Self-playing Super Mario World levels have been around for a while now; the editor for the SNES SMW ROM has been with us for almost a decade now. Three years ago, Joystiq did a pretty good rundown on them. Recently, however, I was introduced to what I think is the alpha and omega of the self-playing Super Mario World genre. It's a four-part harmony set, appropriately enough, to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now." The amount of skill and coordination it took to do not only do this, but do this and make it look as awesome as it looks, is staggering.
Many of us played some iteration of Super Mario as a kid. Growing up with a utilitarian single mother, I was usually a console or two behind the curve; I got my Atari 2600 when the first commercials for the SNES were airing. I used to go to friends' places to play the NES games before before my eighth birthday, when I received a Nintendo and a copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 of my own. Later, my mom's boyfriend's son would occasionally bring by his SNES and I'd get my dose of Super Mario World (along with, be still my quivering thumbs, Street Fighter II.) By the time I got a hand-me-down Sega Genesis, my cousins received a Nintendo 64 as a birthday present, and my visits (they lived in the Baltimore suburbs) became marathon sessions of Super Mario 64. I had the honor of being the first one to catch that godforsaken yellow bunny in the dungeon.
This isn't about me, though. This is about some crazy son-of-a-bitch who made an AI bot that plays Super Mario World by itself. Well, not Super Mario World exactly, but Markus Persson's Infinite Mario. Using Super Mario World sprites, it randomly builds a level to play through. A competition was held using a modified version of this engine. Using the A* search algorithm (link contains math I do not even pretend to understand) Robin Baumgarten created the following piece of work:
Did you see that at 0:45? Yes. Incredible. The functioning is simple: the AI either goes left or right, with an option to increase or decrease speed. Mario can either shoot a fireball or jump. And, yet, from those few instructions, we get a ...work of art. Well, I'm overstating it a bit, but it is beautiful. Especially if you spent your childhood years watching Mario die, having a fit of rage, turning the console off, realizing there's nothing on TV except a rerun Charles in Charge, and deciding to give that godforsaken plumber another go.