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10 Mario facts that will make you say "Mamma Mia!"
Think you know everything about Nintendo's portly plumber, Mario? Think again
The release of The Super Mario Bros. Movie and the opening of Super Nintendo World has put gaming’s beloved mascot in the spotlight once more. But do you know these 10 Mario facts?
It’s easy to think that Mario has just been stomping on Goombas and saving Princess Peach since time immemorial, but the story behind Nintendo’s iconic character is full of surprises. While you’ll find him in many of the best Nintendo Switch games, there’s more to Mario than meets the eye.
From the way Mario was made to how he got his name, here are 10 Mario facts that will impress your friends and make you say “Mamma Mia!”.
10. Mario used to go by a different name 🍝
Nintendo’s iconic mascot didn’t always go by the name he’s known for today. Mario first appeared in Donkey Kong (1981), and while he was unnamed in the Japanese release, he was named “Jumpman” in the game’s English instructions.
Creator Shigeru Miyamoto originally planned to use the spinach-guzzling Popeye, but couldn’t obtain the licensing rights. He then created a character called “Mr. Video”, who was destined to make cameo appearances but was never thought of as the leading man.
Nintendo was clearly keen on the Mario name, however, as he was referred to as “little Mario” in the sales brochure for Donkey Kong. It wouldn’t be long before the name Jumpman and Mr. Video became nothing but a distant memory, while Mario would go on to become synonymous with Nintendo itself.
9. Mario hasn’t always played the hero 😈
It’s hard to imagine Mario breaking bad, but he did play the villain in one Nintendo game. Our beloved hero became the antagonist in Donkey Kong Jr. and the Game & Watch title Donkey Kong Circus.
While we wouldn’t ordinarily think of Mario as being mean or even cruel, in Donkey Kong Circus Mario heckles DK while he’s performing a juggling act at the circus, laughing whenever he messes up.
In Donkey Kong Jr., Mario becomes the captor, imprisoning Donkey Kong and attempting to stop Donkey Kong Jr. from saving his father. Mario uses all types of traps to slow him down, and he’s even depicted holding a whip in some of the game’s art.
8. Mario has been in hundreds of games 💯
You probably don’t need me to tell you that Mario has starred in hundreds of games, and the number keeps rising. Unlike most video game characters, Mario is able to adapt to almost any genre, whether it’s kart racing, painting, puzzling, or pin-sharp platforming – there’s nothing Mario hasn’t tried at least once. Check out the best Mario games for Switch if you don’t believe me.
Mario’s ability to adapt and star in games of all genres means he’s unlikely to ever be surpassed when it comes to appearances. But what’s even more impressive is that the games in which he does play a prominent role are usually excellent. Seeing the Mario name in a title has basically become an unofficial Nintendo stamp of quality.
7. Mario’s voice actor turned up to the audition without an invite 😲
No, Chris Pratt isn’t the voice of Mario. That honor belongs to the wonderful Charles Martinet, who has voiced the mustachioed hero since 1992. But surprisingly, Martinet wasn’t in the running to voice Mario originally.
The voice actor crashed the audition and caught the directors just as they were packing up. His prompt was that he was “an Italian plumber from Brooklyn” and Martinet decided to go with a fun, friendly voice that would appeal to children.
Martinet didn’t have any lines, and instead reeled off these lines in the globally recognizable Mario voice we know today:
“Hello, im-a Mario. Okey dokey, lets-a make a pizza pie together, you go get some-a spaghetti, you go get-a some sausage, I get-ta some sauce, you gonna put some spaghetti on the sausage and the sausage on the pizza, then I'm gonna chase-a you with the pizza, then you gonna chase-a me with the pizza, and gonna make-a lasagne.”
Martinet would go on to voice not only Mario, but also his nemesis Wario, his brother Luigi, Luigi’s evil double Waluigi, Baby Mario and Baby Luigi.
