Super Mario 3D World's 4 Step Level Design | Platformer Level Design


Super Mario 3D World is a game with creativity in abundance. But Nintendo has developed a reusable level design structure that allows for ideas to be properly taught and established, in about five minutes flat. We break down this four-step philosophy, and chart its history from Super Mario Galaxy to Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

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Gamasutra: “Learning from Super Mario 3D Land’s Director”

Games shown in this episode (in order of appearance):

Super Mario 3D World (Nintendo, 2013)
Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo, 2007)
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Nintendo, 2010)
Super Mario 3D Land (Nintendo, 2011)
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Nintendo, 2014)
Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo, 1985)
Super Mario Bros. 3 (Nintendo, 1988)

Music used in this episode:

Light the Colour Panels! (Super Mario 3D World)
Beep Block Skyway (Super Mario 3D World)
Fort Fire Bros. (Super Mario 3D World)
Champion Road (Super Mario 3D World)
Rainbow Run (Super Mario 3D World)
Sprawling Savanna (Super Mario 3D World)

Clip credits:

“Super Mario 3D Land – Walkthrough” – ZackScottGames


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  1. Incredible explanations – this is genuinely a BEAUTIFUL video that explains and shows the concepts perfectly. I keep coming back to it, it should be required watching for all game design – thank you

  2. If super Mario bros was made for you to collect the mushrooms٫is it possible to beat the game with out them?

  3. this game is a bible in terms of game design. There is so much under the hood that you could easily make a mini series about it.

  4. I absolutely love this design philosophy. I think it's the best way to design a level, and just design things in general when introducing other subjects.

  5. Mario Galaxy is much better than 3D World. The developer think we are dumb and need to be introduced to a new idea in a safe place? This is ridiculous, just let us try and discover we are not baby's.

  6. This is exactly why Mario games are so satisfying to play – because you learn how to play the game as you're playing it.
    Overall, good game design should bring out the inner subconscious potential of the player through its difficulty curve, where the player shocks themselves with "whoa idk how I'm doing this but I'm doing it!"

  7. 3D World is one of my favorite Mario games thanks to its superb level design, and one of my main inspirations as a developer.

  8. This is probably my favourite Mario game, sadly I don't have the Wii U but I would buy a Switch for sure if they release the same version there.

  9. Kishontenketsu – Used in four comic panels, or four lines in poetry(chinese/japanese)
    which includes an Introduction, Development, Twist, and Conclusion.
    Could it ALSO be something like this?…

    Musical Noise Maker

    There once was a man who made music,

    But he made so much noise on the block.

    One day he was caught by cops,

    and now, he does Jailhouse Rock!

  10. Probably his best video, just as far as explaining a game design concept so well that is so applicable.

  11. And now, 3D World is a style in Super Mario Maker 2. I’m coming back to this video for level design tips for my own levels.

  12. I don’t like how they never reused ideas though. There shouldn’t be 1 twist imo. They should’ve first made a challenging level with many twists, at least 5 or 6, and then gone back and made an “intro” that would safely introduce the mechanic, and a conclusion. The intro and conclusion should be removable though and the level experience should still feel satisfying. That’s why I found 3D world to be somewhat non-replayable. After you’ve played it, there’s not much of a challenge afterward. And like you said, they limited the gimmicks to only be ~1-3 per level.

  13. Anyone else here from Game Grumps today?

    (Super Mario Bros U Deluxe (BONUS WORLDS) PART 7 for anyone wondering in the future)

  14. 1. Pick an old game to remake
    2. Randomly select another idea from another game to give a semblance of innovation
    3. Perfect the visuals and family friendliness
    4. Market to death while creating artoficial scarcity and attacking the userbase

    No need for 5 minutes


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