Feature Article

Super Mario 3D World's Strangest Power-Up Was Originally An Accident

The doppelganger-conjuring Double Cherry is one of 3D World's most creative powers, and it was born out of a programming mistake.

Even by the series' zany standards, Super Mario 3D World is one of Mario's most outlandish adventures, brimming with novel concepts and inventive mechanics. The Super Bell (and its attendant cat suit) is probably the game's signature innovation, continuing the long-standing tradition of dressing Mario and company up in adorable animal costumes. But perhaps its most unusual power-up is the Double Cherry--and it almost wasn't included in the game.

Unlike other power-ups in the series, the Double Cherry doesn't grant Mario a new ability or special power; rather, it duplicates him. Nabbing one of these innocuous fruits conjures up a second Mario that moves perfectly in sync with the original. Grab an additional cherry, and you'll add yet another Mario to your ensemble until you're commanding a small army of plumbers, all of them scrambling about with hivemind synchronicity.

This power-up marked the first time that players could control multiple Marios simultaneously, but it's a concept that Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto had actually been tossing around for quite some time. Until now, however, control hurdles ultimately prevented the Mario team from ever exploring the idea in a proper game. "Before we made [the Double Cherry], we had always had the idea of one player moving multiple Marios, but we never tried it out because we thought it would be too taxing, control-wise, to move multiple characters all at once with one stick," he told late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata in a 2013 Iwata Asks interview.

The concept could be seen as far back as 2000, most famously in the "Mario 128" tech demo that Nintendo used to showcase the then-upcoming GameCube. The demo featured 128 Marios running around on the same screen, each moving about independently as the terrain around them warped and transformed. Although the demo never materialized into a proper game, Nintendo would repurpose some of the tech and ideas behind it in various other titles; the advanced AI that let each Mario move independently was used in Pikmin, while the idea of spherical terrain would go on to inspire Super Mario Galaxy.

Given their similar concepts, it's tempting to also trace the Double Cherry's roots back to the Mario 128 demo. As it turns out, however, the power-up's origins are much more mundane. As game director Kenta Motokura revealed during the same interview, the team stumbled upon the idea for the power-up inadvertently: "Well actually...we discovered that when a staff member made a mistake with the placement tool and put in two player Marios."

Motokura saw this error and liked it so much that he and his team decided to implement it as a power-up. What struck him, he explained, was how this Double Mario ability opened up new gameplay possibilities: "The type of play expanded because of it. There's a panel that four players can get on in multiplayer mode, and it can now be used with Double Mario, so I think we were able to turn around a mistake and make something fun out of it."

Given how thoughtfully Nintendo explores the idea in the game, you would hardly know the Double Mario ability wasn't originally an intentional invention, but this anecdote illustrates how inspiration can spring from the most unlikely sources. That this mistake opened up a means to finally realize Miyamoto's old idea also tied into Nintendo's long-standing design philosophy of storing away unused game ideas and revisiting them later when circumstances have changed.

Super Mario 3D World comes to Nintendo Switch on February 12. This version of the game packs in an entirely new mini-adventure called Bowser's Fury, which sees Mario and Bowser Jr. teaming up to explore an open-ended level called Lake Lapcat and battle an enraged, Godzilla-sized Bowser. You can watch seven minutes of new Bowser's Fury gameplay here. For more on the game, be sure to check out our Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury review.

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Kevin Knezevic

Associate news editor, Star Fox Adventures apologist.

Super Mario 3D World

Super Mario 3D World

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