6. Mario has had many careers 🩺
Starring in countless games, Mario’s picked up more than a few skills and embarked on some surprising careers along the way. Mario has mastered almost every sport, including golf, soccer, tennis, baseball and countless Olympic events.
He’s also been a doctor, racer, plumber, chef, artist, composer, mailman, train conductor and so much more. While the official number is hard to find, some have suggested that Mario has tried his hand at more than 120 careers. Good luck writing up that CV, Mario!
5. Mario’s brother Luigi and nemesis Wario explained 🤔
Not only an Italian masculine name, Luigi shares a striking resemblance to the Japanese word “ruiji”, which means similar. Luigi initially started off life as identical to Mario in appearance, with the only difference being that he wore green overalls instead of red. Eventually, Nintendo made Luigi more unique, and his taller, skinnier appearance and cowardly demeanor are now all recognizable traits.
Wario is a play on the Japanese word “warui” which means bad. Wario can be roughly translated as “bad Mario”, which is fitting considering Wario really is an evil version of the portly plumber.
4. Mario’s appearance was a result of hardware limitations 🎨
You might think Mario’s design was a stroke of genius, but it was actually a happy coincidence in many ways. Due to arcade hardware limitations at the time, creator Shigeru Miyamoto chose red overalls and a blue shirt so that Mario would stand out against the background and so that movement was easier to detect.
Mario’s cap was added so that Miyamoto didn’t have to give the character a hairstyle, forehead or eyebrows, and so that Miyamoto wouldn’t have to animate his hair moving as he jumped. To ensure that Mario looked like a human to players, Miyamoto gave Mario a big nose and mustache, which also meant he didn’t have to create any facial animations or include a mouth.
Mario’s appearance has evolved substantially from those early days, and he’s now much more detailed. The colors of his shirt and overalls have also been reversed, and an M was added to the front of his hat. He looks unrecognizable compared to early promotional artwork for Donkey Kong (1981).
3. Super Mario Bros. was almost a shooter hybrid 🔫
Ok, this Mario fact is admittedly more about a game than Mario himself but it’s still one of those ‘what could have been’ moments that may have shaped the future. Shigeru Miyamoto revealed that the original Super Mario Bros. game nearly had a bigger emphasis on shooting. Mario’s fireballs were originally bullets, and Miyamoto planned to let Mario fly around on a cloud and blast enemies in something akin to a classic shoot ‘em up.
Jumping, which is the fundamental mechanic that laid the foundation of every Mario game, wasn’t going to be on the A button either, and would instead require players to press up on the D-Pad. We’re glad Miyamoto decided to reconsider.
2. Mario wasn’t always a plumber 🔧
Mario may be known for fixing leaks and jumping down pipes, but our coin-collecting hero wasn’t always a plumber. Mario’s first profession was actually a carpenter, as that was more in keeping with the setting of Donkey Kong (1981), which takes place on a construction site.
As Mario games moved away from the simple arcade premise of Donkey Kong and Mario frequented more underground areas, Nintendo decided it made sense he should be a plumber, and it’s the profession that Mario’s stuck with the longest. However, in 2017 Nintendo wanted to distance Mario from this noble profession, but quickly changed its mind just one year later. Phew!
1. Mario was named after a landlord in Washington 🇺🇸
According to a widely circulated story, Mario is named after a warehouse landlord called Mario Segale. Segale confronted the then-president of Nintendo Minoru Arakawa demanding back payments for the warehouse they rented in America during the localization of Donkey Kong.
An argument ensued with Seagale, but eventually, Arakawa managed to convince him that he would be paid. The Nintendo employees who witnessed the event decided from that point on to call the character Mario.
But what about Mario’s last name? Well, believe it or not, it’s actually Mario. Yes, that’s right – Mario’s full name is Mario Mario. Creator Miyamoto confirmed Mario’s last name at the Super Mario Bros. 30th Anniversary festival in July 2015.
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