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CELEBRATING MARIO’S 35TH BIRTHDAY

10 Mario Facts You Didn’t Know

The iconic plumber has a remarkable history

Walid AO
Walid AO
Sep 18 · 8 min read

When you think about video games, the name “Mario” pops immediately in your head. He is the face of an entire industry and has been around since the ‘80s. No video game character is as famous as Mario. A survey from the early ‘90s famously revealed that Mario was more recognizable to American children than Mickey Mouse.

September 13th, 2020 marked the official 35th anniversary of , and we are here to celebrate our most beloved video game character and his brother Luigi (whose name, by the way, is a pun from the Japanese word , which means “similar”).

was one of the first games to feature a continuous side-scrolling platforming experience. It offered a richness in design and presentation that went beyond many of the far simpler arcade-style games of the era. This was a , not simply a place where the next high score could be found. It is fair to say that there were video games and video games after it. Shigeru Miyamoto’s little plumber changed the industry forever.

After 35 years, you might think you know about Mario. But let’s put that knowledge to the test. Here are ten interesting facts about the Mario brothers that you may not necessarily know.

1 MARIO WAS ACTUALLY BORN IN 1981

Even though debuted in 1985, Mario himself emerged back in 1981. His first appearance was as a nameless protagonist in ; well, not entirely nameless. He was known as “Jumpman”. In , Mario has to avoid obstacles, climb ladders, and jump over gaps in order to reach the top of a construction site. Donkey Kong himself is perched atop the structure, holding Pauline (Mario’s girlfriend) hostage in a cage. This was the first example of the “damsel in distress” trope in video games.

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Source: Nintendo.

Although Jumpman and Donkey Kong appeared to be “friendly rivals”, the game’s manual actually reveals that Donkey Kong is Jumpman’s and that Donkey Kong was motivated to abduct Pauline due to being mistreated. Oof.

The game is divided into four single-screen stages; each four stages combine to form a full level. Every time the player finishes the four stages, they repeat the process with increased difficulty.

In (1982), Mario played the antagonist. Players controlled Donkey Kong Junior on his path to saving his father from his capturer Mario.

2MARIO WASN’T ALWAYS A PLUMBER

When Mario first arrived on the scene, he was actually a carpenter. He had to climb an enormous construction site to save Pauline. It made sense given the game’s narrative.

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Source: Nintendo.

But in 1983’s , Mario and brother Luigi were plumbers from New York. They had to investigate the city’s sewers after strange creatures began appearing there. The fact that the game featured so many pipes caused creator Shigeru Miyamoto initiate a career change for the brothers.

Miyamoto felt it made sense for New York to be the game’s setting, given the jungle of pipes beneath the city. He was also inspired by several manga that featured wastelands littered with pipes.

Also, fun fact: Mario didn’t have his iconic blue overalls with the red shirt and hat that we now know him for. Rather, the colours were inverted. He had red overalls and a blue hat with a blue shirt.

3 POPEYE INSPIRED MARIO

Shigeru Miyamoto originally wanted to develop a game with Popeye, Olive, and Brutus. However, Nintendo was unable to secure the license required to develop the title. Instead, they created .

A year later — after release in 1982 — Nintendo actually did release a game. It’s strikingly similar to , but Popeye himself can’t jump, and instead punches his way through the level.

4TECHNICAL LIMITATIONS ARE BEHIND MARIO’S DESIGN

Mario has a rather distinguished look thanks to his moustache and large cap. But this design came out entirely due to the technical limitations that existed in the ‘80s.

Why the hat? Well, realistic hair was difficult to portray. And the moustache helped to emphasise the nose hide the mouth (which would have been incredibly difficult to represent on a small, low-detail sprite). Finally, the boldly-coloured overalls make his movements more visible and noticeable.

5SUPER MARIO BROS.: THE FIRST GAME TO MOVIE ADAPTATION

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Poster from the film. Source: Positive Nerd.

The 1993 film was Hollywood’s first attempt to create movie based on a video game. Bob Hoskins, Dennis Hopper, and John Leguizamo starred in the critically and commercially panned film.

Reports claimed that Dustin Hoffman was interested in the role of Mario as his children were fans of the game.

In the end, Shigeru Miyamoto felt that the movie tried too hard to copy the game instead of aiming to be a .

