The Creator of Super Mario! The Story:
Shigeru Miyamoto (Japanese: 宮本 茂 Hepburn: Miyamoto Shigeru, pronounced [mijamoto ɕiɡeɾɯ]; born November 16, 1952) is a Japanese video game designerand producer for the video game company Nintendo, currently serving as one of its representative directors. He is best known as the creator of some of the most critically acclaimed and best-selling video games and franchises of all time, such as Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, F-Zero, Donkey Kong and Pikmin.
Miyamoto originally joined Nintendo in 1977, when the company was beginning its foray into video games and starting to abandon the playing cards it had made since 1889. His games have been prominently showcased and widely anticipated as flagship titles of every Nintendo video game console, with his earliest work appearing on arcade machines in the late 1970s. He managed Nintendo's Entertainment Analysis & Development software division, which developed many of the company's first-party titles. As a result of Nintendo president Satoru Iwata's death in July 2015, Miyamoto fulfilled the role of acting president alongside Genyo Takeda until being formally appointed as the company's "Creative Fellow" a few months later.
Miyamoto was born in the Japanese town of Sonobe, a rural town northwest of Kyoto, on November 16, 1952. His parents were of "modest means", and his father taught the English language.
From an early age, Miyamoto began to explore the natural areas around his home. On one of these expeditions, Miyamoto came upon a cave, and, after days of hesitation, went inside. Miyamoto's expeditions into the Kyoto countryside inspired his later work, particularly The Legend of Zelda, a seminal video game.
Miyamoto graduated from Kanazawa Municipal College of Industrial Arts with a degree in industrial design but no job lined up. He also had a love for manga and initially hoped to become a professional manga artist before considering a career in video games. He was influenced by manga's classical kishōtenketsunarrative structure, as well as Western genre television shows. The title that inspired him to enter the video game industry was the 1978 arcade hit Space Invaders.
1977–1984: Arcade beginnings and Donkey Kong
Nintendo, a relatively small Japanese company, had traditionally sold playing cards and other novelties, although it had started to branch out into toys and games in the mid-1960s. Through a mutual friend, Miyamoto's father arranged an interview with Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi. After showing some of his toy creations, Miyamoto was hired in 1977 as an apprentice in the planning department.
Miyamoto went on to become the company's first artist. He helped create the art for the company's first original coin-operated arcade video game, Sheriff. He first helped the company develop a game with the 1980 release Radar Scope. The game achieved moderate success in Japan, but by 1981, Nintendo's efforts to break it into the North American video game market had failed, leaving the company with a large number of unsold units and on the verge of financial collapse. In an effort to keep the company afloat, Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi decided to convert unsold Radar Scopeunits into a new arcade game. He tasked Miyamoto with the conversion,:157 about which Miyamoto has said self-deprecatingly that "no one else was available" to do the work. Nintendo's head engineer, Gunpei Yokoi, supervised the project.:158
Miyamoto imagined many characters and plot concepts, but eventually settled on a love triangle between a gorilla, a carpenter, and a girl. He meant to mirror the rivalry between comic characters Bluto and Popeye for the woman Olive Oyl, although Nintendo's original intentions to gain rights to Popeye failed. Bluto evolved into an ape, a form Miyamoto claimed was "nothing too evil or repulsive".:47 This ape would be the pet of the main character, "a funny, hang-loose kind of guy.":47 Miyamoto also named "Beauty and the Beast" and the 1933 film King Kong as influences.:36 Donkey Kong marked the first time that the formulation of a video game's storyline preceded the actual programming, rather than simply being appended as an afterthought.:38Miyamoto had high hopes for his new project, but lacked the technical skills to program it himself; instead, he conceived the game's concepts, then consulted technicians on whether they were possible. He wanted to make the characters different sizes, move in different manners, and react in various ways. However, Yokoi viewed Miyamoto's original design as too complex.:47–48 Yokoi suggested using see-saws to catapult the hero across the screen; however, this proved too difficult to program. Miyamoto next thought of using sloped platforms and ladders for travel, with barrels for obstacles. When he asked