The Super Mario Bros. franchise is a video game series near and dear to the hearts of just about anyone who has ever played a video game. At this point, he is the games’ industry equivalent to Mickey Mouse and needs no introduction. If you can name a job, Mario has already done it. In his 30+ years, Mario has rescued Princess Peach countless times, gone on a beach vacation, posed as doctor, and even traveled into space… twice! Mario’s sporadic career decisions aren’t the only thing keeping the the moustache around.
Mario’s other hidden talent is finding the secrets gamers never saw coming. Thanks to the clever team of developers over at Nintendo, players have discovered grin-inducing “aha!” moments in just about every Mario game to date. Whether it’s a coin filled cave, a secret power-up, or a portal to another world, Mario games are packed to the brim with secrets just waiting to be discovered. Join us as we take a look at 15 Secrets Hidden Inside Super Mario Games.
15. Super Mario Galaxy – The Hidden Pokeball Planet
Thanks to Pokemon Go, the famed handheld gaming series has returned to the forefront of popularity. It doesn’t matter what console you are gaming on; every gamer wants to be the very best that no one ever was–including Nintendo’s very own plumber. Among his space adventures in Super Mario Galaxy, the mustached mascot comes across a rather familiar planet in the Buoy Base Galaxy. That’s no moon… it’s a pokeball!
This planet is especially notable for its multiple phases. Mario doesn’t just land on the planet for a quick snapshot, but also fights a number of enemies before accessing the planet’s weak points. Once those pesky sentry beams are defeated, Mario cracks open the planet to reveal the the light up center of a Pokeball with a star hidden inside. Putting the shameless poke-promotion aside, this little easter egg makes for an especially fun and relevant moment for Nintendo fans around the world.
14. Super Mario Bros. – The warp pipes in world 1-2
This one is a classic, the very first hidden warp zone in the original Super Mario Bros. Secrets and shortcuts have become a staple in video gaming that people take for granted, but when Super Mario Bros. was released in 1985, the reveal of the warp pipes beyond the World 1-2’s track was nothing short of earth shattering. We had never seen a game with such colorful and detailed art direction, let alone level design that made room for hidden passage ways and shortcuts.
Mario’s continued popularity in the mainstream makes this gaming secret among the very first most of us ever encountered. The secret warp zone of world 1-2 seems like common knowledge to anyone in video gaming now, but let’s not forget the magical feeling of surprise and accomplishment it gave us when we first discovered it. As the game remains popular on Nintendo’s e-shops, new generations of gamers are discovering that little room off to the side World 1-2.
13. Super Mario 3D World – Super Luigi Bros. is real
It doesn’t take more than a quick google search of Super Luigi Bros. to discover all sorts of fan theories and photoshops of the alleged game hidden deep in the code of one of your favorite Mario games. The bad news–it’s not hidden in any of the classics that gamers have spent endless years searching through. The good news–Nintendo recently saw the struggle and answered the call by incorporating a Luigi Bros. mini-game in the most recent console Mario, Super Mario 3D World for WiiU. It does exist and it looks a lot like the original 1983 Mario Bros. arcade game.
There are two different ways to access the secret Luigi Bros mini-game. The easiest way is to have a save file for New Super Luigi U already on your console. For everyone who didn’t indulge in Nintendo’s year of Luigi in 2013, you’ll have to get it the old fashioned way. To unlock the Luigi Bros, you will have to complete the game through the first 8 worlds. After beating the game, a Luigi icon giving you a direct line to the mini-game will appear in the start menu. It’s taken 30 years, but Luigi finally has earned the right to his his very own arcade game.
12. Super Mario World – Star World
Super Mario World is one of the most expansive 2D platformers ever made and it doesn’t come without a couple of dozen hidden secrets up its sleeve. The most notable secret is the game’s hidden Star World that can only be accessed through keys placed throughout the game. It’s even possible for gamers to play through the entire game without seeing one of the five special levels. Accessing the secrets of Star World comes with a few cool perks including more colors for Yoshi, easy transportation to the five corners of the world map, and ultimate bragging rights to all of your Italian plumber loving friends.
