(As a preface, I have no skin in the game with this particular question. I was just browsing and thought it looked interesting, but can't figure out why it's off topic.)

The question Why do I turn into super Mario instead of fire Mario when I touch a fire flower AS SMALL Mario in Super Mario Bros 1? was posted two days ago, hit the hot questions list, and was eventually closed as off topic. There's no comments under the question indicating why it's off topic (possibly they were cleaned up by a moderator.)

It's basically a question about a game mechanic, which is on-topic according to the topic list in the FAQ linked from the close banner. Basically it's in the form "when I did X, I expected Y to happen, but instead Z happened. why?" There are two answers -- one incorrect, and the other a bunch of source code. Neither is particularly good, which shouldn't be relevant to the on-topic-ness of the question. I'm ignoring all the votes because as a former HNQ question those are all suspect anyway.

This seems like a perfectly legitimate question to me. It's perfectly answerable without decompiling to source -- obviously reading the source code will confirm the answer. It could even be answered without referencing the source at all, and instead by just stating the facts ("You only transition to fire state if you start off as Super Mario; if you're Small, you transition back to Super; if you're in any other state, nothing happens." etc.)

Why is this off-topic?

2 Answers 2


I believe that the moderator that closed the question believed it to be under the following prohibited question category:

  • Speculations on future of the industry, upcoming (but unreleased) games or content, and developer intent on mechanics and narrative

The way I see it, a question that asks "Why is this feature the way it is?" and that can be answered with a simple sentence, "Because the developers wanted it that way", would warrant it as being prohibited.

I don't see the question you reference as being a true speculation. After seeing the definition of the word "speculation," I highly disagree that the question is a speculation, because it doesn't form a theory or conjecture. Instead, it is questioning behaviour that may or may not be intended, and because they didn't know that it was intended, we can't say it was their fault for asking about it. We should always consider closing questions as if the question was unanswered. Now that we know the answers to the question, it is clear that the behaviour is intended, but we wouldn't know that if the question was unanswered.

I suppose closing the question as off-topic would basically give them the answer they wanted, as if we were trying to say, "because your question is off-topic, yes, it is intended," but that just strikes me as unfair and wrong. I have instead voted to reopen the question, and this will let the existing answer stand.

  • Oh that's interesting. I didn't get the meaning of "why did they build it like this?" when I first read it; rather I thought it was asking "when I hit this powerup i expected X to happen, but Y did instead... why?" I went back and reread it and I guess it could be read either way. Clearly "why was it implemented like this" would be off-topic, if that's what it's actually asking. Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 6:52
  • 3
    "it is clear that the behaviour is intended". Because the game is working as it's coded? I'd be surprised if the game wasn't working as it's coded. Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 8:15
  • @Wrigglenite You never know, they might have encountered a bug, in which case it may need to be reported.
    – One 2 Many
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 19:06

The (original) question actually posed two separate questions:

  • In the title: "Why do I turn into super Mario instead of fire Mario?", and
  • In the body: "Is this a bug?"

We can (and have) answered the former. Experts in Super Mario have decompiled the game code and figured out the 'Why'. This showcases the core what our site is about - getting expert answers from people intimately familiar with the game.

The latter question, 'Is this a bug?' - we can't answer this definitively - we can guess, hell we can even make an educated guess, but the devs are the only ones who could say for sure. Maybe it's working as intended, i.e. they wanted the powerups to act as different 'levels' or 'tiers'. Or maybe it is a bug; they ran out of time/room/coffee and had to compromise. The point is - who knows?. An educated guess is still a guess, which is why questions that ask "why did the devs do this?" are off topic here.

So with all that said, I've edited the post to remove the 'Is this a bug?" question. As such I don't feel the question falls under 'dev intent' any more.

  • So asking about questionable behaviour and asking "is this a bug?" means it's off-topic?
    – One 2 Many
    Commented Apr 15, 2021 at 23:18
  • @ExpertCoder14 Asking "how does this questionable behaviour work" is perfectly ok, because it's something us with our "gaming" hats on can reasonably answer. Asking "is this a bug?" - well, what answer do you expect? My educated guess as a developer, yeah it's probably a bug, but I don't know that for sure, and the only people that could say for certain are the ones that originally coded the game. That's why it's 'asking for developer-only info', and therefore would be off-topic if that were the whole question.
    – Robotnik Mod
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 4:43

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