You know him as Mario and you probably also know his brother Luigi. He’s always running to save the princess and those turtles in a shell (not to be confused with the Ninja Turtles) just won’t let him do it without a fight. He’s the mustache man with a hat and overalls that many of us think is a plumber but, spoiler alert, he really isn’t. Do you feel like you’ve been living a lie yet?
Our buddy Jumpman, err, I mean, Mario, made his first appearance in the 1981 arcade game called Donkey Kong. You might have heard of it. Big ape jumping around and doing a bunch of stuff. But he’s not the focus here today. Anyway, Mario’s character was called Jumpman and he was originally a carpenter, not the plumber we all associate him as today. Jumpman had to jump over barrels that were thrown by his pet ape Donkey Kong in order to save the damsel in distress who was originally named Lady but would later be known as Pauline.
If you’re wondering why Donkey Kong kidnaps Mario’s girlfriend, he mistreats the ape and Donkey Kong escapes and gets his revenge. Fast-forward a few years and like something out of an episode of Oprah or Maury, Mario swapped girlfriends, dumping Donkey Kong's Pauline for our current damsel in distress: Princess Peach.
Poor Pauline, I’m sure she was devastated but also relieved that she’d stop getting kidnapped all the time.
Early history aside, Mario has become a childhood name synonymous with hours of gameplay in front of a plethora of consoles ranging from the original NES to the awesome Nintendo Switch. Mario, along with his brother and the rest of the Super Mario Bros. crew, have withstood the test of time. Many lead game characters have come and gone but none have surpassed it all like Mario. While the graphics are never ultra-realistic, the consoles never pushing the envelope of gaming, and the gameplay recipe tends to remain the same, Mario has only gained popularity over the years.
While Mario had small beginnings, over the last 38 years, he has appeared in more than 240 video games and has been referenced in hundreds more Nintendo and non-Nintendo titles. He’s been in movies, mentioned in various songs, and can be found plastered on T-Shirts, hats, bookbags, and other apparel. The Mario train keeps barreling down the tracks at full steam and I’m happy for its success. Just as I did many years ago, I hope that my kids can one day partake in the enjoyment it was to play the countless levels the Mario games have had to offer.
Happy Mario Day!