Outside of requiring Sherlock-level investigation skills to track down the hidden keys, the levels in Star World are notable for being especially difficult. Only the most experienced Mario player can survive the intensive platforming mania required to beat each level. Star World makes for a fun challenge for series fans, but still falls behind Super Mario World‘s ultimate secret.
11. Paper Mario Series – 8 Bit Mario Cameos
One of the less appreciated Mario spin-offs is the Paper Mario RPG franchise. The series turns Mario into a cutesy paper cutout who traverses through stage play versions of Mushroom Kingdom and the surrounding lands. The series is notable for its clever, self aware writing and, in its first installments, turn-based battles. The developer, Intelligent Systems, is full of big Mario fans. The fans are so big, in fact, that they couldn’t help but sneak a few references to classic 8-bit Mario into every game in the series.
The first easter egg came in the third chapter of the first game,”The ‘Invincible’ Tubba Blubba.” Early in the chapter you are tasked with exploring Boo’s mansion in order to win the trust of Lady Bow. After you’re given free reign to search all of the rooms, you get access to a hidden door that leads to a seemingly empty closet containing only a rocking horse and a giant pot. If you hop inside of the pot, you’ll be transformed into an 8-bit version of Mario and the classic Super Mario Bros. theme will begin to play. Sadly, just like the worst haunted mansions, the game will not let you leave the building in Mario’s 8-bit form. Every game in the Paper Mario series since has had a similar hidden cameo, but none of them have been quite as surprising as the encounter in the original N64 gem.
10. Super Mario Galaxy – Pikmin ship in the Space Junk Galaxy
Nintendo has a long history of sprinkling subtle cameos from their other famed franchises throughout their games. One of our favorites comes in the spectacular Super Mario Galaxy series. While exploring the depths of space in the the first Super Mario Galaxy, the newly initiated space traveler comes across a number of strange oddities, but few finds put a bigger smile on our face than the discovery of this famed Hocotate ship.
Somewhere on their journey to earth, Pikmin‘s Olimar and Louie took a wrong turn and got lost in Mario’s Space Junk Galaxy. The ship is featured in the level’s preview, but it really only serves as a small detour in Mario’s quest to collect the galaxy’s third star. It may be a blink-and-you-miss-it moment for casual gamers and Nintendo fans, but Pikmin players around the world won’t be able to skip this galaxy without cracking a grin.
9. Super Mario Sunshine – Sirena Beach is a Gamecube controller
Nintendo has always had a reputation for their clever level design. Ever since launching the Famicom (or Nintendo Entertainment System) back in 1983, the company has taken pride in their creativity and attention to detail. The Big N has been known for leaving easter eggs for fans from time to time, but in the era of modding, one of the more exciting discoveries has been the design choices only the developers were intended to see.
One of the more notable hidden level designs in the Mario franchise is the mapping of the Super Mario Sunshine world Sirena Beach. The layout of the level always felt a little bit strange to players, but none of us could have realized the design was based on Nintendo’s own Gamecube controller. It’s a subtle touch from Nintendo that sill remains every bit as every bit as fun and charming as Mario’s very best hidden secrets.
8. Super Mario 64 – Yoshi is hiding atop Peach’s Castle
Super Mario 64 was a groundbreaking achievement at the time and still remains one of the greatest leaps forward in 3D level design. Manual camera controls, inventive puzzles, great boss battles; Super Mario 64 had it all. All of it except the most popular character from the previous entry in the Mario series, Yoshi. The fan favorite green dinosaur was surprisingly MIA in Super Mario 64, or so we thought. One of the better kept secrets in Mario’s history is the appearance of Yoshi in Super Mario 64 that’s unlocked once player has collected all of the game’s 120 stars.
