CELEBRATING MARIO’S 35TH BIRTHDAY
10 Mario Facts You Didn’t Know
The iconic plumber has a remarkable history
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 Super Mario Bros., 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 Ruiji, which means “similar”).
Super Mario Bros. 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 world you entered, not simply a place where the next high score could be found. It is fair to say that there were video games before Super Mario Bros. and video games after it. Shigeru Miyamoto’s little plumber changed the industry forever.
After 35 years, you might think you know everything there is to 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
Jumpman versus the king of the apes
Even though Super Mario Bros. debuted in 1985, Mario himself emerged back in 1981. His first appearance was as a nameless protagonist in Donkey Kong; well, not entirely nameless. He was known as “Jumpman”. In Donkey Kong, 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.
Although Jumpman and Donkey Kong appeared to be “friendly rivals”, the game’s manual actually reveals that Donkey Kong is Jumpman’s pet 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 Donkey Kong Jr. (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
A man of many talents
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.
But in 1983’s Mario Bros., 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
A lucky licensing mishap
Shigeru Miyamoto originally wanted to develop a Popeye game with Popeye, Olive, and Brutus. However, Nintendo was unable to secure the license required to develop the title. Instead, they created Donkey Kong.
A year later — after Donkey Kong’s release in 1982 — Nintendo actually did release a Popeye game. It’s strikingly similar to Donkey Kong, but Popeye himself can’t jump, and instead punches his way through the level.
4TECHNICAL LIMITATIONS ARE BEHIND MARIO’S DESIGN
Necessity is the mother of invention
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 and 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
The awkward but loveable ’90s film
The 1993 film Super Mario Bros. 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 good movie.
It turns out that a Super Mario 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 Minions to life) is going smoothly.
6NINTENDO OWNS THE RIGHTS TO TWO MARIO PORN MOVIES
In 1993 — and after the release of the Super Mario Bros. movie — two porn films titled Super Hornio Brothers and Super Hornio Brothers II 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
Clash of the titans
In 1981, Donkey Kong 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.
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 Donkey Kong and destroy all unsold inventory.
Universal claimed that Donkey Kong infringed on their King Kong 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 King Kong copyright. They actually used Universal’s own argument against them (as Universal had once won a lawsuit by proving that King Kong 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 Donkey Kong-affiliated licenses.
8SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY’S WEIRD ESRB RATING
Pushing the boundaries?
Since the ESRB was introduced in 1994, no Super Mario game ever received a rating higher than E (Everyone). However, Super Mario Odyssey 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 Super Mario game in Japan to receive such a rating.
9MARIO HAS A LAST NAME — OR DOES HE?
Did the movie influence the game?
Since the famous Italian brothers are known as the Super Mario Brothers, it has been suggested that their last name is Mario. This concept emerged in the script for the Super Mario Bros. 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 kind of accept that the movie’s interpretation may have become a widely-accepted default in a 2012 interview:
“This is an old story, but Hollywood did a film version of the Mario Bros. many years back. There was a scene in the script where they needed a last name for the characters. Somebody suggested that, because they were the Mario Bros., their last name should be Mario. So, they made him “Mario Mario.” I heard this and laughed rather loudly. Of course, this was ultimately included in the film. Based on the film, that’s [how] their names ended up. But, just like Mickey Mouse doesn’t really have a last name, Mario is really just Mario and Luigi is really just Luigi.”
10MARIO HAS APPEARED IN OVER 200 TITLES
The ubiquitous plumber
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 Super Mario Run have come to mobile devices.
Mario is also the regular star of multiple cross-over games. These include games such as Super Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., Mario Tennis, Mario Golf, and Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
The 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. 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:
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
Walid Al Otaibi -WAO- is a top writer in Gaming. He works at an engineering company in Germany as a Project Manager. He comes from a multicultural background and is located in Germany since 2003. He is writing about Arab Culture, Multiculturalism, Finance, and Trending topics.