that the game have multiple stages, the four-man programming team complained that he was essentially asking them to make the game repeat, but the team eventually successfully programmed the game.:38–39When the game was sent to Nintendo of America for testing, the sales manager disapproved of its vast differentiation from the maze and shooter games common at the time.:49 When American staffers began naming the characters, they settled on "Pauline" for the woman, after Polly James, wife of Nintendo's Redmond, Washington, warehouse manager, Don James. The playable character, initially "Jumpman", was eventually named for Mario Segale, the warehouse landlord.:109 These character names were printed on the American cabinet art and used in promotional materials. The staff also pushed for an English name, and thus it received the title Donkey Kong.:212
Donkey Kong was a success, leading Miyamoto to work on sequels Donkey Kong Jr. in 1982 and Donkey Kong 3 in 1983. In his next game, he reworked the Donkey Kong character Jumpman into Mario, and gave him a brother: Luigi. He named the new game Mario Bros. Yokoi convinced Miyamoto to give Mario some superhuman abilities, namely the ability to fall from any height unharmed. Mario's appearance in Donkey Kong—overalls, a hat, and a thick mustache—led Miyamoto to change aspects of the game to make Mario look like a plumber rather than a carpenter. Miyamoto felt that New York City provided the best setting for the game, with its "labyrinthine subterranean network of sewage pipes". The two-player mode and other aspects of gameplay were partially inspired by an earlier video game entitled Joust. To date, games in the Mario Bros. franchise have been released for more than a dozen platforms. Shortly after, Miyamoto also worked the character sprites and game design for the Baseball, Tennis, and Golfgames on the NES.
1985–1989: NES/Famicom, Super Mario Bros., and The Legend of Zelda
As Nintendo released its first home video game console, the Family Computer (rereleased in North America as the Nintendo Entertainment System), Miyamoto made two of the most momentous titles for the console and in the history of video games as a whole: Super Mario Bros. (a sequel to Mario Bros.) and The Legend of Zelda (an entirely original title).
In both games, Miyamoto decided to focus more on gameplay than on high scores, unlike many games of the time. Super Mario Bros. largely took a linear approach, with the player traversing the stage by running, jumping, and dodging or defeating enemies. By contrast, Miyamoto employed nonlinear gameplay in The Legend of Zelda, forcing the player to think their way through riddles and puzzles. The world was expansive and seemingly endless, offering "an array of choice and depth never seen before in a video game." With The Legend of Zelda, Miyamoto sought to make an in-game world that players would identify with, a "miniature garden that they can put inside their drawer." He drew his inspiration from his experiences as a boy around Kyoto, where he explored nearby fields, woods, and caves; each Zeldatitle embodies this sense of exploration. "When I was a child," Miyamoto said, "I went hiking and found a lake. It was quite a surprise for me to stumble upon it. When I traveled around the country without a map, trying to find my way, stumbling on amazing things as I went, I realized how it felt to go on an adventure like this.":51 He recreated his memories of becoming lost amid the maze of sliding doors in his family home in Zelda's labyrinthine dungeons.:52 In February 1986, Nintendo released the game as the launch title for the Nintendo Entertainment System's new Disk System peripheral.
Miyamoto worked on various different games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, including Ice Climber, Kid Icarus, Excitebike, and Devil World. He also worked on sequels to both Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda. Super Mario Bros. 2, released only in Japan at the time, reuses gameplay elements from Super Mario Bros., though the game is much more difficult than its predecessor. Nintendo of America disliked Super Mario Bros. 2, which they found to be frustratingly difficult and otherwise little more than a modification of Super Mario Bros. Rather than risk the franchise's popularity, they cancelled its stateside release and looked for an alternative. They realized they already had one option in Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic (Dream Factory: Heart-Pounding Panic), also designed by Miyamoto. This game was reworked and released as Super Mario Bros. 2 (not to be confused with the Japanese game of the same name) in North America and Europe. The Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was eventually released in North America under the title Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels.
