Cory Arcangel

Super Mario Clouds

Not on view


New Media

Handmade hacked Super Mario Brothers cartridge and Nintendo NES video game system

Dimensions variable

Accession number


Credit line
Purchase, with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee

Rights and reproductions
© Cory Arcangel. Courtesy of the artist

For this video installation, Cory Arcangel “hacked” a cartridge of Super Mario Brothers, the original version of the blockbuster Nintendo video game released in the United States in 1985. By tweaking the game’s code, the artist erased all of the sound and visual elements except the iconic scrolling clouds. On a formal level, the project is reminiscent of paintings that push representation toward abstraction: how many elements can be removed before the ability to discern the source is lost? Arcangel, who was trained in classical music, considers computers and video game consoles his instruments, and insists on mastering them prior to creative exploration; he will often learn a new programming language in order to develop a work. What might be viewed as nostalgia for the popular entertainments of an earlier era depends, in fact, on a rigorous conceptual approach to computer hard- and software as well as a refusal to participate in contemporary culture’s lightning-fast cycle of technological turnover.


  • Programmed: Rules, Codes, and Choreographies in Art, 1965–2018, Spanish

    Cory Arcangel, Super Mario Clouds, 2002

    Cory Arcangel, Super Mario Clouds, 2002


    Cory Arcangel: Me llamo Cory Arcangel. Soy programador informático y diseñador web, y vivo en Brooklyn, Nueva York.

    En 2002 creé una obra titulada Nubes Super Mario y se trata de una imagen en movimiento generada en tiempo real a partir de un cartucho modificado de Super Mario Brothers para el sistema de entretenimiento Nintendo. Cuando se inserta el cartucho en el sistema de videojuegos, lo único que se ve es un cielo azul y nubes del juego Super Mario Brothers. Es una obra no interactiva en la que las nubes solo pasan muy, muy, muy lentamente.

    Lo bueno es que mucha gente ha comenzado a usar computadoras y cuando mucha gente comienza a usar computadoras también comienzan a crear muchas cosas, ¿sabes? Y entonces te encuentras, especialmente en Internet, con todas estas maravillosas formas vernáculas de expresión que han surgido de nuestra cultura informática amateur. Y esa es una fuente de inspiración infinita.

    Creo que los museos y las galerías son geniales porque nos obligan a tener una perspectiva más amplia de la obra. Es decir, ¿cómo se verá esto dentro de 100 años? ¿Cómo se verá esto dentro de doscientos años? Y, al fin y al cabo, a pesar de que trabajo con muchos artefactos culturales relativamente actuales, mi objetivo es que sean relevantes para una cultura humana más amplia en el futuro. Y ese es el juego, de alguna manera, o uno de los juegos a los que puedes jugar en los museos y las galerías.

  • Programmed: Rules, Codes, and Choreographies in Art, 1965–2018

    Cory Arcangel, Super Mario Clouds, 2002

    Cory Arcangel, Super Mario Clouds, 2002


    Cory Arcangel: My name is Cory Arcangel. I am a computer programmer and web designer based in Brooklyn, New York.

    In 2002 I made a work called Super Mario Clouds and it is a moving image which is generated in real time off of a modified Super Mario Brothers Nintendo entertainment system cartridge. When the cartridge is inserted into the video game system, the only thing that you see is a blue sky and clouds from the game Super Mario Brothers, and it is a non-interactive work that just scrolls the clouds by very, very, very slowly.

    The great thing is that a ton of people have started using computers and when a ton of people start using computers they start making a ton of stuff, you know what I mean? And so you have, especially on the Internet, all of these wonderful vernacular forms of expression, which have emerged out of amateur computer culture. And so that is a never-ending inspiration.

    I think that museums and galleries are great because they force a kind of longer perspective on the work. Like, what will this look like in a 100 years? What will this look like in 200 years? And ultimately, even though I'm working with a lot of cultural artifacts that are relatively current, it is my goal that they would have relevance to greater human culture in the future. And that is kind of the game, or one of the games that you could play in museums and galleries.

  • America Is Hard to See, Kids

    Cory Arcangel, Super Mario Clouds, 2002

    Cory Arcangel, Super Mario Clouds, 2002


    Narrator: Have you ever played a video game? What about Super Mario Brothers? If so, did it look like this? Probably not! For one thing, there's no Mario in this version. No coins, no bricks. And no SOUND. What else is missing?

    To make this installation, Cory Arcangel hacked into the version of Super Mario Brothers he played when he was a kid and took out everything except the background. Now, just the pixilated clouds scroll across, slowly, quietly.

    If you were to hack into this—or your favorite video game—what would you take out? The heroes? The prizes? The challenges?

    How much could you take out and still recognize the original game?

    Look at the rest of the installation. See the tangled cords. The projections, and the video screens. It’s all on display as part of the artwork.

Cory Arcangel
8 works

View artist

Images and Permissions



A 30-second online art project:
American Artist, Looted

Learn more