Artificial Intelligence Learns to Play Super Mario World in 34 Tries

Robots have already come for our jobs, and now they are gunning for our video games. Developer Seth Bling created an AI called MarI/O that managed to beat the Donut Plains I level of Super Mario World in just 34 tries.  

Watching the AI run through the game, you will notice that the computer uses a lot of jumping and very little hesitation. Compare it to a human playing, and you’ll see it looks very different. MarI/O did not know how to play the game when it first started. The first few attempts involved a lot of standing still or walking in a straight line. With time, it learned to play the game through trial and error. This process is called neuroevolution.

The AI saw the Mario world in black and white: good things that could be stood on looked like white blocks, whereas enemies were black blocks. The program had a “fitness” level that increased when it progressed right and decreased when it went left. 

Quickly, the MarI/O learned that pressing the right directional button allows Mario to run right on the white blocks. From there, it learned each strategy one by one. Moves would either be kept or discarded depending on success. The most successful strategies were "bred" into the next generation, and it took 34 evolutionary steps, or generations, for the AI to complete the level. 

The algorithm is called NEAT (NeuroEvolution of Augmenting Topologies), but as Engadget points out, this is not the only program that has learned to play the game. Watch this impressive 2009 Mario AI competition winner demolish a level:


© 2017 USPS
Pop Culture
Speedy Delivery: Mister Rogers Will Get His Own Stamp in 2018
© 2017 USPS
© 2017 USPS

USPS 2018 Mister Rogers stamp
© 2017 USPS

After weeks of mailing out this year’s holiday cards, postage might be the last thing you want to think about. But the U.S. Postal Service has just given us a sneak peek at the many iconic people, places, and things that will be commemorated with their own stamps in 2018, and one in particular has us excited to send out a few birthday cards: Mister Rogers.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers’s groundbreaking PBS series that the USPS says “inspired and educated young viewers with warmth, sensitivity, and honesty,” the mail service shared a mockup of what the final stamp may look like. On it, Rogers—decked out in one of his trademark colorful cardigans (all of which were hand-knitted by his mom, by the way)—smiles for the camera alongside King Friday XIII, ruler of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Though no official release date for Fred’s forever stamp has been given, Mister Rogers is just one of many legendary figures whose visages will grace a piece of postage in 2018. Singer/activist Lena Horne will be the 41st figure to appear as part of the USPS’s Black Heritage series, while former Beatle John Lennon will be the face of the newest Music Icons collection. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, will also be honored.

Can You Spot the Christmas Pudding?

Whether it’s a sheep hanging out with Santa Claus or a panda bear hiding among some snowmen, regular Mental Floss readers know that hidden picture brainteasers are one of our favorite things. And the optical experts at have released a delicious one, just in time for Christmas. Somewhere in the midst of all these holiday-themed goodies above, there’s a holiday pudding just waiting to be discovered. Can you spot it? Your time starts … now.

If you give up, or are the kind of person who reads the last page of a book before the first one and just wants to know the answer, scroll down to see where it’s hiding.



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