A rotund Italian plumber, brother to Luigi and significant other to Princess Peach Toadstool. Commonly clad in red shirt, blue overalls with prominent gold buttons, white gloves, black shoes, and his trademark red cap with an "M" monogram. Gains powers by eating or touching various objects, and attacks enemies, traditionally, by leaping into the air and landing on them. Originally concieved by Shigeru Miyamoto, as the hero in Donkey Kong. Lately residing in the Mushroom Kingdom. Star of Super Mario Brothers and many, many other games.
Most of the games starring Mario are textbook examples of the arcade platform, 2-D platform, or 3-D platform genres, and indeed the games are generally the state of the art in game design, if not not the state of the art in technology. Nintendo has also placed Mario in a cameo or cover role for many games of other genres, sports or pseudo-sports games in particular. (In addition, many of the Game and Watch rereleases ostensibly star Mario, although the appearance of Mr. Game and Watch isn't changed in these games.)
Mario: Man, Myth, Legend
by Toad M. Retainer
(This is a mélange of the sketchy, confusing, often conflicting stories of the various games Mario has starred in, written by the best NPC since the "Times are Tough" guy. While I have ignored some of the lesser appearances, like Qix, I have strived to explain every non-edutainment game he starred in, and then some. All of this is non-canon, of course, but the footnotes explain the sources of canon tidbits. Bear also in mind that where two stories absolutely conflict, I have chosen the funny choice.)
From his humble beginnings in Brooklyn1 to his heart-felt acceptance of modern technology, from the pipes beneath Brooklyn to the skies of the Mushroom Kingdom, brother to Luigi and suitor to Princess Toadstool, Mario has jumped, swum, and flown his way into the legends and hearts of the Mushroom Kingdom.
Even at a young age, Mario's fate was inextricably linked with the Mushroom Kingdom. Kamek the Magikoopa, protector and nanny to Bowser, the heir apparent to the title of King Koopa, forsaw the future rivalry between the Mario Brothers and his young ward, and arranged for the kidnapping of the then-infant Mario and his brother Luigi from the stork. However, the would-be kidnapper made a key mistake: overflying Yoshi's Island, he dropped the baby Mario, right into the hands of the indigenous, sentient clan of bipedal dinosaurs, known, collectively and individually, as "Yoshi." These good-hearted Yoshi set up a relay to reunite Mario with Luigi, defeating Kamek, Bowser, and a legion of enthralled denizens of Yoshi's Island, such as Shyguy, Thwomp, and Ralph the Raven.2 While neither Mario nor Bowser would go on to remember this encounter, it certainly left a subconscious mark on the young Mario.
After the stork returned the wayward brothers to their proper homes, they went on to have fairly normal lives. For a while. Fitting himself in as a carpenter with a steady girlfriend, Mario was an average working man, until a large, hairy monkey intervened. Donkey Kong kidnapped Pauline, Mario's then-girlfriend, and fled to a building in progress, full of exposed girders and dangerous falls. Mario took on the persona of "Jumpman", and gave chase, seeking to rescue his lady love.3 While his confrontation is the most famous, it later came to light that this was only the first skirmish between the tour, as Mario pursued Donkey Kong to the ends of the earth, finally freeing Pauline once and for all, and casting Donkey Kong low.4
Although Pauline was safe and Donkey Kong was defeated, Mario was an obsessed man. He couldn't stop thinking of the ape who had attacked him out of nowhere, and his life, his relationship, his career...they all began to fall apart. Mario could not take his mind off of his vengeance, until he hatched a scheme to repay Donkey Kong for all of the pain, all of the effort, all of the barrels. Mario, however, was no evil genius. He knocked Donkey Kong in the back of the head with a sap, locked the hapless ape in a cage, and dragged him to the jungle. However, Mario really wasn't cut out for the villain business, and was handily defeated by the next generation of the Kong clan, Donkey Kong Junior, who had come to free his father.5