The successor to The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, bears little resemblance to the first game in the series. The Adventure of Link features side-scrolling areas within a larger world map rather than the bird's eye view of the previous title. The game incorporates a strategic combat system and more RPG elements, including an experience points (EXP) system, magic spells, and more interaction with non-player characters (NPCs). Link has extra lives; no other game in the series includes this feature. The Adventure of Link plays out in a two-mode dynamic. The overworld, the area where the majority of the action occurs in other The Legend of Zelda games, is still from a top-down perspective, but it now serves as a hub to the other areas. Whenever Link enters a new area such as a town, the game switches to a side-scrolling view. These separate methods of traveling and entering combat are one of many aspects adapted from the role-playing genre. The game was highly successful at the time, and introduced elements such as Link's "magic meter" and the Dark Link character that would become commonplace in future Zelda games, although the role-playing elements such as experience points and the platform-style side-scrolling and multiple lives were never used again in the official series. The game is also looked upon as one of the most difficult games in the Zelda series and 8-bit gaming as a whole. Additionally, The Adventure of Link was one of the first games to combine role-playing video game and platforming elements to a considerable degree.
Soon after, Super Mario Bros. 3 was developed by Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development; the game took more than two years to complete. The game offers numerous modifications on the original Super Mario Bros., ranging from costumes with different abilities to new enemies. Bowser's children were designed to be unique in appearance and personality; Miyamoto based the characters on seven of his programmers as a tribute to their work on the game. The Koopalings' names were later altered to mimic names of well-known, Western musicians in the English localization. In a first for the Marioseries, the player navigates via two game screens: an overworld map and a level playfield. The overworld map displays an overhead representation of the current world and has several paths leading from the world's entrance to a castle. Moving the on-screen character to a certain tile will allow access to that level's playfield, a linear stage populated with obstacles and enemies. The majority of the game takes place in these levels.
1990–2000: SNES, Nintendo 64, Super Mario 64, and Ocarina of Time
A merger between Nintendo's various internal research and development teams led to the creation of Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development (Nintendo EAD), which Miyamoto headed. Nintendo EAD had approximately fifteen months to develop F-Zero, one of the launch titles for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.Miyamoto worked through various games on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, one of them Star Fox. For the game, programmer Jez San convinced Nintendo to develop an upgrade for the Super Nintendo, allowing it to handle three-dimensional graphics better: the Super FX chip. Using this new hardware, Miyamoto and Katsuya Eguchi designed the Star Fox game with an early implementation of three-dimensional graphics.
Miyamoto produced two major Mario titles for the system. The first, Super Mario World, was a launch title and was bundled with Super Nintendo Entertainment System consoles. It featured an overworld as in Super Mario Bros. but introduced a new character, Yoshi, who would go on to appear in various other Nintendo games. The second Mario game for the system, Super Mario RPG, went in a somewhat different direction. Miyamoto led a team consisting of a partnership between Nintendo and Square Co.; it took nearly a year to develop the graphics. The story takes place in a newly rendered Mushroom Kingdom based on the Super Mario Bros. series.
Miyamoto also created The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the third entry in the series. Dropping the side-scrolling elements of its predecessor, A Link to the Past introduced to the series elements that are still commonplace today, such as the concept of an alternate or parallel world, the Master Sword, and other new weapons and items.
Shigeru Miyamoto mentored Satoshi Tajiri, guiding him during the creation process of Pocket Monsters: Red and Green (released in English as Pokémon Red and Blue), the initial video games in the Pokémonseries. He also acted as the producer for these games and worked on social gameplay concepts such as trading. Pokémon would go on to be one of the most popular entertainment franchises in the world, spanning video games, anime, and various other merchandise.
