Super Mario Bros: the ultimate video game icon

by The Insights

Since then, Mario has remained a staple character through all manner of incarnations, ranging from a flying tanuki (Japanese raccoon dog, in Super Mario Bros. 3, 1988) to a bee (in Super Mario Galaxy, 2007) and a cat. (Super Mario 3D World, 2013). His roles range from Dr. Mario (for a 1990 puzzle game) to artist/composer (Mario Paint, 1992) and athlete (in racing games, football and tennis, in addition to the series Nintendo/Sega Mario & Sonic crossover at the Olympic Games) . In Super Mario Odyssey (2017), even Mario’s cap took on a life of its own. Meanwhile, Mario’s surrounding cast has grown increasingly expansive, but even when these characters face their own games, they’re ultimately defined by their connection to him: as a brother (Luigi); sidekick (Princess Peach; Yoshi); or adversary (Donkey Kong; Bowser; Wario).

Mario’s sound also proved to be a literal game changer. Composer Koji Kondo’s now legendary music and motion effects have accompanied Mario’s quests since Super Mario Bros. [1985]and American voice actor Charles Martinet expanded on his cartoonish catchphrases (“Let’s go!”), but even the first Mario Bros game featured eye-catching designs that immediately evoke the character.

“That ‘coin’ sound – I think it’s just two very high notes – is so recognizable and simple,” says Galen Woltkamp-Moon, musician and founder of the London Video Game Orchestra. “Mario has always looked iconic, even in very low-res pixel art, but I also remember getting to sing along to his soundtracks when I was maybe six or seven, which I couldn’t do with any other game at the time. “The music is very accessible to all ages; it’s changed in every other bar around, and it keeps the audience engaged.”

On the big screen

Translating a beloved video game character to the cinema screen has often proven to be risky, though there’s clearly a new wave of adaptations (including the rather soft Sonic the Hedgehog movies). The live-action Super Mario Bros (1993) feature proved an awkward flop, despite a talented cast and top-notch special effects; Bob Hoskins played Mario, later describing the film as “the worst thing I’ve ever done” (in a 2007 interview with The Guardian). Ahead of its release, the new Super Mario Bros. movie apparently caused a fan reaction to Chris Pratt’s voice acting as CGI Mario, though co-director Aaron Horvarth insists it’s in the right mind.

“When you’re playing the game, if you don’t give up, Mario will succeed,” Horvarth told Total Film. “So we transferred that player experience from the game to a feature that [movie] Mario would have… [Chris Pratt] is really good at playing a blue-collar hero with a ton of heart.”

Mario has endured in all sorts of ways, inspiring blockbuster appearances (according to Miyamoto’s original concept, he’s a playable character in many games, including Super Smash Bros and Fortnite, and a background detail in many others) to Internet memes (in addition to the surreal “Italian parody story of Elon Musk) and concept art. The video installation Super Mario Clouds (2002) by American visual artist Cory Arcangel alters Super Mario World; in 2015 , an artist working under the pseudonym of Samir Al-Mutfi has created a platform game “Syrian Super Mario”, illustrating the challenges faced by refugees in search of safety. Mario is increasingly appearing in the collections of major galleries and institutions.

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