Mario was a shell of a man. No job, no love, not even his hate to keep him alive, he wandered aimlessly in life. He eventually ended up rooming with his brother, Luigi, and working in the family plumbing business. Mario got on his feet, and managed to reconstruct something of a will to live. As he grew to embrace his new career, a fateful thing happened. While working on a combination plumbing-extermination project with his good friend Stanley, Mario and Luigi were sucked into an overlarge pipe, and found themselvses falling for what seemed like forever. Somehow, though, their landing was as perfect, leaving them unharmed. That wasn't the least of the strangeness; they found themselves in a world of pipes, surrounded by strange belligerent turtles, crabs, and other enemies.6 While nobody but the brothers Mario know what happened in those deep, dark tunnels, it's said that they confronted Bowser down there, and first heard of dark times in the Mushroom Kingdom.7
What is known is that Mario and Luigi stepped out of a pipe and found a wasteland. Bowser, having styled himself "King Koopa", had taken absolute control of the Mushroom Kingdom. The vile fiend had imprisoned Princess Toadstool and her retainers in elaborate fortress-dungeons, and turned all of the citizens loyal to the Toadstool dynasty into harmless objects. Bowser's minions, the Goombas and the Koopa Troopas, roamed the streets, pillaging at random. Nobody knows what compelled him, but Mario led the charge against the Koopa reign of terror, freeing the Princess and her courtiers. It's rumored that this is the point where Mario and the Princess first hit off their on-again, off-again relationship, but without direct word from Mario or Peach, this isn't clearly known.8
Bowser wasn't done yet. He made another bid for power, kidnapping the Princess and challenging the upstart Mario. What wasn't obvious, though, is that he had poisoned many of the Super Mushrooms Mario had demonstrated a proclivity for. While some were obviously corrupt and toxic, others were subtly laced with a slow-acting, powerful hallucinogen.9 While Mario handily defeated Bowser a second time, the poison had already begun to take hold...
Mario, in a delirious state, wandered back through the tunnels to his home of Brooklyn, lost and alone. Bowser followed him, and went on a crime spree. stealing everything that wasn't bolted down and a great deal of what was. Ever the opportunist, he tied up and hauled off the delirious Mario. Luigi, more fastidious than the gluttonous Mario, was unaffected by the subtle sabotage, and leveraged his home-turf advantage, quickly rounding up the Koopa thugs and their overgrown leader.10 He issued the Koopas a now-famous ultimatum: return Mario and return to the Mushroom Kingdom, or find themselves at the mercy of dissection-happy scientists.
While the power of Bowser was broken for a time, Mario had shrunken into his own fevered dreams. Having dreamed himself a whole world, populated by the denizens of Yoshi's Island and the fears of his own subconscious, we has trapped, until he dealt with his own dark side, represented by Wart. While he eventually went on to defeat his own inner demons, analyzing the dreams gives a key clue to Mario's one weakness: Mario defeated his internal foes with a healthy diet, overcoming his previous weakness, his crippling gluttony. When he finally overthrew Wart and reclaimed his dream, he had overcome this fatal weakness, at least for a time.11
While Luigi was flush with confidence after his victory over the Koopa cadre, Mario awoke from his drug-induced haze a changed man. Starting things off, Mario excelled in his accellerated medical training12. Fresh out of medical school, so driven was he, Mario eventually joined a group of suvivalists in Sarasaland, learning such varied paramilitary skills as piloting a fighter and manning the conn of a submarine.
All of these skills, as well as being in Sarasaland at the right time, would pay off for Mario. Tatanga, a tyrant from outer space, staged a sudden coup, by hyponotizing the inhabitants of Sarasaland and seizing the heir apparent to the throne, Princess Daisy, and declaring himself absolute ruler of her domain. Mario, resisting to the hypnotism by dint of his steel will, single-handedly overthrew the villainous Tatanga, forced to slay his hypnotized survivalist comrades along the way.13 For his heroism and sacrifice, he was given a fiefdom in Sarasaland, afterwards known as "Mario Land."
Mario slowed down a little at this point, building himself a castle and enjoying the high life for a while, spending a little time in the company of Princess Daisy, merely as friends, altough he would later come to learn that Luigi was sweet on her14. Things went fairly well, as Mario took up golf, crossword puzzles, and, after being persuaded by Princess Toadstool, tennis,15 and generally made himself comfortable in his new home, even taking up a part-time teaching job at a local school for a while, teaching art and typing.16 He tried drawing tourists to Mario Land, opening a resort hotel, but the high cost and the lack of anything to do closed that plan quickly.17 Of course, things never stay idyllic for Mario for long...
