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.


  • 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.

Images and Permissions



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

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