It turns out that a CG film is coming in 2022, with Miyamoto as producer. According to Nintendo, the film development (which is a collaboration with Illumination, the company that brought to life) is going smoothly.

6NINTENDO OWNS THE RIGHTS TO TWO MARIO PORN MOVIES

In 1993 — and after the release of the movie — two porn films titled and were released. Both movies starred porn legend Ron Jeremy as Mario.

Nintendo bought the rights to both films and buried them to prevent further distribution.

7UNIVERSAL STUDIOS ALMOST KILLED THE FRANCHISE

In 1981, was a major hit that cemented Nintendo’s leading position in the world of video games. It was a cash cow for Nintendo of America; Nintendo signed deals for everything from board games, lunch boxes, and cartoon shows. They even signed licensing agreements to port the game to multiple platforms.

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Source: Nintendo.

But the party stopped when Nintendo in Japan received a telex from Universal (the enormous film conglomerate). More specifically, the telex came from their lawyers. Universal were giving Nintendo 48 hours to hand over all profits earned from and destroy all unsold inventory.

Universal claimed that infringed on their copyright. Nintendo of America met with Universal (then known as MCA Universal) and asked for a reprieve. The MCA Universal lawyers granted the request, as they saw no possible way out of the dilemma for Nintendo.

But only a month later, the two companies met again. After dinner, Nintendo (via their all-star corporate attorney Howard Lincoln, who would later become NoA Chairman) informed Universal that they would not settle; the lawsuit was on.

Nintendo had discovered that MCA Universal did not, in fact, own the copyright. They actually used Universal’s own argument against them (as Universal had once won a lawsuit by proving that was actually public domain).

With the evidence on its side, Nintendo asked the court to dismiss the case, which the judge swiftly granted. MCA Universal was ordered to pay $1.8 million in damages to Nintendo and to pay back all the money it had bulled out of -affiliated licenses.

8SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY’S WEIRD ESRB RATING

Since the ESRB was introduced in 1994, no game ever received a rating higher than E (Everyone). However, received an E10+ rating — higher than any previous game, though still lower than T (Teen).

According to the ESRB, the E10+ rating contains mild violence, mild language, and minimal suggestive themes.

Something similar happened in Japan. The game was rated there with a CERO B “Aged 12 and up” classification, making it the first game in Japan to receive such a rating.

9MARIO HAS A LAST NAME — OR DOES HE?

Since the famous Italian brothers are known as the , it has been suggested that their last name is Mario. This concept emerged in the script for the movie. It would mean that they are actually called Mario Mario and Luigi Mario.

Shigeru Miyamoto has always maintained that the brothers actually don’t have last names. But he did accept that the movie’s interpretation may have become a widely-accepted default in a 2012 interview:

10MARIO HAS APPEARED IN OVER 200 TITLES

Mario has appeared in more than 200 games since his debut as Jumpman. No other video game character has appeared in as many games as Mario. It’s not just that he appears in Nintendo console exclusives, either. Throughout the 1980s, multiple games featuring Mario were licensed for PC, Atari, and arcades. And more recently, games like have come to mobile devices.

Mario is also the regular star of multiple cross-over games. These include games such as , , , , and .

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The 35th anniversary of is a chance for gamers to reflect on gaming’s most iconic character and his development over time. The Mario games defined entertainment for an entire generation, and to this day, he remains one of the most highly-recognised, and influential figures in entertainment.

Sources to read more: 
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1 - Universal goes Ape
2 - The surprising reason Nintendo made Super Mario a plumber 35 years ago
3 - Miyamoto says Mario’s full name is “Mario Mario”
4 - List of video games featuring Mario
5 - Nintendo own the rights to two porn movies

SUPERJUMP

Celebrating video games and their creators

Walid AO

Written by

Walid AO

Engineer, writer, wild thinker, and life-loving. I write about finance, culture, gaming, the Middle East, and self-improvement.

SUPERJUMP

SUPERJUMP

Celebrating video games and their creators

Walid AO

Written by

Walid AO

Engineer, writer, wild thinker, and life-loving. I write about finance, culture, gaming, the Middle East, and self-improvement.

SUPERJUMP

SUPERJUMP

Celebrating video games and their creators

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