Miyamoto made several games for the Nintendo 64, mostly from his previous franchises. His first game on the new system, and one of its launch titles, was Super Mario 64, for which he was the principal director. In developing the game, he began with character design and the camera system. Miyamoto and the other designers were initially unsure of which direction the game should take, and spent months to select an appropriate camera view and layout. The original concept involved a fixed path much like an isometric-type game, before the choice was made to settle on a free-roaming 3D design. He guided the design of the Nintendo 64 controller in tandem with that of Super Mario 64.
Using what he had learned about the Nintendo 64 from developing Super Mario 64 and Star Fox 64, Miyamoto produced his next game, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, leading a team of several directors. Its engine was based on that of Super Mario 64 but was so heavily modified as to be a somewhat different engine. Individual parts of Ocarina of Time were handled by multiple directors—a new strategy for Nintendo EAD. However, when things progressed slower than expected, Miyamoto returned to the development team with a more central role assisted in public by interpreter Bill Trinen. The team was new to 3D games, but assistant director Makoto Miyanaga recalls a sense of "passion for creating something new and unprecedented". Miyamoto went on to produce a sequel to Ocarina of Time, known as The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. By reusing the game engine and graphics from Ocarina of Time, a smaller team required only 18 months to finish Majora's Mask.
Miyamoto worked on a variety of Mario series spin-offs for the Nintendo 64, including Mario Kart 64 and Mario Party.
2000–2011: GameCube, Wii, and DS
Miyamoto produced various games for the GameCube, including the launch title Luigi's Mansion. The game was first revealed at Nintendo Space World 2000 as a technical demo designed to show off the graphical capabilities of the GameCube. Miyamoto made an original short demo of the game concepts, and Nintendo decided to turn it into a full game. Luigi's Mansion was later shown at E3 2001 with the GameCube console. Miyamoto continued to make additional Mario spinoffs in these years. He also produced the 3D game series Metroid Prime, after the original designer Yokoi, a friend and mentor of Miyamoto's, died. In this time he developed Pikmin and its sequel Pikmin 2, based on his experiences gardening. He also worked on new games for the Star Fox, Donkey Kong, F-Zero, and The Legend of Zelda series on both the GameCube and the Game Boy Advance systems. With the help of Hideo Kojima, he guided the developers of Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. He helped with many games on the Nintendo DS, including the remake of Super Mario 64, Super Mario 64 DS, and the new game Nintendogs, a new franchise based on his own experiences with dogs.
Miyamoto played a major role in the development of the Wii, a console that popularized motion control gaming, and its launch title Wii Sports, which helped show the capability of the new control scheme. Miyamoto went on to produce other titles in the Wii series, including Wii Fit. His inspiration for Wii Fit was to encourage conversation and family bonding.
At E3 2004, Miyamoto unveiled The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, appearing dressed as the protagonist Link with a sword and shield. Also released for the GameCube, the game was among the Wii's launch titles and the first in the Zelda series to implement motion controls. He also helped with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which featured more accurate motion controls. He also produced two Zelda titles for the Nintendo DS, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. These were the first titles in the series to implement touch screen controls.
Miyamoto produced three major Mario titles for Wii from 2007 to 2010: Super Mario Galaxy, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and Super Mario Galaxy 2.
2011–present: Wii U, 3DS, and Switch
Miyamoto produced both Super Mario 3D Land and Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon for the 3DS, and Pikmin 3 for the Wii U.
Following the death of Nintendo president Satoru Iwata in July 2015, Miyamoto was appointed as an acting Representative Director, alongside Genyo Takeda. He was relieved of this position in September 2015 when Tatsumi Kimishima assumed the role of the company's president. He was also appointed the position of "Creative Fellow" at the same time, providing expert advice to Kimishima as a "support network" alongside Takeda.
Miyamoto served as a creative director on the 2017 game Super Mario Odyssey, as opposed to serving as one of its producers, and is credited as being a major influence on the game's development.
