Super Mario Bros. Wonder producer Takashi Tezuka refused to slap even a tentative due date on the upcoming platformer so the development team could prototype with giddy abandon.
Speaking to Wired about the development of Wonder, which marks the iconic plumber's return to 2D side-scrolling action, Tezuka said it was important to give everybody working on the title room to experiment in order to overcome ingrained notions of what a Mario platformer could be.
The result manifests in the form of the game's new power-ups, Wonder Flowers, which might turn pipes into slinking, sentient beings; transform terrain into a tilting tectonic plate, or usher in a flock of stampeding Bulrushes to help Mario surf to victory.
Each level in the game contains its own unique Wonder Flower, and while creating that many power-ups was incredibly ambitious, game director Shiro Mouri felt it was necessary in order to keep players guessing. To make good on that pitch, the entire team was roped.
Thousands of Mario inspirations
"[Everyone was asked to contribute ideas], regardless of what part of the game they were working on or how many years they’ve been working at Nintendo," said Mouri. "The number of ideas we got was probably over a thousand, 2,000 ideas."
Tezuka explained whittling those down to the ones players will encounter in-game was the result of asking the team to dream big and forget about what came before. Although Wonder is primarily about platforming action, he said focusing solely on those values "might be a bit boring, for both players and creators."
"I do think people have ideas that Mario has to be a certain way. There are certain limitations that people have in their own brains," he added, suggesting that pushing into uncharted territory is about giving yourself over to the joy of the unexpected. "If you think it looks cool, it’s going to be fun," he added. "[So] do it."
To hear more from Tezuka and Mouri, check out the full interview on Wired.