Even if you despise Nintendo, you have to admire the longevity and creativity of this man. Gamespy put up a great, but short, interview by Steve Kent with the living legend of game design.



Where’s the beef? I read the interview and all I got were his reflections on some current Nintendo issues and a little about GTA. Somehow I expected prophecy or something :wink:

You gotta bring the three pearls of the goddesses to Shiggy to hear prophecies.

I was surprised that he said Mario was rushed to meet a summer release date.

Don;t want to be the heretic… but can someone explain to me how this guy is any more important than say a Sid Meier? I know he did Mario Brothers and Zelda… iirc… but so what? Also, I think he’s kind of patronizing on GTA 3… imo.

Also, I’m coming from the pc background, my first console was a Sega Genesis…then a PSX. Never owned a Nintendo machine til Gamecube (and its dissapointing imo)… though my roomate in college had an NES and SNES… loved the Tecmo sports games!


Are you really asking, or are you wishing for controversial conversation? Just wondering. I’m still new here, so I don’t know whether you prefer to live under a bridge or not.

If you are really asking, while its kind of odd for me to think of any developer more or less important than another. (I’m one of those awful people who says if Roberta Williams created superb childhood memories for some kids, then for those kids, she was as important as she needs to be, compared to the so-called more talented big wigs.) So I’m not sure how to compare him to Sid Meier, especially since I don’t really know what it is he did with his games that makes him so followed and paid attention to (warning: not saying the attention isn’t worthy, I’m saying I’m ignorant of the history of Sid Meier and the common respect given him).

But what I think Miyamoto gets credited for is being a leader for the rose type of gameplay design, rather than rose garden games. His games are seldom at all complex, with very simple concepts and controls, and yet like a rose that looks like one simple, beautiful thing, there’s a network of life going on and processes within that aren’t seen on the outside. Bunches and bunches of unconscious rules and properties get stored up in your mind while you play his games, but there’s never more to the interface than very simple input – you get incredible depth with amazingly simple control. Its much like learning to use your body to defend yourself or hurt people, moving your arms and legs is an unthinkably simple thing, but like a rose it can be beautifully complex, because the movement really is – most people just don’t hone it.

What I mean by rose garden, is something more cultured, less dependent on forging the simple into the complex and starting with an already involved set of controls and rules, like a garden, something cultivated and carefully put in its correct paths. You need to understand where you should be looking and at what, though the best ones help you understand at a glance. Its the difference between Zelda and Secret of Mana for instance – Zelda’s hearts and magic meter, its inventory and main screen are it, but there’s lots of extremely clever twists and quirks underneath the simple interface that makes it more than a match for the rather obvious greater surface complexity of Secret of Mana, whose menu’s, party AI, three adventurers, weapons, attacks, magic and story are all much more involved than Zelda’s, though the games in reality, thanks to Zelda’s ingenious design aren’t terribly far apart in terms of depth. Rather comparable. Secret of Mana is a rose garden type game, while Zelda is a superb rose-type game. (I’m comparing Mana to the Link to the Past engine used for Oracles, Link’s Awakening, Four Swords and of course Link to the Past.)

Couple that with the worlds he developed – they really do stand out in originality, turtles that you can use to gain height off of jumps and turning into a statue to trick enemies to walk by? Getting chased by a huge fish while the whole environment around you rises and sinks into the ocean? The sun chasing you as fly away with a wobbling racoon tail? Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy? <----I truly feel for you if don’t know what I’m referencing with this last one. ;)

Miyamoto’s also worked on more than just Mario and Zelda, he was also involved with Star Fox, F-Zero, Pilotwings, Super Mario Kart, Pikmin and others. All of these games have been innovative or breakthrough titles in some way (at least for consoles and I really don’t think its all that lovely an idea to compare the innovation chart between the two, since there isn’t much interaction between the trends…).

Then you have his “political” importance, i.e. that of developing simple, awesome games with enough charm to make replaying them over and over fun, great depth to extend the concept to its outer reaches and brilliant motivating design to prompt you to explore, the type of console paradigm that has been in place ever since Super Mario Bros. and you can see even in highly different games like Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest or Contra or Gradius (though of course, the developers had their own contributions to make). Also for developing the game that rescued consoles from oblivion in the US. Yeah, you can always say somebody else would have done it, but it could have been like the case of comic books in North America, it may never have recovered like it did without Miyamoto, certainly if Sega had, it most likely would not advanced on the same concepts.

He also tends to have an unreasonably uncanny knack of making his games different, yet keeping what made them good. See Super Mario Bros. 2 (the US one) which is Mario merged with another game, or Yoshi’s Island, or Super Mario 64, or Super Mario Kart. A lot of games contributed smaller contributions that aren’t remembered anymore because they’ve become so common or moot. For instance, I played Super Mario Bros. 3 in retrospect, I didn’t become a gamer who devoted a lot of attention to games until the early PSX days and didn’t even play games until Dragon Quest V, I wasn’t even born when some of Miyamoto’s earlier titles came out. I noticed in going back, that NO game or at least very, very few (again, consoles) mixed free scrolling levels with forced scrolling levels like SMB3 and that has since become something of a console standby – to have segments on rails that’ll kill you if you’re not careful and other segments more freeform. Super Mario World introduced saving in an action game, which was TOTALLY not done at the time, at all (well, Act Raiser, but that was part Sim, so it doesn’t count). This made action games much more easy to make more open and complex, you could feel how much more adventurous and what new types of avenues SMW was able to open up, not that you weren’t expected to win it in one go. It really started the idea “Okay, FIRST you win the game, THEN you explore the game” if you ask me. Likewise, Link to the Past added such a huge amount of content to the basic Zelda model that it became something a de facto standard that everyone else now had to live up for adventure games and remained that way until Ocarina of Time – interesting enough, this is one you can actually see in PC games from time to time, I noticed it blatantly in Legacy of Kain for instance.

