Over the holiday season we’ll be republishing a series of Nintendo Life articles, interviews and other features from the previous twelve months that we consider to be our Best of 2020. Hopefully, this will give you a chance to catch up on pieces you missed, or simply enjoy looking back on a year which did have some highlights — honest!
This feature was originally published in August 2020.
The recent partnership between Nintendo and LEGO has produced a number of quality play sets based on Super Mario, and there have been other sets of various sizes (and quality) available in the past that recreate the characters and setting of the Mushroom Kingdom.
However, one man found the available options unsatisfactory and thought he could do better himself. So he did! That man was Thomas Robertson and he set out to construct a Super Mario-themed play set for a young relative. The results speak for themselves, and we recently caught up with Tom to find out more and get a more detailed look at the project. Without further ado, we’ll hand over to Tom…
My niece is six tomorrow and obsessed with all things Mario (like me). She has so many action figures but the play sets on the market are pretty low end and not that exciting. She watches an American family called The Heywoods on YouTube who built their own play sets and inspired me to make this one. I wanted it to resemble a Mario platformer as much as possible, so it has a “bonus” cloud level on the top shelf, a classic “Acorn Plains” on the middle and a “Bowser’s Castle” on the bottom, complete with Peach being held hostage by Bowser. The pipes between levels are functional and allow Mario to travel from one to the other, the flag moves up and down the pole and Bullet Bill & the lava are on springs to bring the set to life even more.
I hope you guys like it, I’ve been asked by many people from the Nintendo UK Facebook group to make one for them but I think I’ll keep it as a one off!
What was the idea behind the project?
The idea came from my niece, Phoebe who saw a similar playset on YouTube and said she wanted something similar. She has so many action figures but the play sets that Nintendo offer aren’t that great so I thought “why not give it a go?”.
Do any parts move / are there any interactive parts?
The set has a few moving parts. The flag goes up and down the pole, Bullet Bill and the Lava are on springs so they wobble back and forth and Peach is in a suspended cage that open up for her to be rescued. My favourite part though are the pipes that are fitted between the shelves and allow Mario to travel from one level to another just like he would in the games.
How big is it?
The set is about 3ft tall x 2.5 wide…..it wouldn’t go in the car so had to use a minibus to get it home. I’m lucky enough to work at a centre that has a large art room I was able to use to make it.
What is it made of?
The set was originally an Ikea bookshelf unit. The props are made from all different things. The clouds and mushrooms on the top level were cut out of MDF and sanded into shape. The pipes are all heavy duty water pipes that we cut to size and spray painted. The “rocks” on the middle level are custom made from solid oak thanks to a very talented friend. The walkways on the bottom level are all made of Jenga blocks glued together and painted.
Which games did you use as reference material?
I’m a thirty-year fan of Mario myself since I got my first NES aged eight. The look of the set was mainly based on the newer Super Mario Bros games as that’s what my niece is more familiar with. The backgrounds were all hand painted by an incredible artist and friend of mine Lee Clark. He helped me design and make the whole set. I have had requests from friends to make a Pokemon and a Zelda one too.
How long did it take you to make?
All in all it took about three months to make. Obviously I work full time so it was mainly on weekends. There was a lot of trial and error involved, especially with the pipes, so we got through a few cans of green spray paint.
Huge thanks to Tom for reaching out and taking the time to answer our questions – we’re sure you scored some amazing brownie points with this project. What do you make of Tom’s effort? Have you ever made anything similar? Let us know in the comments below.