Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Super Mario Bros. Art Style Retrospective Part 2: Establishing the Modern Style

In my last article I discussed some of the earlier works of the Super Mario Bros. series that have fallen into obscurity. This time around I want to focus on the observations I have made on Nintendo's more familiar artwork used for Super Mario Bros.2 (USA) and Super Mario Bros. 3.

Super Mario Bros.2 (USA) Release Date- Ocotber 9, 1988 (USA), September 14, 1992 (Japan)
The US release of Super Mario Bros. 2 has been with controversy in more recent times when fans learned that what we got as Mario 2 was essentially a retool of a game in Japan called Doki Doki Panic. Nintendo of America reasoned the original Mario 2 would seem too difficult for English players so we got our version that we're familiar with instead. Putting aside debates about the game itself Miyamoto and Kotabe were still responsible for the art direction. With the release of the English instruction booklets we finally got Luigi's final design that he would be known for.

There are two very interesting observations about the artwork I would like to point out. The first observation is that back in 1988 the original art work featured some elements of the earlier designs. The princess had yet to don her opera gloves (which was consistent with most of the artwork Nintendo was relasing at the time), her hair still had a reddish blonde tint, the Mario Bros. had a blue shirt under their respective colors (even though the actual game sprites featured the known coloring), also the Mario Bros. and the Princess lack their iris colors. As Nintendo re-released Super Mario Bros. 2 in other formats they revised the artwork to correspond to their more modern appearances.

The second observation has to do with an illustration that was released for Super Mario Bros. 2 USA that corresponds with a similar piece of artwork from the Japanese release of Doki Doki Panic. Much like the game itself the Mario characters replaces their Doki Doki counterparts. What is interesting is that Mario 2 USA was not released until 1992. As I will point out later in this article, by the time Super Mario World came out in late 1990 Nintendo had, more or less figured out the final designs for the characters. While there is no evidence this picture was created in 1992 it does carry some of the sensibilities of the earlier Mario artwork (the Mario Bros. overalls, Peach's ambiguous hair coloring and lack of opera gloves). Despite the lack of a dating of this piece it still corresponds with the visual consistency of the Mario 2 artwork.

Super Mario Bros. 3 Release Date- October 23, 1988
By Super Mario Bros. 3 Kotabe had settled on how the characters were designed. Much like the Mario 2 instruction booklet Nintendo did release a revised illustration of the popular “running from the castle” artwork that promoted Mario 3. What's interesting is that the changes are very slight (mainly look at Luigi and the Princess) compared to the Mario 2 revisions. The second illustration also has some visual relics from the earlier artwork.

Super Mario Land Release Date- April 21, 1989
Visually speaking Super Mario Land continued the same artwork style that Mario 3 had. It's just interesting to note Daisy's design here compared to her return later on in the franchise.


Super Mario World Release Date- November 21, 1990
The final series of illustrations come from the original Japanese artwork from Super Mario World, and the character artwork used in the American instruction booklet. By Super Mario World the standard for the characters had finally been established. Mario doned blue overalls, and brown hair. Luigi's character design had a slight alteration where his neckline is more visible. Bowser's design finally looked a little more flexible. Peach was officially a blond, and donned her opera gloves. Yoshi, being a new character, would still be revised slightly over the course of the later 90's but for most of the series mainstays the artwork stayed consistent from here on out.


The final article in this series will cover some of the design changes that took place during the 3D era as well of the resurgance of Kotabe's artwork for 3D Land, World, and the overall Super Mario franchise.


  1. Daisy's current design is a lot less like Princess Peach.

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