Miyamoto, and Nintendo as a whole, do not use focus groups. Instead, Miyamoto figures out if a game is fun for himself. He says that if he enjoys it, others will too. He elaborates, citing the conception of the Pokémon series as an example, "And that's the point – Not to make something sell, something very popular, but to love something, and make something that we creators can love. It's the very core feeling we should have in making games." Miyamoto wants players to experience kyokan; he wants "the players to feel about the game what the developers felt themselves."
He then tests it with friends and family. He encourages younger developers to consider people who are new to gaming, for example by having them switch their dominant hand with their other hand to feel the experience of an unfamiliar game.
Miyamoto's philosophy does not focus on hyper-realistic graphics, although he realizes they have their place. He is more focused on the game mechanics, such as the choices and challenges in the game. Similar to how manga artists subverted their genre, Miyamoto hopes to subvert some of the basic principles he had popularized in his early games, retaining some elements but eliminating others.
His use of real-time rendered cinematics (not prerendered video) serves both his own rapidly interactive development process with no rendering delays, and the player's interaction with the game's continuity. He prefers to change his games right until they are finalized, and to make "something unique and unprecedented". He prefers the game to be interactively fun rather than have elaborate film sequences, stating in 1999, "I will never make movie-like games"; therefore, the more than 90 total minutes of short cutscenes interspersed throughout Ocarina of Time deliver more interactive cinematic qualities.:5 His vision mandates a rapid and malleable development process with small teams, as when he directed substantial changes to the overall game scenario in the final months of the development of Ocarina of Time. He said, "The reason behind using such a simple process, as I am sure you have all experienced in the workshop, is that there is a total limit on team energy. There is a limit to the work a team can do, and there is a limit to my own energy. We opted not to use that limited time and energy on pre-rendered images for use in cinema scenes, but rather on tests on other inter-active elements and polishing up the game".
For these reasons, he opposes prerendered cutscenes. Of Ocarina of Time, he says "we were able to make use of truly cinematic methods with our camera work without relying on [prerendered video]."
In 2003, he described his "fundamental dislike" of the role-playing game (RPG) genre: "I think that with an RPG you are completely bound hand and foot, and can't move. But gradually you become able to move your hands and legs... you become slightly untied. And in the end, you feel powerful. So what you get out of an RPG is a feeling of happiness. But I don't think they're something that's fundamentally fun to play. With a game like that, anyone can become really good at it. With Mario though, if you're not good at it, you may never get good."
Time called Miyamoto "the Spielberg of video games" and "the father of modern video games," while The Daily Telegraph says he is "regarded by many as possibly the most important game designer of all time." GameTrailers called him "the most influential game creator in history." Miyamoto has significantly influenced various aspects of the medium. The Daily Telegraph credited him with creating "some of the most innovative, ground breaking and successful work in his field." Many of Miyamoto's works have pioneered new video game concepts or refined existing ones. Miyamoto's games have received outstanding critical praise, some being considered the greatest games of all time.
Miyamoto's games have also sold very well, becoming some of the best-selling games on Nintendo consoles and of all time. As of 1999, his games had sold 250 million units and grossed billions of dollars.
Calling him one of the few "video-game auteurs," The New Yorker credited Miyamoto's role in creating the franchises that drove console sales, as well as designing the consoles themselves. They described Miyamoto as Nintendo's "guiding spirit, its meal ticket, and its playful public face," noting that Nintendo might not exist without him. The Daily Telegraph similarly attributed Nintendo's success to Miyamoto more than any other person. Next Generation listed him in their "75 Most Important People in the Games Industry of 1995", elaborating that, "He's the most successful game developer in history. He has a unique and brilliant mind as well as an unparalleled grasp of what gamers want to play."
Influence on the video game industry
Miyamoto's best known and most influential title, Super Mario Bros., "depending on your point of view, created an industry or resuscitated a comatose one." The Daily Telegraph called it "a title that set the standard for all future videogames." G4 noted its revolutionary gameplay as well as its role in "almost single-handedly" rescuing the video game industry. The title also popularized the side-scrolling genre of video games. The New Yorker described Mario as the first folk hero of video games, with as much influence as Mickey Mouse.
