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Vimeo / Chris Higgins
Vimeo / Chris Higgins

8 Super Mario Bros. Tips, Tricks, and Glitches

Vimeo / Chris Higgins
Vimeo / Chris Higgins

Super Mario Bros. turns 30 this year. I still love the game, as it was my first Nintendo game, and I spent endless hours trying to beat the stupid thing. Today, I have a treat for you: Eight excellent tips, tricks, and weird glitches in the game.

Robin Mihara in front of some very collectible games; photo courtesy of Mihara.

These are all performed by gaming superstar Robin Mihara, who came in third at the Nintendo World Championships (NWC) in 1990, in which Super Mario Bros. was one of three mini-games performed onstage. Recently, Mihara starred in the documentary Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters (2011)—featuring another game in the NWC pantheon.

I knew a few of these as a kid, but the rest are news to me. Dig in:

1. Jump Over the Flagpole (Glitch)

If you time the jump just right, on World 3-3 you can jump over the flagpole and...well, you just keep running. There's nothing special over there.

2. Skating (Glitch)

If you're Fire Mario, you can "skate" without moving your feet—at least for a moment. When you exit a tunnel or enter a new World, jump and shoot a fireball (B+A buttons) and press right. The skating effect only lasts ten seconds or so.

3. How to Get Maximum Fireworks (Tip)

This was common knowledge when I was a kid, but I have run into some people who didn't hear about it. When you hit the flagpole, the timer in the upper right stops. If that number ends in 1, 3, or 6, you'll get the corresponding number of fireworks...and everybody knows, six fireworks rules!

4. How to Get Infinite 1-UPs (Trick)

First, get to World 3-1, a find a pair of koopa troopas descending stairs. Ignore the first one. When the second one is still on the stairs, jump on it to put it into shell-mode, then stand one step below where the shell lies. Now jump on the shell. If you time it right, you'll automatically bounce off the shell over and over, so you get lots of points and 1-UPs.

5. Win and Die Simultaneously (Glitch)

There's a weird poetic justice to this one. If Mario hits Bowser on World 8-4 at the exact moment he hits the axe (which drops Bowser into the lava pit), Mario dies. But he still wins. This results in an odd scene where Princess Peach gives a speech to no one.

6. Become Small Fire Mario (Glitch)

Okay, this is amazing, but complex. Watch the video for an example, but the gist of it is if you are any version of a "Big" Mario, Luigi, etc. (including Fire versions), and you hit any of the mini-Bowsers (anything before World 8-4) at the same moment you hit the axe, a glitch occurs. Long story short, on the next World you need to get a Mushroom (which makes you small!), then a Fire Flower, which of course makes you Small Fire Mario.

The fun part is when Small Fire Mario spits out a fireball—he briefly becomes regular Fire Mario. While you can do this on lots of levels, I recommend World 1-4 because the necessary power-ups are available early in World 2-1.

7. Vine Dancing (Trick)

This just adds some flair to your performance; it doesn't get you anything special. When you reach the top of a vine, keep pressing up, and you'll "dance." I feel that this is appropriate when you're about to steal a bunch of coins from a bonus World. (Note that in this run, Mihara missed one coin—that pesky last one—and let out a groan that I did not record.)

8. Reach World -1 (Glitch)

This is epic. If you do a special crouch-jump on World 1-2, you enter a glitched-out Warp Zone that brings you to "World -1," a water world identical to World 7-2. The only difference is that you can't win; you just keep swimming until you run out of time...even if you reach the pipe. Brutal and weird.

Further Reading

For more Super Mario Bros. glitches, check out the Super Mario Wiki list of glitches. You might also be interested in my article Will the Real "Super Mario Bros. 2" Please Stand Up?

