The Anatomy of Super Mario I


GameSpite Presents: The Anatomy of Super Mario Vol. 1 (aka GameSpite Journal 15) is available for purchase as a print-on-demand book on the GameSpite Blurb store.

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I had originally planned to follow up The Anatomy of Metroid with a series on Kid Icarus, but after thinking about it a little more I decided perhaps I’d be wise to go back to basics and look at some of the games I keep referencing in these features. The Anatomy series dissects the design of games as best as I’m able within my limited capabilities, and the design of every good game builds on the wisdom it receives from those who have gone before it—shoulders of giants and all that. With that in mind, I should spend some time with one of gaming’s true baselines: The Super Mario series.

1985’s Super Mario Bros. may actually be the single most influential video game ever—certainly it rivals Pac-Man, Tetris, Doom, and Space Invaders in terms of importance. In any case, it has exerted tremendous influence over any game revolving around jumping, both 2D and 3D, which makes for an awful lot of descendants. For many of the games slated for exploration on the Anatomy list, most of which have their origins in the late ‘80s and in Mario’s wake, understanding the basics of Super Mario would seem as important as learning to read before trying to write a novel.

So, let’s talk about Super Mario, and let’s start from the very beginning. I admit that I jumped into this series with a fair amount of trepidation. These Anatomy pieces are always written by the seat of my pants as I power through fresh playthroughs of games, and I confess I’d never finished Super Mario Bros. (made it 8-2 a couple of times before I burned out) let alone The Lost Levels. But save states are God’s way of saying “It’s OK to try again until you get it right,” so all is well. More concerning to me is the fact that some of these games—particularly Super Mario Bros.—have been dissected in such exhaustive detail by so many critics and designers I have my doubts as to whether or not I can bring anything new to the table. Therefore, please accept my apologies in advance if I simply retread familiar ground and regurgitate things you’ve already read.

Jeremy Parish

Nov. 4, 2013


In This Issue

Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong Jr.

Mario Bros.

Donkey Kong 3

  1. Mario is missing
  2. Space Fire Bird

Wrecking Crew

Super Mario Bros.


All text is © its respective author.

GameSpite Journal 15 Copyright Indicia:

Mario, Donkey Kong, Pauline, Donkey Kong Jr., Stanley the Bugman, Luigi, Foreman Spike, Bowser, Goombas, Koopa Troopers, Koopa Paratroopers, Lakitu, Spinies, Cheep-Cheeps, Bloobers, Princess Toadstool, Mushroom Retainers, Bullet Bills, Buzzy Beetles, Podoboos, Metroid, and all other related characters, games, and indicia are trademark and copyright Nintendo of America and Nintendo Corporation Ltd. All rights reserved. Characters and game-related sceenshot images used under the guidelines of fair usage as a critical and academic work. No claim of ownership by the author of this work is stated or implied.

Book text and layout copyright 2013 Jeremy Parish.

Screenshots provided courtesy of The Video Game Museum (

The full contents of this book may be read for free at Just look for the Anatomy of a Game link at the top of every page!