Mario went out for a longish trip, visiting Luigi in Brooklyn, and left the castle and his territory in the competant hands of his retainers. However, when he returned to Mario Land, the caretakers were nowhere to be found, replaced with a swarm of angry minions (including the now-subserviant Tatanga), all protecting his castle. After fighting through this horde and to the core of his former home, what did he find but...
...well, nobody is quite sure what it was that he found, but it looked for all the world like a greedy, fat, angry, yellow-clad version of Mario. This odd doppelganger called himself Wario, with a "W"-monogrammed hat and everything.18 While he was no match for the veteran Mario, some strange feeling of familiarity stayed Mario's hand, and Wario was simply sent off crying like a little girl. (The rest of Wario's story is elsewhere, as he troubled Mario no more after that.)
Mario had no sooner returned the dominion of Mario Land to the Sarasans than news came to him of trouble in the Mushroom Kingdom. No sooner had he returned to Brooklyn to retrieve Luigi did news come to him of open war between the Mushroom Kingdom and the Koopa Troop...the Koopas had raised a new army, with bizarre airships and baroque ships and tanks, all deadset on conquering the Mushroom Kingdom once and for all!
The brothers returned just a moment too late, as Bowser had already escaped with the Princess and deployed his armada, lead by his children acting as lieutenants. Mario and Luigi lead the resistance, leading the loyalists to victory after victory, often in strange outfits rumored to have magical powers, including the ability to fly! Whether it was giant Pirhana Plants or tiny Goombas, though, the duo stomped, swam, and flew their way to victory, eventually dismantling even Bowser's personal guard of tanks and ships, and casting the foul lizard into the dungeons of his own castle.19 With this defeat, even the Koopa Troop's loyalty began to waver. While Bowser was still their acknowledged leader, talk was getting around...it wasn't "When will we take over?" any more. It was becoming "Who will lead us when we take over?"
In the meantime, all was well. Mario and Peach's relationship grew closer and closer, to the point that they were spending a great deal of time together. The Mushroom Kingdom flourished, but, under, around, and beneath everything good and pure, a creeping evil was growing again.
As Mario and Luigi neglected their ties to Brooklyn, Bowser had already begun sullying their good names, ruining forever any memory of the good they may have done. First, the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, despite the passionate and enthusiastic performance of Captain Lou Albano, it did little for the Mario Brothers' reputation. The killing blow to their credibility, was the laughable Super Mario Brothers movie, an incredible abomination which spread many myths, including the supposed last name of "Mario". While the contents of these bastardizations are most certainly false, they did a great deal to ruin the good names of the Mario Brothers in their hometown, a fact that caused them quite a bit of worry, and prompted their permanent residence in the Mushroom Kingdom.
Trying to take their minds off of the mudslinging in their former home, Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach (the brothers were on first name basis with her by now) decided that a bit of an escape was in order. The trio commissioned the royal hot-air balloon to visit nearby Yoshi's Island, planning simply to picnic there, away from the troubles of their homes. Little did they know that Bowser had had much the same idea, retreating to Yoshi's Island to escape his troubles in the Mushroom Kingdom while regrouping the Koopa Troop. While Mario and Luigi flew around without a care in the world, thanks to the magical feathers of the island, Bowser snuck in and kidnapped the hapless Princess yet again, earning the continued ire of the Mario brothers.20
Once again with the help of the indigent Yoshi, Mario and Luigi overcame what would become known as the last stand of the Koopa Troop. On a lonely island in the middle of Yoshi Island's harbor, Mario cast down Bowser in front of the entire Koopa clan, leaving the heartless reptile broken and powerless, in front of what were once his allies.21
During the subsequent peace, Mario studiously kept his martial edge, taking up racing in the Super Circuit, competing against both friends and former enemies.22 His vigilance was proven when Smithy struck, in the least likely of places.
