Mario is a hero of epic proportions. Anyone who grew up with a Nintendo system has played and loved his adventures. The struggle is simple, but noble. Monster kidnaps Princess. Plumber travels immense distances over varied lands, fighting his way closer to victory inch by inch. Finally, Plumber confronts Monster, and wins the hand of Princess, only to replay the very same battle in a couple of years. It will always be this way; Plumber and Monster are engaged in an eternal struggle. Princess will always be kidnapped, Plumber will always save her. Over the years, a kind of unspoken respect has built up between foes; occasionally a game is released that temporarily depicts Mario and Bowser as allies against an external threat to their simple universe. It's as if the characters know their roles in destiny, and like any Japanese heroes of old, feel a duty to fate. I do not think this notion has been lost on the game developers.

It's somewhat surprising that the most popular and revered video game series of all time is actually taken at face value. The ridiculous premise, which today is perfectly accepted without question, essentially derives from the limitations of 1985 technology. Think about whether or not a game like this would be developed today: Overall-donned Brooklyn plumber named Mario Mario goes in and out of gigantic pipes, stomping on the heads of turtles and beetles. He punches bricks along the way, some of which give him mushrooms (which make him larger), flowers (which allow him to shoot fire out of his hand), and "starmen" (which cause him to enter some kind of invincible frenzy). In his travels, he may fall into one of hundreds of bottomless chasms, or climb Babel-inspired vines to the heavens to collect vast monetary awards. At the end of every stage, he must climb stairs and jump onto a flagpole. Then he enters some kind of outpost, which may or may not celebrate his completion of the level. He can also go down certain hidden pipes which tunnel him through space-time to bring him closer to his goal. Eventually, he kills a giant, spiky turtle and saves a princess, who may or may not be a fungus.

And I didn't even need to mention the absurdity that is Lakitu.

Silly, huh? Yet this is an accurate description of Mario's adventures, the adventures which have been woven so intimately into our popular culture. Unlike Pokémon or Power Rangers, Mario's story doesn't seem like it's only for kids. After all, once upon a time, for months on end, we took on the role of that fat plumber, and smiled at every brilliant and carefully-crafted nuance of his warped universe. And the nobility of the quest and its characters still humble us.