Mario completionists who get all get all of Super Mario 64’s collectibles can find Yoshi sitting on top of Peach’s Castle. As the game explains, Mario’s companion was waiting on the roof throughout the entire 3D adventure and is more than happy to thank Mario for playing the game before stepping out of the picture. The game’s lack of a playable Yoshi is a huge disappointment, but luckily he doesn’t leave Mario behind at Peach’s castle empty-handed.
7. Super Mario Sunshine – Dolphin Island World Map
The Nintendo Gamecube’s Super Mario Sunshine is usually glossed over in favor of Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy in the conversation of best 3D Mario game, but that doesn’t mean it comes without its own share of hidden secrets. Diehard Nintendo historians will remember the Gamecube was originally codenamed “Project Dolphin” in 1999 before being officially revealed. In the decades since, gamers from across the world have been scratching their heads at the decision to name everyone’s favorite purple lunchbox after the hugely popular sea-mammal.
Fans who look closely will be able to pick up on a few of the clues Nintendo put in their first batch of Gamecube games. One of the more on-the-nose references to the codename comes in the dolphin shape of the Isle Delfino. It’s likely that Nintendo was developing Super Mario Sunshine alongside their brand new console which gives the codename related to the tropical setting an entirely new meaning.
6. Super Mario Maker – 8 bit Nintendo costumes
Super Mario Maker was undoubtably one of the greatest gifts Nintendo could ever give to their Mario fanbase. The keys to the Mushroom Kingdom were at our fingertips and the online 2D platforming communities have not been the same since. Even when they are laying out their full hand of creative level building tools, they still managed to keep a few secrets close to the chest. We’re talking about their full line-up of 8-bit Nintendo costumes modeled after their wildly popular amiibo toy line.
Nintendo did fans a solid by programming the game to give players a brand new costume to use for each new amiibo figure they registered. These costumes weren’t limited to Mario characters, but reached to just about every major Nintendo property including The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Splatoon, Fire Emblem and Pokemon. Each costume came with an 8 bit sound effect from its respective game series. There are few easter eggs that put a bigger smile on a Nintendo fan’s face than hearing the triumphant Zelda theme played in a Mario video game.
5. Super Mario Bros. 3 – Warp Whistles
If you thought the warp pipes from the original Super Mario Bros. made for a fun trick, just wait until you find one of the three hidden warp whistles in Super Mario Bros. 3. These magical items grant Mario the ability to bypass his current world and move on to any of the additional seven locales in the game. If you’re looking for the quickest way to jump right into your favorite Mario levels without having to play through the entire game, the warp whistles are just the tools you’ll need for the job.
The first two warp whistles are both hidden in Super Mario 3‘s first world, Grass Land. The first can be discovered by getting the Tanooki suit in the game’s first castle and flying above the ceiling. Eventually you will stop moving and be teleported to an empty room that contains the treasure. The other can be found in world 1-3 by crouching on a white block until it drops Mario behind the stage and into another secret room. The final whistle is hidden in Desert Land behind a rock that can only be broken with a special hammer item. Once you’ve broken the rock, be prepared for a reign of fireballs in the battle with the fire brothers. Super Mario Bros. 3 is filled to the brim with easter eggs and secrets, but none are as crucial to the Mushroom Kingdom adventure as the three warp whistles.
4. Super Mario RPG – Nintendo Cameos
One very notable point in the history of Mario was the 1996 release of Super Mario RPG on the Super Nintendo. The game was part of a short-lived partnership between the Final Fantasy developer Square Enix and Nintendo’s own developer Shigeru Miyamoto. Despite coming out during the Super Nintendo’s twilight year, Super Mario RPG was a hit with critics and sold well enough to inspire the beloved Paper Mario and Mario and Luigi sub-franchises.