While rescuing the Princess from a half-hearted kidnapping attempt on the part of Bowser and the tattered remnants of the Koopa Troop, their confrontation was dramatically interrupted. A giant sword, later identifying himself as "Smithy", fell from the sky, impaling Bowser's Castle and shattering the Star Road. Smithy's minions fanned out from their impromptu base, spreading out across the Mushroom Kingdom and stirring up trouble everywhere from a collective of Zen Buddhist frogs to a colony of expatriot Yoshi. Mario, prepared for just such a disaster, set out to defeat this foe, banding up along the way with an amnesiac orphan cloud named Mallow, a possessed doll known as Geno, Princess Toadstool herself (after rescuing her from Booster, who bore a frightening resemblance to Wario), and even the disheartened and abandoned Bowser. Together, this motley crew defeated and expelled the otherworldly invader, restoring the Star Road.23
Bowser found himself without allies after this incident, but no longer without purpose. A single, sudden strike at the home of his enemies was the perfect plan, not a drawn-out largescale invasion. Living by this, he attacked Princess Toadstool at her home, the royal castle of the family Toadstool. Drawing on his refocused magical abilities, he turned the castle Toadstool into a maze of hidden worlds, each more insidious than the last, and scattered 100 stars stolen from the Star Road throughout them. Mario, on his way to the castle for a birthday celebration for the Princess, was not fazed for long by this elaborate trap, and fearlessly blazed a path through the castle, eventually casting Bowser low once again, freeing the Princess from his grasp.24
The castle was cleaned out and the birthday celebration began in earnest, but Bowser wasn't done yet. Soon enough, he used a Star Rod from his recent ransaking of the Star Road to enhance his latent magical powers, rendering himself immune to Mario's attacks as he literally flew off with Princess Toadstool's castle, Princess included. He tossed Mario aside like so much garbage, and went about reconstructing the Koopa Troop, styling himself once again as King Koopa. While Mario convalesced, Bowser reformed the Koopa Troop and once again asserted his dominion over the Mushroom Kingdom.
After a period with a family of friendly Goombas spent recovering his strength, Mario once again set out to overthrow the self-styled "King" Koopa. Tapping the aid of former allies once again, Mario found himself leading an alliance of dissenters against the Koopa regime, composed of the oppressed natives sick of the depredations of the Koopa Troop loyalists, and the denizens of the Star Road rendered powerless and imprisoned.
With both the shock power of the Star Roaders and the sheer numbers of the population of the Mushroom Kingdom, even Bowser's newfound magical prowess couldn't stop Mario's revolution, and the "King" Koopa was again cast down, fleeing with his personal guard and the few members of his family still loyal to him.25
Mario, since then, hasn't lost his edge. Between his involvement in underground boxing clubs26, his constant cart-racing competition on the Super Circuit27, Mario has even found time for public exhibitions of his skills28 to help maintain the kind of solidarity that the revolutions against Bowser fostered. With time, however, Mario has allowed himself to soften a bit; he's currently off on vacation with Princess Peach.29 I'm sure, when he returns, he'll be back to his fighting form, as the eternal protector of the Mushroom Kingdom.
1 - The Super Mario Bros. Super Show
2 - Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
3 - Donkey Kong - Mario was "Jumpman", a carpenter in Donkey Kong. He was named Mario in Donkey Kong Junior, and became a plumber in Mario Brothers.
4 - Donkey Kong for the Super Gameboy was set in a variety of locales.
5 - Donkey Kong Junior
6 - Mario Brothers - Stanley of Donkey Kong 3 fame was never officially involved.
7 - Super Mario Advance - The Mario Brothers minigame in this series has an appearance by Bowser.
8 - Super Mario Brothers
9 - The Japanese Super Mario Brothers 2, later released in the US as the "lost levels" in Super Mario All-Stars
10 - Mario Is Missing
11 - Super Mario Brothers 2 - It's worth noting that no mention of drugs or psychological problems in SMB2, but both are common conclusions made about the game.
12 - Dr. Mario
13 - Super Mario Land - The game itself included no survivalists, though.
14 - Mario Tennis
15 - Golf for the NES and Gameboy, Mario Picross, and Tennis for the Gameboy
16 - Mario Paint and Mario Teaches Typing
17 - The abberant and abhorrent Hotel Mario
18 - Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins
19 - Super Mario Brothers 3
20 - The intro to Super Mario Advance 2
21 - Super Mario World
22 - Super Mario Kart
23 - Super Mario RPG
24 - Super Mario 64
25 - Paper Mario - I took suprisingly few liberties with the story of this game.
26 - Super Smash Bros. and Super Smash Bros. Melee
27 - Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart Super Circuit
28 - The Mario Party series
29 - Super Mario Sunshine
Thanks to Electronics Games Monthly, whose parody of "Behind the Music" in their preview of Super Mario Sunshine, issue #150, in large part inspired this insane undertaking.