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Development:Super Mario Kart/Sprites and Tilemaps

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This is a sub-page of Development:Super Mario Kart.

Early Sprites


1 May 1991 03:02, 3 Jul 1991 10:32

Possibly the earliest graphics that were created for Super Mario Kart.

SMK prerelease Car.cgx1.png SMK prerelease Car.cgx1 animated.gif

An unnamed guy who mildly resembles Mach Rider in a "car" with a helmet. As mentioned in several interviews, there was originally 8 identical racers sporting a helmet and overalls, and used their own unique color palette to differentiate between each one. The car's design is already very similar to those of Super Mario Kart's. No palette can be found, but it fits pretty well with the driver palettes from the final game (A modified version of Mario/Toad's palette with restored colors used here) unmodified with the exception of some colors. The car itself has much more detail compared to the final game.

He has animations for driving to the horizon and for steering. A sideview of the driver and a rear view with an outline can be found as well.

SMK prerelease Car.cgx2.png SMK prerelease Car.cgx2 animated.gif

Directly below these graphics is the same guy sitting in some sort of hovercraft. It has two designs of its sideview.

SMK prerelease Car.cgx3.png

Then there is this font. It appears to be borrowed from Pilotwings and was possibly used in a very early prototype.

SMK prerelease Car.cgx4.png

At the very end of this file we can find these very early sprites of the game's main cast sitting in karts. Most likely created as a proof of concept for experimenting with the idea with using the Mario series characters as opposed to a generic racer.

  • Mario and Luigi are wearing pants instead of overalls. They are wearing the opposite colors.
  • Donkey Kong Jr. is skinner.
  • Koopa Troopa's head is much rounder, and his eyes have disappeared behind his head. His shell is way smaller.
  • Bowser's hair is orange instead of red. His shell is slightly smaller.
  • Peach's hair is longer.
  • Toad's head is slightly less round and the red spots are unevenly placed.
  • Yoshi's eyeballs are shown. His skin is darker.


10 Jul 1991 4:00

SMK prerelease MARIO-CAR.cgx.bak.png

A sketch of rear and front views of the drivers. Some look quite similar to their final sprites, while others look pretty different.

  • Donkey Kong Jr.'s hands are on the wheel and his mouth is closed.
  • Yoshi appears bigger and thicker.
  • Toad's mouth is closed and the spots on his head are placed differently.
  • Bowser's mouth is less open.
  • Some minor adjustments.

Below these graphics are a slightly earlier Mario and an even earlier Koopa sprite with a different face. As a side note, Koopa's shoe fits better with Mario's palette, suggesting that Koopa might have been drawn with Mario's palette in mind.

More Early Drivers

Many sketchpads with lots of early frames of the drivers can be found. While they mostly differs from some small pixel adjustments, they also contain some early designs. It seems that early in development, the drivers had two frames for steering instead of one.


17 Jul 1991 8:15 (Left)

18 Oct 1991 9:35 (Right)

SMK prerelease EarlyMarioRear.gif
SMK prerelease FinalMarioRear.gif

For some odd reason, the earliest sketchpad of Mario contains a steering animation for him while further away in the distance but none for the ordinary close-view, possibly a mistake or a hint that the drivers were originally smaller. There is also a slightly later sketchpad which uses the final color for his seat, with his steering sprite differing slightly. Oddly, the Oct. 18 spritsheet doesn't have a defined filename or extension, but can still be previewed in a tile editor.


17 Jul 1991 8:18 Final
SMK prerelease EarlyLuigiFront.png
SMK prerelease FinalLuigiFront.png
17 Jul 1991 8:18 Final
SMK prerelease EarlyLuigiRear.gif
SMK prerelease FinalLuigiRear.gif


17 Nov 1991 8:08 6 May 1992 6:58 Final (USA)
SMK prerelease EarlyYoshiFront.png
SMK prerelease EarlyYoshiFront2.png
SMK prerelease FinalYoshiFront.png
17 Nov 1991 8:08 Final (USA)
SMK prerelease EarlyYoshiRear.gif
SMK prerelease FinalYoshiRear.gif


17 Jul 1991 8:17 Final
SMK prerelease EarlyDKJRFront.png
SMK prerelease FinalDKJRFront.png

His fists were different.


17 Nov 1991 8:08 Final
SMK prerelease EarlyKoopaRear.gif
SMK prerelease FinalKoopaRear.gif
17 Nov 1991 8:08 Final
SMK prerelease EarlyKoopaLookBack.gif
SMK prerelease FinalKoopaLookBack.gif

His head received minor tweaks.


