GMIH-010 Mario from Nintendo

Mario from Nintendo


Ask any kid or any adult who has the best mustache in all of the history of video games and there is one clear answer. This Italian plumber who has been saving the Princess Peach in the Mushroom Kingdom is in his fourth decade of bringing fun to kids of all ages.

It might be his important place in the history of video games, it may be that his mustache is iconic, it may be that he is one of popular culture’s most enduring figure; whatever reason you choose, you would have to agree that the Nintendo character Mario is perfect for Great Mustaches in History.

Who is Mario

As any gamer will tell you, Mariois more than a character, he is an entire game franchise by Nintendo. Mario was created by Japanese video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto. Mario is Nintendo’s official mascot and the star of a whole series of Nintendo games. Mario has been in over 200 video games.

Mario is a short, pudgy, Italian plumber who lives in the Mushroom Kingdom. For years he has been rescuing Princess Peach from the villain Bowser. Sometimes Mario also has other enemies and rivals, like Donkey Kong and Wario.

Mario is the most famous character in video game history. Mario has sold more than 210 million games. Of course this makes the Mario franchise the best-selling video game franchise ever.

In addition to the well-know Super Mario series, Mario is in all kinds of other types of games, including the Mario Kart racing series, sports games, like Mario Tennis and Mario Golf series, role-playing video games like Paper Mario and Super Mario RPG. He has even been in educational games, such as Mario Is Missing! and Mario’s Time Machine.

Mario is not just in video games. He has television shows, movies, comics and a line of licensed merchandise.

Mario’s Birth

Shigeru Miyamoto

Shigeru Miyamoto created Mario for Nintendo

Long ago, when the dinosaurs of the computer age roamed the earth there were only arcade games. This was so long ago that the Atari 2600 was considered new and hot. Pac-Man was the hot arcade game that was gobbling up quarters as fast as he gobbled up dots.

Nintendo wanted to produce a game as popular as Pac-Man but that was no easy task. Nintendo had a few flops and needed a big game. A game designer named Shigeru Miyamoto  wanted to create a game based on Popeye. You know, Popeye, Bluto, and Olive Oyl. But, Nintendo could not get the rights to produce a Popeye game. Later they would get those rights but who cares?

So Miyamoto wanted a similar concept. He needed a cute, lovable hero, a big dumb bully, and a damsel in distress that the bully and the hero could fight over. He came up with a hero tentatively named Jumpman. Later, Jumpman became Mario. The villain was a giant ape named Donkey Kong and the damsel in distress was Pauline.

When Miyamoto first started making the game that would eventually become Donkey Kong, the hero could not even jump. Like Pac-Man, the focus was on a maze. However, Miyamoto quickly figured out that the hero should be able to jump. He said, “If you had a barrel rolling towards you, what would you do?”

Jumpman was just a working name and Miyamoto originally planned to officially name the character “Mr. Video”, because even then they planned to use him in every video game Miyamoto developed.

According to one legend, when they were bringing Donkey Kong from Japan to North American, the company Nintendo of America’s had rented a warehouse from Mario Segale. The company was behind on the rent so Mario Segale came and demanded the back rent. There was a big argument but the company finally convinced Mario Segale he would be paid. But, the good thing that happened from that argument was that the company decided to name the character in the game after Mario Segale.

The character’s creator Shigeru Miyamoto commented that if he had named Mario “Mr. Video”, Mario likely would have “disappeared off the face of the Earth.”

The original Donkey Kong was set on a construction site so Mario was made into a carpenter to fit the game. But, in Mario Bros., a lot of the game is played in underground settings and there were a lot of pipes so they changed Mario from a carpenter to a plumber. They wanted Mario to have a regular job and not be a superhero so players would identify with him and like him.

Mario’s Look

Original Mario Graphic

Back when Mario was created the graphics were not very good. So, Miyamoto put Mario in red overalls and a blue shirt. Red and blue contrasted and showed up against the background.

Also, back then they could not really draw details like hair, eyebrows, or even much of a head shape. So, Miyamoto put a red cap on Mario. This also helped because when he jumped his hair did not have to move.

The graphics were so crude that in order to make Mario even look human onscreen they had to give him a large nose and mustache. That also meant that they did not have to draw a mouth or any facial expressions on the tiny onscreen character.

