Get ready to go back to school, pizanos, because there’s so much you don’t know about Nintendo’s big hero…
An apocryphal story says that at one time Mario was more famous with kids than Mickey Mouse, and while I find that a little hard to believe, I do think he’s likely the most famous game character on Earthh – or has (ugh) Minecraft Steve replaced him? Regardless, Mario has been starring in games since 1981’s Donkey Kong, and has been Nintendo’s main man ever since Super Mario Bros. was the NES’ killer app in 1985. You must know everything about him, right?
With a career that’s more than three decades old, Mario’s life is full of secrets and undiscovered trivia the likes of which you could never imagine. Name changes, secret first appearances, unknown cameos, and so much more happened in Mario’s past, so it’s up to me to clue all of you in. At the very least, this should help you out when designing your Super Mario Maker stages.
The Famicom Disc System version of Super Mario Bros. has a totally different Minus World
Look, any lame feature writer can begin a list with “Duh, did you know there’s a secret minus world?” But there’s an even more secret glitched stage you can only reach by gliding through bricks, one that most people without a Japanese game console don’t know about. When Nintendo made a version of Super Mario Bros. for the Famicom Disk System, the Minus World glitch remained, but thanks to the unique construction of this ROM, the backwards stage is much more exciting than an endless water world. The way it’s mixed up with such clever style makes you wonder if the devs intentionally built this more interesting run of levels for the dedicated players to find.
Donkey Kong was planned as a Popeye game
Had King Features Syndicate been more ready to share its Popeye license, we might have never heard of Mario. See, new game designer Shigeru Miyamoto wanted to make a game where Popeye chased after Bluto to save Olive Oyl in a dangerous construction site, but at the time Nintendo didn’t have the rights. So Bluto became an ape, Olive became Pauline, spinach cans became hammers, and Popeye transformed into the reliable carpenter Jumpman. Miyamoto did eventually get to make his own Popeye game years later, where the main mechanic was punching bottles, oddly. Don’t try that at home.
The first-ever Mario cartoon was called Supercade
Years before Captain Lou Albano shaved off his goatee to play the plumber on Super Mario Bros. Super Show, there was a whole other cartoon starring Mario. Well, more accurately he played second banana to a rambunctious ape as the lead toon in Saturday Supercade, a 1983 weekend morning hit. It’s… not very good, turning the plot of Donkey Kong into a lame amalgamation of Scooby-Doo and Road Runner shorts. Don’t judge too harshly though, because basically every ’80s cartoon was just a different shade of poop until Disney Afternoon finally started making legitimately good TV animation.
Mario and Luigi were both born in the Mushroom Kingdom
Forget what the Mario rap and lame live-action adaptations taught you as a child – Mario and Luigi aren’t native Brooklynites! Mario and Luigi were birthed in The Mushroom Kingdom, as proven in the Yoshi’s Island games. Both the original and the 3DS sequel follow one stork trying to deliver the twins to an Mushroom house, and while we don’t see the parents’ faces, their dimensions sure don’t look like Toads. Could these be the only other humanoid denizens of Mushroon Kingdom beyond Princess Peach? Knowing how much Nintendo dislikes explaining the lore, I doubt we’ll ever have the answer.
Super Mario Galaxy boss Major Burrows is voiced by the game’s director
Koichi Hayashida might not have the name recognition of Miyamoto or even Takeshi Tezuka, but he’s been a major force in Mario games since Super Mario Sunshine back in 2002. He was lead level designer for Super Mario Galaxy and the director of its sequel, but he was playing double duty as a voice actor. The oversized mole in the pointy chapeu doesn’t do much more than grunt and growl, and that’s Hayashida underneath all that distortion. You’d think with that star power behind him that Major Burrows would return in later Hayashida-directed titles like 3D Land and 3D World, but it was not to be.
Peach’s name and dress have changed over time
These days America and Japan are on the same page when it comes to names for Mario characters, but for over a decade Peach was known as Princess Toadstool to English-speaking fans. That was the case through the NES and SNES years – though she is referred to as Peach in Yoshi’s Safari – but the change to Peach became global with Super Mario 64, with Toadstool never to be heard from again. Also, while it was a subtler change, Peach’s dress got some alterations around the time of Super Mario Sunshine, including a new hemline and some cloth around the hips that have stuck around in all her appearances since.