Introduction: 2 Bit Mario


This is basically a proof of concept. I'm looking at building a bigger one of these depending on how this small one works.

I could of easily use a motor or stepper to drive the moment but want this to be bare bones.

What is missing here is the additional sounds when Mario scores or runs into an enemy. If I was to make a larger version I would be using RFID tags taped into the Mario map to do that. They were just too big to use in this smaller version.

This isn't an original idea on my part. I found a cardboard Mario example on the web which was the motivation for me doing this and some 1940s arcade games use a moving map in them.

I have to admit I've never ever played the game before but I felt the need to make this~


Step 1: Tools & Supplies

Specialty tools

eBay Laser cutter

Corel Draw subscription with laser cutter add-in to drive the laser cutter from Corel draw


The rest -typical tools you would use for a project like this.

Special Project Supplies

plywood board, printer paper, tape, Birch laser cutter wood, etc.

PVC pipe for the rollers

Thin strand of paracord for the 'Mario Guide'

Spring, bicycle spoke, 1/4" and 5/32 collars to hold the rollers and rods to their pieces.


Photo Interrupter Board with GP1A57HRJ00f

Little boom box or amplified speaker to play the music

Step 2: Making the Drawings, Cutting the Pieces, Making the Rollers

All of this was seat of my pants. Just kinda design as I go along and see what happens.

I picked pieces and sizes based on it fitting on a 2'x4' piece of plywood.

For the gears - GREAT site! Picked my gears, pitch, etc. Paid like 2 bucks for 24 hour use of their site and downloaded a bunch of files that I imported into Corel Draw. Easy stuff

Step 3: The Mario Track

For the Mario track I found a link to the first level of the game. I imported them into CorelDraw, resized them and printed them out on printer paper.

Then i used a glossy clear sticker paper to kind of laminate them so they won't tear so easily. Not an easy task either but after part of a day I had my 'track'

Step 4: Rollers

Made the rollers from 3" PVC pipe. I laser cut the pieces for the tops and bottoms.

for the axles for the rollers I use 1/4 steel rod. I figured what the track was going to look like and drilled the holes.

I know that a 1/4" rod stuck into a 1/2" piece of plywood won't be stable so I epoxied a 2x2 piece on the bottom below the hole then drilled so the rod will be sunk 2+ inches so it will be stable and not move (much).

For the drive roller I epoxied a 1/4" collar to the top of the roller so it can be physically connected to the rod.

I made some spacers so that the rollers won't be dragging on the plywood (see photo). I also made the tops and bottoms a little bigger to act as a guide for the map.

Step 5: Map Tensioner

So I needed some way to keep tension on the map when its rolling - think the two little wheels on a rear bicycle derailleur.

Easy enough to do. connected one of the 1/4 rods to a piece of flat steel and another 1/4" rod for the roller axle. found a spring, put some tension on it and my tensioner was done

Step 6: Map Drive

Pictures hopefully tell it all.

used the 90 deg drive screwed and epoxied onto the plywood. one end connects to the 1/4" axle where the roller with the 1/4" collar on the top will be connected so when I turn the 90 deg drive the roller turns.

Used a 1/2 faucet hose (with the ends cut off 1/4" inside dia) as the flexible drive shaft.

Glued another 2x2 piece of wood to the top of the plywood. Got another 1/4" shaft welded a crank handle to the shaft. Connected the hose with some hose clamps. Done. now when you crank the handle, the roller turns. Since the tensioner has the map snug and the drive roller is turning its enough friction to roll the map along.

Step 7: Photo-Interrupter Driver

So we want to play the Mario theme but I didn't want an on/off switch. I wanted to detect when the roller was being turned and start playing the music.

So I made the photo-interrupter in CorelDraw and laser cut it out. I've used this photo interrupter before - super easy to use and just basically guess about the slot width and gaps. Turned out I guessed ok!

I bolted the interrupter on the top of the roller vs gluing because if it didn't work I wanted to be able to make a new one~

Step 8: Software

Found a Mario theme song program for the Arduino from this link:

I updated it to use the photo-Interrupter and drive a mini boom-box.

Step 9: Mario Mover

This by far was the most difficult part.

If you look at the images you can see two versions of this. One with the orange cable that the design was a fail and another for the moving mechanism that was cable driven - which also was a fail. This is what you get when you design on the fly...

Using a bicycle spoke as a drive rod worked out the best for this. Also the gear ratio was worked over a couple of times. Since I'm turning a gear with a rod - linear movement - you can only turn a gear so far. after trial and error I figured the gear ratio that would work with the linear movement available to me. it ended up being a 6:1 ratio. 10 teeth and 60 teeth. Again thanks to for making this part of things super easy.

So -

Game lever moves and its connected to the spoke - spoke pushes 60 tooth gear one direction or the other. 60 tooth gear rotates 10 tooth gear that is attached to a pulley and causes it to turn. Mario guide wire moves up and down with the game lever movement.

For the Mario guide wire I used a strand of paracord (A piece of paracord is made of multiple strands of smaller strands - that's what I used). Tied a washer to one end and a spring to the other. Wrap it around the two pullies and adjust it so it has some tension. By using the washer it allows me to disconnect the guide wire since the other end of the spring is tied to the guide wire. Also the spring caused tension so that the cord will turn when the drive pulley is turned.

Step 10: Little Mario

So I glued a piece of the birch plywood to the Mario Drive cord. Then I found a Mario image, imported and printed it out. Then I glue stick-ed Mario to the plywood piece epoxied to the drive cord. So I could replace Mario and not have to re-epoxy the wood to the cord (which in reality means I have to make a new drive cord.

Step 11: Putting It All Together

Futzing and fooling around with alignment, etc. etc. etc. All my random choices come crashing together trying to make it work like I was thinking it should when I started.

Well - Check out the video and see for yourself.

Step 12: What Worked, What Didn't

Well I built this as a POC to see if I wanted to build a bigger one -

My decision - Nope, nada, no way. This isn't anything that is fun to play with.

Issues discovered -

the tension on the Mario drive and track drive is a joke. I believe I need to have teeth on the belt drive - think a roll of film kind of thing. If I was to build a 6ft tall x 10ft wide one of these I wouldn't want to deal with a drive like that. Too tedious.

I also have no idea where I would get a map printed on canvas as big as I wanted. Probably have to hand paint the whole thing...

the guide wire that Mario is glued to will eventually slip on the pullies. Easy enough to readjust but for a larger version I would of used bicycle chain vs say a nylon cable. With the chain and a couple of bicycle sprockets Mario would always stay in place.

I also don't thin it would be practical to easily turn a handle to move a track as big as I want. I could of geared it down but it may not have been practical to use - too many turns to keep it moving. I could of also overcame that with a hand crank with a generator that would be used to drive a drive motor.

Lots of of other things that would need some serious re-work to get it right. All do-able if you wanted to put the time in of course.

That's it~