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Why the Soundtracks to Games Like 'Mario' or 'The Sims' Can Help You Work
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When I sat down to write this article, I was feeling a little distracted. My desk salad was calling me. I had new emails in my inbox to read. I had three different articles on my to-do list, and I couldn't decide which to start first. And then, I jumped over to Spotify and hit play on the theme to The Sims. As I listened to the upbeat, fast-paced, wordless music, my writing became faster and more fluid. I felt more “in the zone,” so to speak, than I had all morning. There's a perfectly good explanation: Video games provide the ideal productivity soundtrack. At Popular Science, Sara Chodosh explains why video game music can get you motivated and keep you focused while you work, especially if you're doing relatively menial tasks. It's baked into their composition.

There are several reasons to choose video game music over your favorite pop album. For one, they tend not to have lyrics. A 2012 study of more than 100 people found that playing background music with lyrics tended to distract participants while studying. The research suggested that lyric-less music would be more conducive to attention and performance in the workplace. Another study conducted in open-plan offices in Finland found that people were better at proofreading if there was some kind of continuous, speechless noise going on in the background. Video game music would fit that bill.

Plus, video game music is specifically made not to distract from the task at hand. The songs are meant to be listened to over and over again, fading into the background as you navigate Mario through the Mushroom Kingdom or help Link save Zelda. My friend Josie Brechner, a composer who has scored the music for video games like the recently released Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, says that game music is definitely written with this in mind.

"Basically, successful video game music straddles the balance between being engaging and exciting, but also not wanting to make you tear your ears off after the 10th or 100th listen," Brechner says. Game music often has a lot of repetition, along with variation on musical themes, to keep the player engaged but still focused on what they're playing, "and that translates well to doing other work that requires focus and concentration."

If you're a particularly high-strung worker, you might want to tune into some relaxing classical music or turn on a song specifically designed to calm you. But if you want to finish those expense reports on a Monday morning, you're better off choosing a fast-tempo ditty designed for seemingly pointless activities like making your Sims eat and go to the toilet regularly. (It can help you with more exciting work responsibilities, too: Other research has found that moderate background noise can increase performance on creative tasks.)

These types of songs work so well that there are entire playlists online devoted just to songs from video game soundtracks that work well for studying. One, for instance, includes songs written for The Legend of Zelda, Skyrim, Super Smash Bros., and other popular games.

The effect of certain theme songs on your productivity may, however, depend on your particular preferences. A 2010 study of elementary school students found that while calming music could improve performance on math and memory tests, music perceived as aggressive or unpleasant distracted them. I was distracted by the deep-voiced chanting of the "Dragonborn Theme" from Skyrim, but felt charged up by the theme from Street Fighter II. There's plenty of variety in video game scores—after all, a battle scene doesn't call for the same type of music as a puzzle game. Not all of them are going to work for you, but by their nature, you probably don't need a lot of variation in your work music if you're using video game soundtracks. If you can play a game for days on end, you can surely listen to the same game soundtrack over and over again.

[h/t Popular Science]

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This Augmented-Reality App Makes the Hospital Experience Less Scary for Kids
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Staying in a hospital can be a scary experience for kids, but a little distraction can make it less stressful. According to studies conducted by Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, UK, distracted patients have an easier time with their appointments and require less pain medication. Now, Co.Design reports that the hospital is releasing its own app designed to keep children entertained—and calm—from the moment they check in.

The Android and iOS app, called Alder Play, was designed by ustwo, the makers of the wildly popular smartphone game Monument Valley and the stress relief tool Pause. Patients can download the app before they arrive at the hospital, choosing a virtual animal buddy to guide them through their stay. Then, once they check into the hospital, their furry companion shows them around the facility using augmented-reality technology.

The app features plenty of fun scavenger hunts and other games for kids to play during their downtime, but its most important features are designed to coach young patients through treatments. Short videos walk them through procedures like blood tests so that when the time comes, the situation will feel less intimidating. And for each step in the hospitalization process, from body scans to gown changes, doctors can give kids virtual stickers to reward them for following directions or just being brave. There’s also an AI chatbot (powered by IBM’s Watson) available to answer any questions kids or their parents might have about the hospital.

The app is very new, and Alder Hey is still assessing whether or not it's changing their young hospital guests’ experiences for the better. If the game is successful, children's hospitals around the world may consider developing exclusive apps of their own.

[h/t Co.Design]

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