Watching Someone Beat a Mario Game Without Pressing Right Is F'ing Wild

'New Super Mario Bros. U,' like most Mario games, asks you to move right to win. But what if you don't want to? That's where it gets tricky.

by Patrick Klepek
Jan 10 2019, 5:14pm

It’s early 2019, there aren’t many new games to play. One of the early drops, however, is a re-release of Wii U’s much-maligned New Super Mario Bros. U on Switch. (I'm looking forward to giving it another shot.) While eating lunch last week, I somehow ended up on this wild 18-minute video by YouTube’s Ceave Gaming. Ceave’s goal was to beat New Super Mario Bros. U without pressing right, otherwise known as, you know, one of the defining traits of the foundational platformer. Folks, this is a ride.

Here’s an introductory line from the Wikipedia entry describing Super Mario Bros.:

The game is a side-scrolling platformer; the player moves from the left side of the screen to the right side in order to reach the flag pole at the end of each level.

The notion of beating a game, especially a Mario game, in a weird way is not new, and it’s basically a rite of passage the moment a popular game is released; it’s a way of garnering attention. Not long after the release of Super Mario Odyssey, for example, someone found a way to beat the game without jumping. Jumping is pretty important in a Mario game, right? Sure. But not moving right? It’s such an incredible handicap it seems destined for failure.

Ceave Gaming, like so many things on the Internet, is a channel about Nintendo’s beloved Mario series. It emerged three years ago, in early 2016, not long after the release of Super Mario Maker, kicking off with 10 “tips, tricks and ideas” for using bob-ombs while creating levels. Every few weeks, there would be a new riff on various ideas involving Mario Maker.

(A personal favorite is trying to “objectively” determine the worst Mario Maker level.)

Ceave Gaming was created by an Austrian player named Stefan, who, according to a Q&A with fans, landed on the pseudonym Ceave because Ceave sounds like Steve in English, and Ceave was “the most over fancified way to stay Steve I was able to come up with.” He started his channel because nobody was playing the Mario Maker levels he’d spent hours working on (discoverability was a huge problem), and it took on a life of its own from there.

As interest in Mario Maker waned, Stefan transitioned into increasingly absurd challenges involving Mario. Enter his attempt to beat New Super Mario Bros. U without pressing right.

First, a major caveat: there are some instances where pressing right is a requirement, not an option. There’s no way around what the game is asking you do do. This includes pressing right to shift Mario on the world map from one stage to the next, or pushing him into a pipe. These are called “meta right” pushes, meaning they are technically a press to the right, but as the game afforded no other options, so they are counted but precluded from disqualifying.

For the run to be successful, meta right presses are fine. But during gameplay? No way.

The trick to not pressing right is Mario still needs to move to the right, which means Stefan had to get awfully creative in finding ways to make sure Mario moves towards his goal, and this is what makes the video fascinating, as Stefan re-invents Mario’s moveset.

The first trick is pretty obvious. If you’re playing the game with anything besides the Wii U Game Pad, someone holding the Game Pad can drop colorful blocks onto the screen that function as bonus platforms. Using a wall jump, Mario can then get moving to the right.

Second trick: a ground pound on sloped surfaces, creating momentum in the direction the slope is moving.

Third trick: one special move with Mario’s acorn suit involves shooting up and hovering down in whatever direction Mario is facing. So long as Mario is facing right, he’ll be moving right.

The problem for Stefan is that his various tricks still limit Mario’s mobility, meaning he’s bound to get hit by an enemy once in a while, removing the super useful acorn suit. But this is where Stefan begins to take advantage of some weird stuff going on in the game. If you beat any given level in New Super Mario Bros. U when the last two numbers on the stage timer are seven, the game will always spit out a bonus acorn suit for Mario in a chest.

In an effort to avoid as many tricky stages (and “meta right” presses) as possible, Stefan opts for an early shortcut that jumps all the way from the game’s second level to world five, so long as the player manages to beat an underwater stage in-between. This is Stefan’s first, real obstacle; none of his tricks—wall jumping, ground pounding, acorn suit flying—work here.

Once again, he was forced to get creative. One of the unique items in New Super Mario Bros. U is a selection of colored Baby Yoshis that perform different actions: shoot bubbles to trap and defeat enemies, light up dark areas, and inflate into balloons, carrying Mario into the sky. In the water, though, Baby Yoshi performs a different function entirely: rightward movement.

The problem? Tracking down Baby Yoshi introduces several new “meta right” presses, and while, again, they’re not disqualifying, Stefan is trying to eliminate as many as possible. In a discussion with a friend who similarly specializes in breaking Mario games in weird ways, fellow YouTube creator EverythingABC comes up with a way to beat the level without pressing a single button at all. Not left, not up, not down—and especially not pressing right.

As it turns out, New Super Mario Bros. U’s multiplayer mode, where characters can enter in and out of a bubble—a way for skilled players to help carry newcomers across challenging areas—proved useful. For this run, it can be deliciously exploited to move the player without pressing right!

(Using this method, EverythingABC is currently working on a run where the player doesn’t press a single directional button, from start to finish. Good luck with that!)

Either method has Stefan on this way to the second half of the game, a nightmarish gauntlet of soul-crushing autoscrolling levels that sound like they had him on the verge of quitting, and other platforming curiosities that would otherwise be trivial, if not for the challenge he’d agreed to take on. It’s at this point I recommend watching the video and awe-ing at the skills and patience required to press forward. (But not right.)

Of course, the natural question to ask here is...why? Where does it end? I don’t have a good answer, sadly, because Stefan did not respond to my request for an interview for this piece, but perhaps it all stems from a story in Stefan’s youth that he shared with fans back in 2017:

“My earliest gaming memory is probably playing Super Mario Land on the original Game Boy,” he said, “and not being able to beat the very first stage.”

It seems Stefan’s had, for the entertainment of all of us, a chip on his shoulder ever since.

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