I don’t actually think terribly highly Miyamoto’s games – I tend to like them all, but I usually think “great, GREAT game” while my favorites lie elsewhere. That is, except for the Mario’s, which usually completely and utterly dominate all other platformers in a way that’s just not funny. Of course, he hasn’t been totally hands on 100% with a project since Ocarina of Time, because his time is up of course and now he has to play as manager increasingly. Not to say he doesn’t give any input (I don’t think anyone here knows exactly how much he does, but he’s certainly not the main guy anymore, he can’t be). So if any of the so-called Miyamoto games you’re thinking of blaming or giving him credit for in the main after Ocarina of Time, don’t, other people are largely responsible for them (Koizumi, Tezuka, Aonuma, etc.)

Its really kind of too bad that Miyamoto dominates all the attention over at Nintendo with others playing so far behind him, the guys at Intelligent Systems or R&D1, for example, or Genya Takeda or Gumpei Yokoi. Oh well.

Sorry, I guess I had more to say than I did. How boring I can be! Sheesh!


Miyamoto: In the case of Mario Sunshine, I think that we could have made the game a lot more interesting if we had worked harder on it.

Steven Kent: Surely it was not a matter of working hard. Was it a question of time or effort?

I love that. I think I speak for both me and my new BF4E and drinking buddy, Met_K, when I say that more interviewers should reject the answers given by the interviewee. Also, a big negative sounding buzzer would be a nice gameshow touch. BZZZZZ No! Your answer should actually be “a tight deadline”, sorry.

Miyamoto: When you asked that first question, I guessed that you were hoping that I would say Mr. Mizuguchi.

By the end of the brief interview even Miyamoto recognized when he had answered a question incorrectly. I guess the buzzer is not needed for the quicker participants.

Thanks for the long dissertation Kitsune! I think I get what you’re saying, he made simple games entertaining while still being innovative and creative … i wish i had played nintendo games when younger, i missed out on those games.


Hey it’s never too late. I recently bought a Gameboy Advance SP. I’d never played a Mario game before, but I’m having great fun with Super Mario World. I highly recommend it.

Brush with fame: I bumped into Miyamoto at the Century City Mall in Hollywood on Friday night. I was surprised to see him so I was only able to mumble something and say konichiwa. He just smiled and bowed his head quickly. I wish I could say he was coming out of the Fredrick’s of Hollywood store or something, but he was just walking around and window shopping.

Not only did Miyamoto invent genres out of whole cloth, he’s also been able to consistently produce million selling games. His success is not just tied to the quality of his products, but also their commercial fortunes as well. Some believe that his role as overseer has hurt Nintendo. However, I think in the end it will help them.

It takes time to let those under you grow in their own ways. They’ve had the best teacher they could’ve asked for.



The New Yorker has a new interview with The Shig.

New Yorker: I believe in video games as a medium, and believe they can often tell us things about ourselves that are different from the insights offered by literature or film. There’s also a part of me that recognizes they can occupy a bit too much space in a person’s life. They are demanding and alluring; the obsession they inspire can squeeze out important things. Your job, usually, is to keep players engaged. Do you ever feel a tension between that role and the responsibility of putting things into the world that don’t diminish people?

It’s kind of hard to build a game where the player can quit anytime. Human beings are driven by curiosity and interest. When we encounter something that inspires those emotions, it’s natural to become captivated. That said, I try to insure that nothing I make wastes the players’ time by having them do things that aren’t productive or creative. I might eliminate the kinds of scenes they’ve seen in every other game, or throw out clichés, or work to reduce loading times. I don’t want to rob time from the player by introducing unnecessary rules and whatnot.

The interesting thing about interactive media is that it allows the players to engage with a problem, conjure a solution, try out that solution, and then experience the results. Then they can go back to the thinking stage and start to plan out their next move. This process of trial and error builds the interactive world in their minds. This is the true canvas on which we design—not the screen. That’s something I always keep in mind when designing games.

This bit perhaps helps to explain why from the very beginning the ‘stick feel’ of the Super Mario games was such a big deal:

[W]hen I’m trying to create a game world, I like to work on action, movement. Within that experience, there needs to be a mix between what is real and what is not. There has to be a connection to our real-world experience, so that when you make a move in the game it feels familiar but also, somehow, different. To achieve that harmony, you need a dash of truth and a big lie to go along with it. That’s the kind of game I try to create. You take things you’ve experienced in your life, sensations or feelings, and then try to conjure them in the game world.

Thanks. Simon Parkin is a great interviewer too. This is well worth reading for anyone who enjoys videogames.

Scary thought: this thread is almost as old as Super Mario Bros. was when the thread started.

Yeah, I noticed that. Not only are Miyamoto and Mario old, we are too!

The link in the OP doesn’t work anymore. Here’s an internet archive version of it: