it’s interesting; if it’s interesting to play or fun to play, someone has fun playing it,” Tezuka says. “An important feature of side-scrolling 2D games is that you can still make changes to the course at the final stage of development. Of course, this cannot be achieved without excellent course editing tools. I think it is important to have consistency and to continue. Strive for improvement until the end, citing feedback from focus groups.”

For Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, the easy-to-understand gameplay is all thanks to the costumed plumber’s continued relevance. “It’s very intuitive, when you see a hole in the ground, you know to jump over it; when there’s a high place, you want to climb it,” Miyamoto said. Game Informer At the premiere of Super Mario Bros. Movie Earlier this year. “When that intuitive and direct connection happens, people are encouraged to say, ‘I want to try this. I want to go there. I want to challenge this.’ I think, and it will probably appeal to different people of both ages, but across cultures and countries.”

Super Mario 64 (1996)

Appealing to several generations, Mario is now created, at least in part, by developers who grew up playing previous games in the series. While Tezuka still valued the tenure that longtime Nintendo employees like himself would bring, he wanted to leverage new blood into the creation of Super Mario Bros. Wonder. “When creating a new Mario title, we really went ahead and brought a lot of younger people into our crew,” says Tezuka. “There are people who haven’t made a Super Mario game before; they’re our target audience. They’re developers, but they’re people who enjoy playing games, and so they want to create something that gamers themselves enjoy.”

This new crop of developers mingled with longtime Mario developers to challenge preconceived notions. “It’s really a good mix of veterans in the series and new and up-and-coming developers, and they’re open to getting feedback from these new developers,” says Super Mario Bros. Wonder director Shiro Mori.

“We never ignore the feedback we get from our new staff members,” Tezuka chimed in. “And when I present an idea myself, they’re really honest and say, ‘Yeah, I don’t like that,’ or ‘I like that.’ I think it’s a really beneficial environment that we have.”

Super Mario Bros. Wonder (2023)

In addition to serving as series producer for the Super Mario franchise, Tezuka directed some of the most iconic Mario games, including Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. Tezuka was heavily involved with the Legend of Zelda franchise, co-directing the first game on the NES as well as two of the most beloved titles in the series’ early years, A Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening. After the SNES era, Tezuka moved into a supervisory and production role, and Eiji Aonuma went on to direct a run of games starting with Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. However, after the release of Twilight Princess, Aonuma relinquished directing duties in favor of supervisor and producer roles within the series.

To this day, Aonuma oversees the Legend of Zelda series as a producer, but like Tezuka and his team, he’s worked to bring new developers into the mix, but he still relies on his experience to ensure the Zelda franchise continues in whatever form it takes. , the game still feels like an app Zelda game. “(We always) make sure there’s Zelda-ness or Zelda is really in the game,” Aonuma said Game Informer At the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom earlier this year. “Even if a game like Breath of the Wild has really big changes, as long as fans and players feel like it’s a Zelda game when they play the game, it’s important to us that it really meets the fans’ expectations.

The Legend of Zelda (1986)

Hidemaro Fujibayashi has held the position of Zelda director for many recent titles, including Skyward Sword, Breath of the Wild, and Tears of the Kingdom. He attributed it to keeping the essence of the Zelda franchise intact, regardless of the direction the core gameplay was going, but like their Mario counterparts, the development-team makeup was crucial to keeping the franchise fresh over the decades.

“I think it has some to do with the fact that we have unique and diverse people with all kinds of hobbies on our teams; it’s not just people who play games,” Fujibayashi said. Game Informer At the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom earlier this year. “And they have these hobbies that they enjoy and they take the fun that they have in their real life and try to leave the essence of those elements in the games that they create. Having that environment where they can freely develop and use their creativity. To leave these in the games that they’re working on, I think, is very diverse and It plays a crucial role in creating unique games.”

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)

But getting to the core of Zelda’s lingering relevance circles on how Nintendo develops games and is likely to speak to a bigger question regarding the Mario franchise. Aonuma mentions how Fujibayashi was unable to implement everything he wanted in Skyward Sword, but reworked some of those ideas in the creation of Tears of the Kingdom. Aonuma pointed out that this is an ongoing philosophy at Nintendo rather than a one-off example.

“When it comes to Nintendo’s development, I think we have some consistency with the ideas we come up with,” Aonuma said. “I think this is what Mr. Miyamoto said before, but when you have an idea and try to implement it and it doesn’t work out, you don’t give up on that idea. Rather, those ideas wait for the right opportunity to come – and I think this is true of our developers – in their heads. stuck; they stay with them as they continue their work. Those stacks and when the right opportunity presents itself, we find the opportunity to implement those ideas.”

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)

Apparently, whatever Nintendo is doing is working. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild launched in March 2017 and took home multiple Game of the Year awards (including our own) before The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom began garnering widespread critical acclaim in May of this year. Super Mario Bros. Wonder is the franchise’s first 2D platformer title for home consoles in 11 years, but all signs point to it being an excellent evolution of the series’ familiar traditions. We’ll have to wait until later this week to see if it lives up to this long-standing legacy and continued seal of quality, but Nintendo shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

For more on Super Mario Bros. Wonder, be sure to visit our hub via the banner below for exclusive content on Nintendo’s next highly anticipated 2D platformer. To read the full interview with Shigeru Miyamoto and Koji Kondo, go here. For the full interview with Eiji Aonuma and Hidemaro Fujibayashi, go here.

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