22 Jul 1992 12:57

Early SMK prerelease EarlySquashedDrivers.png
Final SMK prerelease FinalSquashedDrivers.png

Early squashed sprites for the drivers.

SMK prerelease TopDownDrivers.png

Top-Down driver sprites, possibly used for a scrapped bird's eye view option, or used as reference to create the squished sprites from the main perspective.

SMK prerelease peraperaAnimated.gif

Some neat animation tests for flying away while being squashed. Funnily enough, the placeholder driver mildly resembles Kirby, who was originally designed as a placeholder himself.


17 Jul 1991 8:19

SMK prerelease TireObject.png

Some stacked tires, possibly a hazard that was later replaced by the pipe. This obstacle would later show up in future Mario Kart installments.


Early Final
SMK prerelease EarlyPipe.png
SMK prerelease FinalPipe.png

The iconic pipe hazard received some minor tweaks, mostly in shading.

It can be seen in the game's manual.


25 Mar 1992 1:22

SMK prerelease LavaBubble.png

The fire bubble, used in the Bowser Castle tracks in the Nov'91 and Feb'92 prototypes before being scrapped in favor of the Thwomps.


25 Jun 1992 8:21

SMK Development CheepCheep.png

Various sketches for the Cheep-Cheep, including 2 test spheres and 4 unique top-down sprites.


13 May 1992 9:34

Early Final
SMK prerelease EarlyFireball.png
SMK prerelease FinalFireball.png

The fireball thrown by Bowser originally had eyes, more resembling the Sparkies from Super Mario World.

Early Final
SMK prerelease EarlyChainChomp.png
SMK prerelease FinalChainChomp.png

Some early drawings of Chain Chomp (the ball enemy from Match Race) with many different faces.

Monty Mole Standing

SMK prerelease MontyStanding.png

Maybe they originally waited on the ground for some driver to jump on. Or it was for an animation where it moved its paws.


SMK prerelease EarlyCoin.png SMK prerelease EarlyCoin animated.gif

While the coin is used in the final game, it does not have graphics for different distances. This could mean that the coins were originally supposed to be standing on the track rather than laying flat.

It can be seen in the Nov'91 prototype.


16 May 1992 13:57

SMK prerelease ball.CGX.png

Many early drawings of the balloon from Battle Mode. There is also a strange futuristic core object of some sorts which was directly ported from early Pilotwings source files.

Early Lakitu Graphics

Lakitu, eager to become an anarcho-pacifist, made his flag upside-down.

Early flags and every number for the lap counter. There is also an extra graphic of a scrapped flag that is diagonally divided black-and-white (which means "driving unsportsmanlike" in real races). The scrapped flag got overwritten with the animated coin graphics, while the needless numbers were replaced with the small numbers for the lives counter in the final.

Early Final
SMK prerelease EarlyReverseFlag.gif
SMK prerelease FinalReverseFlag.gif

The yellow reverse flag was missing the X and some pixels were moved.

Early Final
SMK prerelease EarlyCheckeredFlag.png
SMK prerelease FinalCheckeredFlag.png

The edge of the flag was changed slightly.


3 Feb 1992 4:00

Early Final
SMK prerelease EarlyGoalFlag.gif
SMK prerelease FinalGoalFlag.gif

Early version of the goal flag seen in the results screen. It was later given an outline.

SMK prerelease WhiteFlag.gif

In real races a white flag signals a driver that there is a slow vehicle on the route. It might also be just a shading template to draw the checkerboard pattern on it.

SMK prerelease SadMario checker.CGX.png

A sad Mario in a front view can be found towards the bottom of the sheet, which partially overwritten an early spritesheet for Mario. Most likely was meant for post Battle or Match Race when the player loses.


Early Final
SMK prerelease EarlyAward.png
SMK prerelease FinalAward.png

Early graphics for the award sequence shows a different type of award. In the place of the champagne bottle was originally an early trophy which palette was modified so that the outline color doesn't fit anymore. The final bottle palette fits however.


Early Final
SMK prerelease EarlyMarioTrophy.png
SMK prerelease FinalMarioTrophy.png

An early Mario trophy can be found in the graphics for the cup selection.


SMK Prerelease SPIN.CGX.png

A unique swirl effect, presumably used for when the player spins out.


