My Favorite Game Mechanism: Super Mario Bros.

I’ve talked about this before years ago, but one of my favorite game designs is the first Super Mario Bros., specifically the game’s first stage World 1-1. It’s an example of flawless game design that has inspired many game designers since. It’s a wonderful use of intuitive game design.

Mario begins on the screen’s far left. The player could try and move farther left, but the game won’t allow the player to do so. It’s showing the player that Mario must go right. Sure, the buttons are limited, but Mario can only move and jump, and the controls are easy to understand without ever reading the game’s manual. Soon, Mario encounters a Goomba (a mushroom-shaped enemy). Since Mario can only jump and the player gets caught in a corridor where they must interact with the Goomba, they find that Goombas can be defeated by jumping on them. This informs the player of Mario’s skillset and his enemies’ weakness.


A question mark box flashes ahead, begging to be pressed. When pressed, a mushroom emerges. New players won’t know if the mushroom’s good or bad, but the game’s design makes it almost impossible to miss it. The mushroom turns out to be a powerup.

There’s even a moment where a seemingly random jump would result in finding a hidden 1UP mushroom (or extra life mushroom) and since it looks like the previous powerup mushroom, players are informed to grab it. A field study showed that most people who had never played Super Mario Bros. before found the 1UP mushroom. That’s because of its placement in the world; the first 1UP mushroom’s placement is just before a hole in the floor that players must jump over. It takes a little intuition to learn this game.


Speaking of jumping over something, the first occurrence of a piranha plant, a polka-dot Venus flytrap enemy, is also strategically placed. With its mouth and fangs pointed up, players are informed to avoid them, but if a plant like that can go up a pipe, Mario can go down a pipe and that’s exactly what Mario can do there. It’s an excellent way of revealing a game’s secrets.

The rest of the level continues in a similar fashion, non-verbally teaching the game. When gamers say that they want intuitive game design or controls, they want something like Super Mario Bros. World 1-1. It’s still one of the best game designs.

Don’t believe me? When Hirokazu Yasuhara designed 1991’s Sonic the Hedgehog, he stated that he tried to recreate Super Mario Bros. World 1-1 with every level. That’s high praise from Nintendo’s greatest competitor at the time. What are your favorite elements of classic or modern video games? If you disagree with my choice in World 1-1, feel free to jump on my Goomba head. That might hurt. Instead, leave me an angry comment.


3 Lists of 3 Video Game Enemies Made of Weak Sauce

Video game villains or enemies can’t all be made of the finer things like Final Fantasy VI’s Kefka, Shadow of the Colossus’ Dormin or even Bowser. This week your uncle Geekly’s three list of three will cover the video game enemies who bleed weak sauce.

These are the guys you can bludgeon with one strike of your foam hammer, and they’ll pass out. We’ll start with ones you can find in many different video game franchises.


Pathetic Generic Enemies


Why does it always have to be rats? These little rodents don’t put up much of a fight unless they swarm the field. To be fair, that’s what a lot of games do with rats to make them more of a menace, but rats still don’t strike fear in the hearts of virtual heroes. My eyes get wide when I see them in an Elder Scrolls game. Heck, I picked the Fighter’s Guild quest line first in Morrowind, because of the rats.

A couple of well-placed swings will send the hoards to rat heaven where the streets are made of Cheez-Its, and it rains cheese fondue.


While you’ll see another undead come up next, skeletons are a classic video game enemy. I’m not exactly sure what holds them together, especially since they can’t take a licking. Super Mario Bros’ Dry Bones fall apart and somehow get back together after taking a couple of breaths(?).

Skeletons aren’t that sneaky either because you can hear their bones rattling across an empty tomb, and that’s where one would normally find one. At least the player has to look down at their feet—or non-existent feet if you’re playing Elder Scrolls—to see a rat after hearing it squeak.

There’s a reason why Undertale’s Sans came out of nowhere: skeletons aren’t supposed to be tough.


Zombies are the undead version of rats. A single zombie doesn’t scare the typical gamer, one shot to the head usually does the trick, but that’s not what makes zombies formidable. It’s the throng of zombies—or is it the herd or hoard?—that makes people drop soft serve in their Underoos.

Still, zombies are overdone. They may be more overdone than rats and skeletons at this point, especially since many video games change what they call zombies. Draugr. Feral ghouls. Clickers. Infected. They’re still zombies.


Pitiful Unique Enemies

Slimes (Dragon Quest)

Slimes are one of the first things fans of Dragon Quest think of. They’re iconic. They also consist of nothing but weak sauce in the shape of a poop emoji. There’s a reason slimes are often your first enemy when starting a Dragon Quest game. They’re easy.

Keep smiling though. You’re the poop.

Goombas (Super Mario Brothers)

Yep. The mushroom shaped goombas are another example of an iconic video game enemy that’s too easy to kill. All Mario has to do is jump on them, and that’s a good thing because that’s all Mario can do at the beginning of most Super Mario Brothers games. One word: squish.

Mudcrabs (Elder Scrolls)

If an Elder Scrolls entry doesn’t start a player with rats, it’ll start them with mudcrabs. Let’s mix it up and start the player character in a half-flooded dungeon and pit them against half rats and half mudcrabs.

Mudcrabs are just crabs who live in mud. Despite their shell, they’re easy to defeat. The only thing that would scare me is if my character somehow contracted mudcrabs. That would scare me a lot more than Ataxia.


Ridiculously Easy Boss Enemies

Alduin (Elder Scrolls)

Man, I’m beating up on Elder Scrolls with these lists. I’m sorry, Bethesda. I promise that I like your games. I’m a huge Bethesda fanboy, but they’ve made some stinker enemies. The build-up to Alduin in Skyrim was fantastic, but Alduin himself must’ve read the word of weakness right before the main storyline’s final battle.

I’ve had tougher battles getting rid of mudcrabs.

Human Reaper Larva (Mass Effect 2)

Mass Effect is another series I love, but it’s another case of the final villain of the game (Mass Effect 2 to be specific) not living up to its billing. Cast as the most powerful and terrifying race, the vision gamers built of reapers in the minds was shattered when fighting this simplistic enemy. It wasn’t terrifying. It took no time at all to beat. I’m thinking human DNA wasn’t the best one to choose from. Countless hours of making reapers sound awesome wasted.

343 Guilty Spark (Halo 3)

He’s a tiny AI that’s cast as comic relief in the final installment of the Halo trilogy. This game is what the entire series built up toward, and guess who the ultimate boss turned out to be? The tiny AI that was supposed to be comic relief and takes three hits to take out. His name is even 343 Guilty Spark. Bungie is guilty of making a lame villain.

There’s plenty of weak sauce to go around. I spread a little on my hot dogs every game night. Which villains do you think are weak sauce? Let us know in comments, and if you like more daily, weak write-ups, subscribe for updates.