Super Mario Bros. blocks contain more coins than you think

A pixelated Mario jumps near a block.


Without giving it much thought, what is the maximum number of coins you can knock out of multi-coin blocks in the original Super Mario Bros.? did you say 10 You’re wrong, but it’s not your fault. They just didn’t delve deep into the code of the almost 37-year-old game like a complete madman.

We now know that the Super Mario Bros. Blocks have a time limit rather than a coin limit, allowing players to repeatedly bang Mario’s head against its bottom over a matter of seconds to snatch as many coins as possible. But this was not always common knowledge. After all, pressing buttons under these blocks rewards 10 coins and even official strategy guides of the era refers to them as 10-coin blocks.

Cosmic, a high level Super Mario Bros. Players currently holding a top 10 time in the most popular speedrunning category of the classic Nintendo game, recently shared an intriguing video about coin blocks. It’s apparently possible to get up to 16 coins from these blocks, but of course such a thing is feat requires both complex game programming knowledge and multiple frame-perfect inputs.

If you know anything at all Super Mario Bros. Speedrunning You’ve probably heard of the “frame rule,” a ubiquitous mathematical constant in game code that also affects coin blocks.

A frame rule is a repeating 21-frame cycle that Super Mario Bros. used to dictate various aspects of the game. For example, level transitions do not occur until the frame rule counter has overflowed 6 times, but the current frame rule when a level is completed does not have to be fully traversed to be counted. It can range from its first frame to its twenty-first frame, which means that the level transitions range from 106 frames (about 1.8 seconds) to 126 frames (about 2.1 seconds).

Learn more about framework rules and their implications Super Mario Bros. World records, be sure to check out the following video from Bismuth, another speedrunner. He’s a lot smarter than me.

Coin blocks, as Kosmic explains, can only be hit during the 11 ticks of the frame rules counter immediately after Mario’s first interaction with the block. Optimizing the coins you can squeeze out of the block therefore follows the opposite principle as saving time between level transitions. Instead of trying to complete a stage End a frame rule to save frames where you want to hit the coin block beginning a framework rule to give Mario more time to jump.

Kosmic calculates that the maximum time to hit a block of coins is 230 frames (about 3.8 seconds) after the initial hit. Split that The 16 frames requires Mario to wait for the block’s animation to play before it can be hit again, giving you 14 hits. Add to that to the one free coin you get both at the beginning and at the end of this whole sequence (the block stays active until you hit it again after the timer runs out), and the result is a grand total of 16 coins.

Go ahead and take a breather if you found all this math overwhelming. The rest of this blog will be waiting for you when you come back.

Perhaps even more incredible is the fact that sent Super Mario Bros. Players can sometimes do this without a visible frame rules counter. A few examples are Kosmic himself getting a 16-coin block in the middle of a Super Mario Bros. 35 Match (rest in peace) and legendary speedrunner AndrewG a high score run back in 2016.

Super Mario Bros. is a fascinating example of how games that appear simple and dated can hide incredible technical secrets behind their pixelated facades. It may be the most recognizable game in history, but three decades and countless playthroughs still haven’t revealed all of its intricacies to the ordinary gamer. We’re extremely fortunate to have knowledgeable folks like Kosmic here to provide these fun, informative lessons on how Nintendo made one of the greatest video games of all time.

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