The Genius behind Super Mario Clouds

Image result for super mario clouds cory arcangel


Super Mario Clouds is a project  created by Cory Arcangel. Super Mario Clouds removes everything from the original Super Mario Bros. except the clouds. The main protagonist, Mario, is gone therefore, the player cannot make a single move throughout the whole game. The game auto scrolls endlessly giving the player only one option, to watch the game play itself. Cory Arcangel created this project by disassembling a Super Mario Bros. cartridge and removing many elements from the software. The question on my mind is, is Super Mario Clouds a piece of art?


Is it Art?

In order to analyze Super Mario Clouds as art, I will be referencing the works of sociologist Howard Becker. Becker claimed that art is made through the process of human collaboration. According to Becker, “. . . because all the arts we know, like all the human activities we know, involve cooperate of others” (Arts World and Collective Activity, page. 7). Super Mario Clouds is no exception. Even though, Cory Arcangel (creator) modified the cartridge himself, none of this would have been possible without the help of other human beings. First, Nintendo needed to hire a team in order to make the game under the supervision of Shigeru Miyamoto. A team also needed to be made to make the cartridges. Other people also needed to make the NES and create the cartridges. Advertisers were also hired to promote the game, aiding in Super Mario Bros. success. The internet was also a big part why Super Mario Clouds was able to gain big recognition. Without the internet, Super Mario Cloud might not be as well recognized and respected as how it is today. An art possible is only made possible with the assistance of other human beings.






Even though Super Mario Clouds. has a very simplistic look, Many Cannot deny that it took a lot of effort from Arcangel managed to hack the game’s code to only leave a blue background and white clouds. According to Becker, “Producing the idea may require enormous effort and concentration; it may come as a gift, out of the blue; or it may be produced routinely, by the manipulation of well-known formulas” (Arts World and Collective Activity, page.2). For the critics, it is worth noting that Arcangel broke into a Super Mario Bros. cartridge and implanted a chip to override the game’s code manually. This is a project that no doubt, took a long time to craft and needed high amounts of complex thinking. Arcangel did not remove the code using software alone, he also modified the hardware without ruining the games code. It is surprising how Arcangel managed to keep the game looking as beautiful as it looks. An untrained individual would not be able to reproduce the same results therefore, showing Cory Arcangel’s skills and talent. The creator manipulated the formula for Mario bros. and transformed it into an abstract art piece. Super Mario Bros. is a classic game that is remembered for its unique texture. Arcangel saw how captivating the clouds in the game are to the human eye. In this art piece, he wanted to give the clouds the observer’s full attention, by even removing the music from the game. I see Super Mario Clouds as a very simplistic yet hypnotizing art piece. The art piece has also been recognized by the art world, the piece was bought by the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2005. Even though I highly underestimated the project at first however, this quickly changed once I started doing some background research on the project and read Becker’s criteria for what qualifies as an art.


2 thoughts on “The Genius behind Super Mario Clouds

  1. I’m not sure if I would be able to watch this for 6 sessions. I’d probably go insane. I would have never thought to use Becker’s words in the way you did since I would have thought of Super Mario Clouds as a separate thing from the game. It’s pretty interesting that this was able to make it into an art museum. I’m also surprised the amount of work Cory Arcangel went through to create this mod but I’m sure he’s happy to have his work appreciated.


  2. The manipulation of the game is impressive, I do agree thought that 6 sessions must have been interesting. The cooperation between Nintendo and Cory is also interesting even if it was cooperation without knowing it.


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