GameSpot featured The Legend of Zelda as one of the 15 most influential games of all time, for being an early example of open world, nonlinear gameplay, and for its introduction of battery backup saving, laying the foundations for later action-adventure games like Metroid and role-playing video games like Final Fantasy, while influencing most modern games in general. In 2009, Game Informer called The Legend of Zelda "no less than the greatest game of all time" on their list of "The Top 200 Games of All Time", saying that it was "ahead of its time by years if not decades".
At the time of the release of Star Fox, the use of filled, three-dimensional polygons in a console game was very unusual, apart from a handful of earlier titles. Due to its success, Star Fox has become a Nintendo franchise, with five more games and numerous appearances by its characters in other Nintendo games such as the Super Smash Bros. series.
His game Super Mario 64 has made a lasting impression on the field of 3D game design, particularly notable for its use of a dynamic camera system and the implementation of its analog control. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time's gameplay system introduced features such as a target lock system and context-sensitive buttons that have since become common elements in 3D adventure games.
The Wii, which Miyamoto played a major role in designing, is the first wireless motion-controlled video game console.
Miyamoto's games have received outstanding critical praise, and are widely considered among the greatest of all time.
Games in Miyamoto's The Legend of Zelda series have received outstanding critical acclaim. A Link to the Past is a landmark title for Nintendo and is widely considered today to be one of the greatest video games of all time. Ocarina of Time is widely considered by critics and gamers alike to be one of the greatest video games ever made. Twilight Princess was released to universal critical acclaim, and is the third highest-rated title for the Wii. It received perfect scores from major publications such as CVG, Electronic Gaming Monthly, Game Informer, GamesRadar, and GameSpy.
Super Mario 64 is acclaimed by many critics and fans as one of the greatest and most revolutionary video games of all time.
According to Metacritic, Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 are the first- and second-highest rated games for the Wii.
A 1995 article in Maximum stated that "in gaming circles Miyamoto's name carries far more weight than Steven Spielberg's could ever sustain."
Miyamoto's games have sold very well, becoming some of the best-selling games on Nintendo consoles and of all time.
Miyamoto's Mario series is, by far, the best-selling video game franchise of all time, selling over 400 million units. Super Mario Bros. is the second best-selling video game of all time. Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Mario Bros. 2 were, respectively, the three best-selling games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Levi Buchanan of IGN considered Super Mario Bros. 3's appearance in the film The Wizard as a show-stealing element, and referred to the movie as a "90-minute commercial" for the game. Super Mario World was the best-selling game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Super Mario 64 was the best-selling Nintendo 64 game, and as of May 21, 2003, the game had sold eleven million copies. At the end of 2007, Guinness World Records reported sales of 11.8 million copies. As of September 25, 2007, it was the seventh best-selling video game in the United States with six million copies sold. By June 2007, Super Mario 64 had become the second most popular title on Wii's Virtual Console, behind Super Mario Bros. Super Mario Sunshine was the third best-selling video game for the Nintendo GameCube.
The original game in The Legend of Zelda series was the fifth best-selling game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The Wind Waker was the fourth best-selling game for the Nintendo GameCube. Twilight Princess experienced commercial success. In the PAL region, which covers most of Asia, Africa, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and most of Western Europe, Twilight Princess is the best-selling Zeldagame ever. During its first week, the game was sold with three out of every four Wii purchases. The game had sold 4.52 million copies on the Wii as of March 1, 2008, and 1.32 million on the GameCube as of March 31, 2007.
The Mario Kart series has sold well. Super Mario Kart is the third best-selling video game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Mario Kart 64 is the second best-selling Nintendo 64 game. Mario Kart: Double Dash‼ is the second best selling game for the GameCube, and Mario Kart Wii, which is the second best selling game for the Wii.