Feature: LEGO Designer Reveals Why The Super Mario 64 Set Is A ‘?’ And Not An ‘!’

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Lego Super Mario Question Block
Image: Nintendo / The LEGO Group

The Lego Super Mario 64 ? Block got Nintendo fans all hot under the collar when it was announced on social media. Its clever folding design in particular provides a real wow moment, as the innocuous block unfolds to reveal intricate, microscale recreations of iconic levels from Super Mario 64. It’s a fitting way to celebrate the game’s 25th anniversary, as well as a sign that Lego is committed to creating more adult-targeted Nintendo sets in addition to its kid-friendly Lego Super Mario range.

We loved 71365 Super Mario 64 ? Block in our review, praising its myriad Easter eggs and surprises, and calling it “one of the best sets to have been released in a long time”. But we still had a few questions about the design: like why Lego plumped for a ? block instead of Super Mario 64 ! block, and how exactly they came up with the show-stopping folding design.

So we shot a few questions over to set designer Daire McCabe over e-mail: here’s what he said.


Nintendo Life: Why did you choose Super Mario 64 for this set, and did you consider any other designs based around this game?

Daire McCabe: We started designing the cube and the mechanics, and together with Nintendo, we wanted to recapture the magic of Super Mario 64 because we feel it is one of the most-loved games of all time. Many of us grew up playing the game, so we thought this set would be the perfect opportunity to celebrate all of its nostalgic moments and iconic levels.

Where did the initial concept come from? Was it from Nintendo or the Lego Group?

The initial concept is the outcome of a unique partnership between the LEGO Group and Nintendo that allows us to bring Mario and his world to life in an entirely new way. Together, we have created a completely new play experience that reimagines how fans interact with LEGO sets, and the ? Block is no exception.

Super Mario 64 Block Bob Omb Battlefield
Image: Nintendo / The LEGO Group

How much input did Nintendo have on the creation of this set?

Creative teams from both companies have worked together to bring this product to life.

How did you set upon the idea of a folding design, and how difficult was this to create?

We tried dozens of iterations with all kinds of elaborate hinges and unfolding mechanisms before we decided on the version you experience in the final set.

One of the biggest challenges we faced in the design process was to figure out how the LEGO Super Mario 64 ? Block would open and transform to reveal recognizable microscale levels. We tried dozens of iterations with all kinds of elaborate hinges and unfolding mechanisms before we decided on the version you experience in the final set. This design allowed us to include most details, and we felt unfolding it was the most fun and surprising play experience.

The unfolding design is a sequence of movements that trigger each other; it was an exciting challenge to make all those parts of the sequence work smoothly, using hidden guides inside the block, and rounded edges on the main display. We also wanted the ? Block to look seamless when closed, which led to some interesting building techniques used for the hinges and doors.

Super Mario 64 is one of the few Super Mario games that doesn’t feature question mark blocks, so what led to the decision to use a question mark block for this set? Did you consider using an exclamation mark block instead?

You’re right that the ? Block didn’t feature in Super Mario 64. Including the ? Block was an intentional choice, and one we call out in the package itself. With ? Blocks, you never know what you’ll find inside, so this ? Block includes fun secrets and surprises for fans to enjoy.

How does the set integrate with the Lego Mario and Lego Luigi figures?

For interactive play, fans can add a LEGO Mario or LEGO Luigi figure to hear unique music and sounds from the video game, plus seek out the hidden Power Stars that reveal secret reactions from the figures.

Super Mario 64 Lego Block
Image: Nintendo / The LEGO Group

Which unique parts did you have to create for this set?

We created two brand new elements for this set. Element #79389: plate 1×1 with 2-module downwards bracket, and element #79491: 2×2 rounded corner plate to make the corners of the ? Block as smooth as possible.

Which microfigures are included, and how did you decide on which ones to feature?

The set includes Mario, Princess Peach, and King Bob-omb, as well as a Chain Chomp, Big Bully, Mr. I, Lakitu, penguin, baby penguin and a couple more hidden in the model which you will have to discover for yourself! We chose the characters which were the most iconic ones from the levels represented in the set.

What influenced the choice of the four levels on show, and did you consider using any other levels from the game?

the choice of levels was very much driven by what we all felt would be fan favourites

We have some huge Super Mario 64 fans on the LEGO Super Mario design team, and the choice of levels was very much driven by what we all felt would be fan favourites. Of course, we had other levels in the run-up, but we could not fit them all.

Peach’s Castle was always meant to be the centrepiece, as it is the centrepiece in the video game.

Was there anything you couldn’t include because of time or budget constraints?

A lot of ideas always go into the development of all sets, but naturally, not all of these make it into the final product.

This is the second display-focused Nintendo set after 71374 NES Console – are there plans for more Nintendo sets in the 18+ range?

We don’t comment on future product releases, but we are excited to be working together and look forward to an ongoing relationship.

Are there any plans for a Lego Super Mario-themed minifigure range to accompany the interactive and display-focused Nintendo sets?

We don’t comment on future product releases.


Have you bought and built the set yet? Looking forward to picking it up for the holidays or not interested in this particular block? Let us know with a comment below.

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