Early Item Icons

SMK prerelease EarlyItemIcons.png

Sketches with different designs for the item storage and items. Interestingly, one item is the Pegasus Boots from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

1UP and 2UP

SMK prerelease UnusedItemIcons.png

Found within the final HUD graphics is this extra graphic of 1UP and 2UP. In the final version, it is possible to collect multiple 1 Ups, but only one at a time.


SMK prerelease SROT-DRAM.png

A tilemap showing some items listed. Maybe you could see which and how many items you got/used after a race or a battle?


From the CAR folder

17 Oct 1991 3:14

SMK prerelease EarlyPositionIcons.png

Early graphics for the small icons which are displayed after a race. They didn't have two frames for the winning animation. Some even originally cried in their loser icon.


From the obj/others folder

6 May 1992 6:58

Early Final
SMK prerelease EarlyPeachIcon.png
SMK prerelease FinalPeachIcon.png

Peach face was a bit narrower.

Early Numbers

SMK prerelease EarlyNumbers.png

Various sketches for the time counter graphics.

Early English Fonts

Early Final
SMK prerelease EarlyFont.png
SMK prerelease FinalFont.png

SMK Nov'91 Font Type.png

Several early versions of the English font sheet.


SMK Development Font JPN Early.png

An early Japanese font sheet without an outline and less characters.

SMK Development GameOver JPN Early.png SMK Development GameOver JPN Early2.png

Early sketches for the Japanese "Game Over" sign, including a blocky version.

SMK Development Won JPN Early.png SMK Development Lost JPN Early.png

Early sketches for the "Won" and "Lost" signs from Match Race and Battle Mode.

SMK Development Retire JPN Early.png SMK Development Retire JPN Early2.png

Early sketches for the "Retire" sign. including a bubble version.

Early Choose

Early Final
SMK prerelease EarlyChooseYourDriver.png
SMK prerelease FinalChooseYourDriver.png

Early Congratulations Text

SMK prerelease EarlyAwardText.png SMK prerelease EarlyAwardText2.png

Sketchpads of the Japanese and the English "Congratulations" text from the award sequence.

Early Final
SMK prerelease EarlyAwardTextconnected.png
SMK prerelease FinalAwardText.png


Early Final

An early version of the international title screen logo, with a slightly bigger "O" and similar letter spacing to the Japanese version. Additionally, Mario's mouth is closed and the border surrounding the logo is thinner in width by a single tile. This version was last modified Jun 17, 1992.


Early Final

Another early version of the international title screen logo, also modified Jun 17, 1992. It looks closer to the Japanese logo than the final English logo, with the only exceptions being that the "O" is bigger, and Mario's mouth is closed.

Early Backgrounds

Mario Circuit Trees

Early Final
SMK prerelease EarlyTrees.png
SMK prerelease FinalTrees.png

The trees were more round.

Donut Plains Background

Early SMK prerelease EarlyDonutPlainsBG.png
Final SMK prerelease FinalDonutPlainsBG.png

The clouds were originally part of the foreground layer. Some mountains used a lost fourth color palette which got overritten with the cloud color.

Note that the color palette used by the foreground cloud still exist in the final, albeit unused.

Interestingly, the Donut Plains 1 remake from the Mario Kart DS Kiosk beta features a recreation of the background with a new mountain color, which may be the lost color from the development file.

Choco Island Background

Early SMK prerelease EarlyChocoIslandBG.png
Final SMK prerelease FinalChocoIslandBG.png

The choco mountains looked pretty different. One of the unused darker brown colors are used here.

Bowser's Castle Background

Early SMK prerelease EarlyBowsersCastleBG.png
Final SMK prerelease FinalBowsersCastleBG.png

The mountains had some different shapes. The tile for the 45% angle slope for the mountains is still left in the final tileset, unused.


SMK prerelease Freezie.png

Early Final
SMK prerelease Freezie animated.gif
SMK prerelease FinalBoo animated.gif

Found in Ghost Valley and Rainbow Road's background graphics are some hitodama which loosely resemble Fireballs from Donkey Kong and Freezies from Mario Bros. They have the same placement as the Boo graphics and were most likely used in their place before being scrapped in favor of something that would fit the Mario universe better.

Early Boo

Early Final
SMK prerelease EarlyBoo animated.gif
SMK prerelease FinalBoo animated.gif

An early backup of Ghost Valley's background graphic contains, besides the flame shown above, an earlier boo graphic. It was a bit larger and brighter, more closely resembling the boos from Super Mario World.