AI Helps Super Mario Learn to Play Video Games Without You

Mario can learn how to kill his enemies, autonomously navigate the Mushroom Kingdom, and react based on his feelings.


We’ve all found glitches in video games that make characters do crazy things, moving around and acting like they have a mind of their own. But what if they actually could think on their own, learn their virtual world, and make us gamers obsolete?

Well, researchers at the University of Tubingen in Germany have added artificial intelligence (AI) into Nintendo’s Super Mario Advance so that Mario can play his own game.

The Mario AI Project uses Carnegie-Mellon’s Sphinx speech-recognition technology to help Mario understand a large number of English commands. For example, Mario doesn’t know that he can kill Goombas simply by jumping on them. However, once you share that tidbit with him or if he figures it out on his own, he’ll remember how to kill Goombas going forward.

Check out this video of Mario learning about his surroundings:

The researchers even gave Mario feelings. If the little plumber’s hungry, he’ll collect coins. If he’s curious, he’ll autonomously explore the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario can even calculate how many moves it’ll take him to reach a certain spot in his current level.

Martin Butz, head of cognitive modeling at the University of Tubingen and one of the pioneers of the research, tells NewsWeek that “as Mario interacts with more objects he builds up knowledge rules. These rules can grow as big as the combinations that are out there in the world.”

Butz continues, “Our motivation was to illustrate what cognitive science does research on and if these principles can be implemented and used to generate live agents that are autonomous, curious, interested about their world and then able to communicate this.”

There’s a lot of potential for what this means for video games. Imagine if the AI was added to all characters within a game. The Goombas, for example, could learn Mario’s behaviors and counteract his moves, making it harder for him to complete a level.

Let’s just hope these super-intelligent characters don’t learn how to shut off our TVs and kill all the entertainment value.




About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
Contact Steve Crowe: scrowe@ehpub.com  ·  View More by Steve Crowe.




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