Best Practices
May 31, 2024
min read

Onboarding New Users: Lessons from Shigeru Miyamoto

Olaf Jacobson
Founder & Business Development, Soon

Shigeru Miyamoto, the creative force behind many of Nintendo's most beloved games, has a lot to teach about onboarding new players. His design philosophy focuses on intuitive gameplay, gradual learning, and rewarding exploration, ensuring that players of all skill levels can jump in and enjoy the experience. Let's dive into some of Miyamoto's key strategies, with examples from his iconic games.

Intuitive Design: Super Mario Bros.

One of the most renowned examples of intuitive design is the first level of Super Mario Bros. As soon as players start the game, they are presented with a simple yet effective learning environment. The game begins with Mario standing on the left side of the screen, encouraging players to move right. The placement of a Goomba enemy forces players to discover the jump mechanic to avoid it. This level design teaches basic controls without the need for explicit instructions, making it easy for anyone to start playing.

Gradual Learning Curve: The Legend of Zelda

In The Legend of Zelda, Miyamoto employs a gradual learning curve that introduces players to the game mechanics slowly. Players begin in a relatively safe environment where they can explore and find their first sword. As they progress, they encounter more challenging enemies and puzzles. This gradual increase in difficulty helps players build their skills and confidence, ensuring they are ready for the tougher challenges ahead.

Visual and Contextual Clues: Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64 revolutionized 3D gaming, and Miyamoto made sure the onboarding process was smooth. The game's opening area, Peach's Castle courtyard, serves as a sandbox where players can experiment with Mario's new 3D movement abilities. Visual clues, such as arrows and distinctive landmarks, guide players without breaking the immersion. The design subtly directs players towards objectives, making the learning process feel natural.

Encouraging Exploration: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a masterclass in encouraging exploration. From the moment players step out of the Shrine of Resurrection, they are given the freedom to explore the vast world of Hyrule. The game rewards curiosity with hidden treasures, shrines, and Korok seeds. This design encourages players to experiment and discover on their own, reinforcing their understanding of the game's mechanics through exploration.

Feedback and Rewards: Super Mario Galaxy

In Super Mario Galaxy, Miyamoto ensures that players receive immediate feedback and rewards. Collecting Star Bits, finding hidden stars, and hearing the celebratory sound effects when completing a level all provide positive reinforcement. These elements keep players motivated and make the learning process enjoyable, as they are constantly rewarded for their progress.

Accessibility and Inclusivity: Mario Kart 8

Mario Kart 8 demonstrates Miyamoto's commitment to accessibility. The game includes features like auto-acceleration and smart steering, which make it easier for newcomers to enjoy the game alongside seasoned players. These features ensure that everyone, regardless of their skill level, can have a fun and competitive experience.

Iterative Testing and Refinement: Pikmin

Miyamoto is known for his rigorous playtesting and iteration process. In Pikmin, the balance between strategy and action was fine-tuned through extensive testing. Observing how players interacted with the game allowed Miyamoto and his team to make adjustments that ensured the onboarding experience was smooth and enjoyable.


Shigeru Miyamoto's approach to onboarding new players is a blend of intuitive design, gradual learning, and rewarding exploration. By incorporating these principles into his games, he creates experiences that are welcoming to newcomers while still challenging for veterans. Whether it's through the seamless level design of Super Mario Bros., the exploratory freedom of Breath of the Wild, or the inclusive features of Mario Kart 8, Miyamoto's games continue to set the standard for player-friendly design.

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