You Can Wall Jump in Super Mario Bros. for NES

Super Mario Bros.

If you’re at all familiar with the evolution of Mario, you might have spent decades believing that Mario’s wall jump ability was introduced in Super Mario N64. And you’d be partially right. But while the wall-hopping maneuver was officially added to Mario’s arsenal with the groundbreaking Nintendo 64 game, the sneaky Italian plumber has been hiding it up his sleeve since the original Super Mario Bros. for NES.

Of course, in the NES games, this was actually a glitch, and the reason it exists is kind of complicated.

Basically, there is a feature built into the game’s walls that pushes Mario (and Luigi) outward, which is designed to prevent the player from getting stuck in the wall. With enough velocity, players can manage to push a single pixel width into a vertical surface, triggering the pushback mechanic and very quickly being pushed backward a single pixel to compensate.

Now, the game world is essentially constructed of 16-pixel-by-16-pixel blocks, which I’ve illustrated in the image below.

16 Pixels

This means there is a “seam” every 16 pixels on any vertical surface. If Mario gets one pixel inside a wall, and his foot is perfectly lined up with that “seam,” the game registers his foot as being on a floor tile, allowing him to jump. This creates the illusion of a wall jump (when actually it’s Mario jumping off of the top corner of a block before the pushback mechanic has kicked in).

This takes pixel-perfect accuracy and frame-perfect timing, but players can exploit this mechanic to perform a wall jump. In fact, some people actually practice this technique and become quite good at it.

You can see a demonstration of this in motion by checking out the video below.

The mechanic isn’t exclusive to the original Super Mario Bros. either. You can perform the wall jump in Super Mario Bros. 3 as well, though the game’s pushback mechanic is faster there, requiring even more precise timing than the first Super Mario Bros. You can also wall jump in the Super Mario All-Stars version of both games for the SNES.

There’s one segment of the gaming populace in which the wall jump has become a critical component of the Super Mario Bros. games — the speedrun community. Speedrunning, in case you aren’t familiar, is attempting to get through a video game as fast as possible. The speedrunning community absolutely does become competitive, with leaderboards tracking the fastest runs. When you’re speedrunning a video game, every microsecond counts, and tricks like the wall jump can shave chunks of time (sometimes substantial ones) off of your run.

Of course, the wall jump isn’t the only piece of equipment in the Mario speedrunner’s toolkit; Super Mario Bros. features quite a few exploitable glitches, such as the ability to claim a Mushroom or Fire Flower before it’s fully appeared on screen and the ability to move through walls. If you want a comprehensive list of these, there’s a pretty great one on the Mario Mayhem website.

So while credit for the wall jump often goes to games like Mega Man X or Ninja Gaiden, Mario actually did it first. Of course, it was an accident, but an accidental first is still a first.

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