Mario Arrives

Miyamoto made Mario with the idea that his character could be put into any game as needed. He decided that Mario would be in every game even if it was just a cameo appearance. A cameo appearance is just a short appearance in a game, movie, or TV show by a character. Sort of like Stan Lee is in all the Marvel movies. Miyamoto did not expect Mario to become popular. That is why at first he just called him “Mr. Video.” Miyamoto compared Mario cameos in later games to the cameos done by Alfred Hitchcock. Alfred Hitchcock was an old-timey director who made cameos in all his movies.

Mario’s Look Improves

Mario through the years.

Mario’s appearance has changed through the years.

Mario’s look has changed; white gloves, brown shoes, a red “M” in a white circle on the front of his hat and gold buttons on his overalls have been added. The colors of his shirt and overalls were reversed from a blue shirt with red overalls to a red shirt with blue overalls.

Miyamoto has said that these changes are because of different development teams and artists for each game. Plus graphics have improved.

Donkey Kong

Mario debuted in the arcade game Donkey Kong on July 9, 1981. He was still known as Jumpman. In Donkey Kong the hero Jumpman is a carpenter that has a pet ape named Donkey Kong. Donkey Kong kidnaps Jumpman’s girlfriend, originally known as the Lady, but later named Pauline. Players make Jumpman climb ladders, jump barrels, and run along beams to rescue the Lady.

Jumpman became Mario in the 1982 arcade game Donkey Kong Junior. This is the only game where Mario is the bad guy.  

More Characters

mario characters

Mario has lots of fun characters.

In the 1983 arcade game Mario Bros., players meet Mario’s younger brother named Luigi. This is when they become Italian-American plumbers. They battle creatures form the sewers under New York.

In Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Mario saves Princess Toadstool (later known as Princess Peach) of the Mushroom Kingdom from King Koopa. It is a side-scroller and one of the best selling games ever.

Over the next several years more Mario games were released that introduced characters such as Bowser, Wario, and Yoshi.

Mario Goes 3D

In 1996 Super Mario 64 was released and Mario apears as a 3D character for the first time. From then on he has been most often drawn as a three dimensional character.

Mario and the gang continue to lead Nintendo’s gaming efforts with games for the Wii and the Nintendo 3DS. He looks to lead the way for all Nintendo efforts in the future.

Mario’s Legacy

Mario is the most famous video game character in history and the official mascot of Nintendo. The Mario series of video games is the best-selling video game franchise of all time. Mario was the first video game character to be honored with a wax figure in the Hollywood Wax Museum in 2003. In the 1990s, a national survey found that Mario was more recognizable to American children than Mickey Mouse. Mario has been called the “most recognizable” figure in the gaming industry.

Mario really is an icon of the gaming industry.

Interesting Facts About Mario

  • Mario Clouds and Bushes look the same

    Bushes and clouds in the original Super Mario game were the same.

    Nintendo wanted Mario to ride Yoshi since the NES. It took 6 years for technology to make the concept possible.

  • In the original Super Mario game, the clouds look exactly the same as the bushes except for the color.
  • The second level in Angry Birds Space is modeled after the original Super Mario Bros.
  • Nintendo composer Koji Kondo wrote the soundtrack to Super Mario Bros. The main theme is called ‘Ground Theme’, is one of the most recognizable pieces of game music ever recorded. The tune remained in the Billboard ringtone charts for 125 weeks and has been performed in concert by live orchestras.
  • Mario, Luigi, Wario, and Waluigi are all voiced by the same guy, Charles Martinet.

Mario has earned his place in gaming history but his mustache and interesting story has earned him a place in Great Mustaches in History.


GMIH-010 Mario from Nintendo — 2 Comments

  1. A suggestion of good mustaches: Eddie Chapman or Ronnie Reed, both involved in counterintelligence spying with MI5 during WW2. Both are very interesting and both had mustaches. Eddie a small one, Ronnie a bigger one.
    Love the podcast. Keep up the good work!

    • Thank you for the suggestion. We are looking into them. Chapman is known as Agent Zigzag which is pretty cool.

      We are glad you are enjoying the podcast. It is fun to do but the great community that has grown up around the podcast is really making it a labor of love.

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