Super Mario RPG was known for its cutting edge graphics and self-aware humor. The game wasn’t afraid to acknowledge the quirkier parts of Nintendo’s flagship franchise and even went as far as to include cameos from many of the company’s most famous mascots. After enduring an epic battle with Bowyer, Mario can return to the Rose Town Inn. Once Mario awakens, he finds a familiar face with a green hat and elf ears in the next bed over. Another great cameo can be be found in the Mushroom Kingdom guest bedroom. If Mario ignores warnings from the guards to stay away, he can sneak into the room to discover a certain space explorer resting up for her next battle with Mother Brain. There’s plenty of fun to be had in Mario’s offbeat adventure and these cameos are barely scratching the surface of secrets hiding inside of Super Mario RPG.
3. Super Mario Bros. – Minus World
Mario series creator Shigeru Miyamoto and the rest of the Nintendo EAD development team have gone to great lengths to reward determined players with surprises, but some of the more fascinating secrets hidden in Super Mario games are actually glitches never intended to be seen by gamers. Take World -1 for instance. No, you’re not imaging things–in the original Super Mario Bros. Mario can cross through the dark looking glass into the negative zone of Minus World. Spoilers: it’s every gamer’s worst nightmare of swimming through underwater levels over and over again for all eternity.
The hidden glitch is activated by going to World 1-2 and standing on the pipe that leads to the flagpole at the end of the level. The player’s next step is to move to the far left end of the pipe before ducking while facing left direction. While ducking, the player must jump. While in the air, they should move right, so that when they’re about to come back down, the will be thrown through the ceiling. The next thing you’ll see is a moonwalking Mario right before he rides that pipe all the way down to the dark depths of minus world. This hidden glitch is a must for lifelong Mario fans even if the end result is an endless loop of underwater torment.
2. Super Mario World -The Special Zone
Although Star World is a fun discovery for casual Mario players, it’s not exactly the best kept secret for lifelong gamers. Most players will find the levels to be extra challenging, but do you know about that OTHER secret world hidden inside of Star World? Yes, we’re talking a secret inside a secret–it’s the worldception of Super Mario’s secrets simply called “The Special Zone.”
Accessing the Special Zone is one of the most challenging undertakings in the history of the Mario Bros. franchise. Not only do you have to complete each one of Star World’s five levels, but you also have to find the smartly hidden secret exit in the fifth and final level. The challenge doesn’t stop there–Once you access the Special Zone you are challenged with eight of the most diabolically designed levels in 2D platformer history. And if that wasn’t enough, they’re all named after poorly aged ’80s slang like “Gnarly,” “Tubular,” “Mondo” and “Outrageous.” Finding and beating every level of the Special Zone is a true work of skill and is a surefire way to impress all of your friends at the next Mario Kart gaming night.
1. Super Mario Sunshine or Super Mario Sun-Shining?
We’ve talked about a number of secrets hidden in the Super Mario Bros. series and most are usually pretty clear upon discovery. But our very favorite secrets are less obvious and on-the-nose. Take this really clever reference to Stephen King’s The Shining in the Super Mario Sunshine level The Manta Storm. In this Sirena Beach mission, Mario must fight a manta ray boss using F.L.U.D.D. outside of a giant hotel in order to keep it from reaching its destination. The manta ray is described by the Delfino owner as “paper thin… like a silhouette” which could either be a vaguely accurate description of the mini-boss OR a very clever tip of the hat to one of The Dark Tower writer’s most popular works.
The reference in question is from a passage near the end of the The Shining, when Dick Halloran, Danny and Wendy are running from the flaming hotel. Dick notes, “a ghostly manta shape, floating away over the hotel. It was paper thin, like a shadow, and then broke into smaller forms before turning into smoke and drifting away.” The wording from the Delfino hotel owner sounds almost like a word for word citation of the the passage from the book. Is this a coincidence or a creepy Mario conspiracy? We insist on the latter.
This list covers a few of our favorite secrets in the Super Mario Bros. series, but we have hardly scratched the surface of Mario entire list of easter eggs. Did we miss your favorite hidden Mario Bros. secret? Let us know by telling us about your picks in the comments!