Completing a game of ‘Super Mario Brothers’ can be very hard: MIT

Completing a game of ‘Super Mario Brothers’ can be very hard: MIT

You can’t complete the game of ‘Super Mario Brothers’ easily. That’s exactly what the researchers at MIT, the University of Ottawa, and Bard College at Simon’s Rock, have concluded in their latest paper.

They have demonstrated that the problem of solving a ‘Super Mario Brothers’ level is as difficult as the toughest problems in the ‘complexity class’ PSPACE, which means it is harder and complex as compared to the traveling-salesman problem, or any other tough problems that belong to the better-known complexity class NP.

Mario runs through the terrain unspooling from the right side of the screen in a standard ‘Super Mario Brothers’ game. While he fights with monsters, he is required to complete different kinds of tasks, including navigation of brick structures that could come up from the game’s ground plane but could also hang in the air without any support. When Mario reached a flagpole it means the level is completed.


The latest paper isn’t trying to say that any of the levels in ‘Super Mario Brothers’’s commercial versions are as hard as PSPACE, but just pointing towards the likelihood of constructing PSPACE-hard levels using the raw materials of the ‘Super Mario’ world.

The work is based on a paper that was published a couple of years back, with two of the same coauthors, showing that the difficulty level of ‘Super Mario Brothers’ is at least as tough as the most difficult problems in NP. But that time, researchers failed to determine if it was any harder. A coauthor on both the papers, Erik Demaine, an MIT professor of electrical engineering and computer science, said that PSPACE was its final home.

Demaine along with his colleagues is going to present their latest work next week at the International Conference on Fun with Algorithms.


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