My Influences: Nintendo

Thought it would be interesting to share the influences that shape who I am and will be as a game designer. And when thinking about what has influenced me, the biggest influence is obviously Nintendo. Super Mario World was the first game I ever played, and there are very few games I consider to be near the level of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I’ve owned every Nintendo console since the Super Nintendo. So it’s plain to see that Nintendo is going to have quite the impact on the games I’m going to make. But what will be that impact?

There are few games I enjoy as much as Nintendo games. Their games have a certain quality that many other games lack, and the lack of that quality is a hurdle to how much I enjoy those games. So clearly, if I’m going to make games, I’m going to have to be able to harness this quality. But what is this quality? I used to think of it as a kind of polish, making improvements to a game to a pinnacle of perfection. However, I recently learned that this is wrong: the secret is in the core of their games.

Nintendo’s philosophy for making games is to focus on the basic actions and mechanics of the game first, then build everything else in the game from that base. They avoid adding mechanics outside of this core. For example, Nintendo could’ve given Mario an attack, but instead, you fight by jumping on enemies. This focus gives Nintendo’s games a tight design and nothing feels out of place. This also means games are easier to pick up, since there aren’t a large number of actions and systems you have to learn. This doesn’t mean these games are simple, though. This method of game design can create deep games by giving players varying circumstances they need to apply their skills. In fact, this depth can be reached more easily due to having fewer parts to learn. They also extend this to character, visual, and sound design, as well as theme and story, so nothing feels off.

I can easily apply Nintendo’s philosophy to my own games. I just need to be mindful of it while designing, and in fact, this philosophy fits very well with my own thought process. I’ve already seen the benefits of this method with the game I’m currently working on. There are some flaws with this, however. Any message, theme or emotion games made like this convey are incidental. While these games can, and often do, have deeper meaning, due to the theme and story being decided by a game’s gameplay you can’t set out to make a game that conveys a particular meaning. This is something I’ll have to think about, as making games that have something to say is my goal.

I have a theory on how to solve this. I’ll be testing this theory during my game design journey, and will discuss as I work and refine my theory. Figuring out how to apply Nintendo’s method will be super important, as I won’t like my own games if I don’t. It will be a learning process, but I’m sure I can do it.

If you want to learn more on how Nintendo makes games, Game Maker’s Toolkit has a great video on it.