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Nintendo’s new Minecraft mash-up is a love letter to Super Mario

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When Nintendo announced the Mario mash-up pack for the Wii U version of Minecraft, it revealed a slate of Mushroom Kingdom-themed content for people to play around with. The game will get 40 character skins, so you can dress up as Mario or Peach, and you can change the look of surfaces so that they will seem as if they came from the Mario universe. You can even add in some classic Mario tunes. But it turns out there’s more coming to the game than just tools for creative Mario fans: there’s a whole new world to explore that pulls together elements from virtually every Mario game for a huge dose of nostalgia.

The prebuilt world was created by developers Mojang and 4J using the various elements that come in the new mash-up pack. Exploring their creation is like going on a blocky tour of Super Mario history. The team has recreated some of the most iconic locations in the game, from the sprawling castle of Super Mario 64 to Delfino Island from Super Mario Sunshine, complete with wandering islanders. You can make your way up to the airships from Super Mario Bros. 3. If you venture into The Nether — the dark, shadowy realm of Minecraft — you’ll find it’s now Bowser’s domain, complete with a massive statue of the Mario villain.

What’s most impressive about the world is the attention to detail. There are sections that are setup like a platforming stage, as if you were actually playing Mario. When you head into the SM64 castle, you’ll find you can jump through the paintings just like in the original game. The sun in the sky is the evil angry sun from SMB3. You can even walk around the actual map from Super Mario World. I’ve only taken a brief tour of the world, but it’s clear that there are bits of Mario fan service hidden just about everywhere.

Part of what makes it work so well is that Mario translates to Minecraft surprisingly seamlessly. All of the new Mario elements have their own Minecraft equivalents, and from what I’ve seen it all makes sense. Sheep are now koopa troopas, while chickens are goombas. The high-end chain mail armor is now a tanooki suit. The game even taps more obscure Mario titles; instead of pulling potatoes out of the ground, you’re pulling carrots from the Game Boy game Super Mario Land 2.

According to Damon Baker, senior manager of licensing at Nintendo, the idea to build this new world came entirely from development studios Mojang and 4J. While the project started out as simply creating new skins for the game, the developers wanted to do something more. “They actually came to us with what their vision was, and the extent of it, and blew us away,” says Baker. “It still went through an official approval process through our art department at our head office in Japan, but it was really driven by them as the creative studios behind it.”

The new Mario content will be coming to the Wii U version of the game as a free update on May 17th (it’ll also be available as a retail game on June 17th). And while non-Wii U users would most certainly want to build Mario worlds of their own, at least for now, the company says it has no plans to expand beyond its own hardware. “We’ve just been concentrating on Wii U first and foremost,” says Baker.

Minecraft for the Gear VR