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‘Super Mario Flashback’ is a stunning pixel art fan game

Run for long enough and Mario will enter a super-fast dash.

Mors rediscovered Mario through a legally dubious Nintendo 64 emulator. He also played Mario Forever, a popular fan game based on the original Super Mario Bros., with one of his classmates in the fourth grade. Mors had always been interested in computers and, aged nine, received a copy of GameMaker from a family friend. “I was the kid in middle school who would fix the teacher’s computer whenever they messed something up,” he explained. At first, Mors used GameMaker to build simplistic maze puzzles and platformers. But he soon graduated to Mario clones that used assets ripped from Google Images and Mario Forever.

“The very first ones were extremely bad,” he said.

“At the time, I only knew what ‘download’ meant.”

At first, Mors made games for himself and his friends. But he later discovered a site where people could share and download GameMaker creations. There was a forum, but Mors didn’t know enough English to participate or learn from his more-experienced peers. “At the time I only knew what ‘download’ meant,” he said. Still, the young developer persevered and eventually uploaded his own project called Super Mario Ztar to a Mario fan-game site called MFGG. It was a modest platformer with a special ‘super flower’ power-up that allowed Mario to shoot infinite fireballs until he took damage.

“The reaction was pretty negative,” he recalled. “I was 12.” Thankfully, his English was still so poor that he couldn’t understand most of the feedback.

Super Mario Flashback

Ground Pounds are super-effective against stacked enemies.

Undeterred, Mors started conceptualizing a new Mario fan game called Mario and Luigi’s Coin Chaos. The art style would be broadly similar to Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World; however, the story and levels would take place in an apocalyptic doomsday scenario. “Except when I was working on it, I got bored of the idea and decided to turn it into a more generic fan game,” he said. Mors worked on the title for a few years while submitting the occasional mini-game, including Deadly Dart, Yoshi Dash! and Mario Teaches Japanese, for some of MFGG’s fan competitions.

The Turkish programmer got bored of Coin Chaos and eventually started a parallel project in 2013. At first, he considered a game like Sonic Generations that would reinterpret levels from different Mario games. He also debated a single-level, exploration-heavy ‘Metroidvania’ title inspired by the Metroid and Castlevania franchises. “It would have been a really cool concept, but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to pull it off,” he explained. By 2014, he had canceled Coin Chaos completely and focused his efforts on the Sonic Generations idea. That game, unsurprisingly, would eventually become Flashback.

“I’m not very good at drawing. It’s something I find really hard to wrap my head around.”

At this point, Nintendo was working on its hugely imaginative Super Mario Maker for Wii U. Mors, however, still only had a PS2 and some Nintendo emulators that could run Mario 64 and the Gamecube-era Super Mario Sunshine. He had never played anything from the Wii and Wii U eras, such as Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Super Mario 3D World. Still, he planned to include levels from those games in Flashback.

Mors sees himself as a programmer first and a designer second. He also struggles with some of the artistic aspects of video-game development, such as sprite work and music. “I’m not very good at drawing,” he said. “It’s something I find really hard to wrap my head around. But since my dream was always to be a mostly self-sufficient indie game developer, I’ve kind of had to force myself to learn all that stuff.”

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