Super Nintendo centerpiece Super Mario World is often lauded as not only one of the best Mario games of all time but also one of the greatest video games ever made, hands down. Little did we know that this classic adventure has been deceiving us for over 30 years, at least as it pertains to the abilities of a single enemy.
Before the advent of complex physics systems, developers sometimes would design little tricks in their games to convey feats that weren’t technologically feasible at the time. The fine folks over at the Mario blog Supper Mario Broth recently brought one such example of this phenomenon to our attention, explaining how Nintendo fooled us into believing Super Mario World’s Beach Koopas can launch themselves off slopes through momentum alone.
In Super Mario World, blue Koopas launch themselves off slopes to ostensibly demonstrate momentum physics. However, the physics are faked. Instead of using actual momentum, the Koopas are simply programmed to jump whenever they touch an upward slope, as is shown in the footage. pic.twitter.com/bE83y83CaY— Supper Mario Broth (@MarioBrothBlog) December 12, 2023
Although Beach Koopas appear to get air thanks to the speed they build up going downhill, they’re actually programmed to jump — something only the yellow variant does otherwise — when they reach an upward incline. According to game designer kaizoman, who first observed this element of Super Mario World’s design, it only happens to turtles that spawn into the level shell-less; those knocked out of their shells will operate as normal when approaching similar slope configurations.
Furthermore, only blue Beach Koopas are designed to work this way. And while they appear shell-less in a handful of levels, only Cookie Mountain and Groovy include ramps they can jump from (believe me, I checked). Nintendo’s designers put in all this work for two small moments, the second of which most players won’t see for themselves unless they persevere through the extra-difficult, double-secret challenges waiting at the end of the game.
Super Mario World is full of similar sleights-of-hand, including scrolling backgrounds to heighten the sense of movement while on Forest Secret Area’s floating platforms and special, hidden characters used to bypass level name length limitations. This may be a controversial opinion, but video games are cool, even when they lie to your face.