You might think you know everything there is to know about one of the most iconic games in the history of videogames: Super Mario Bros. However, the world of Super Mario is deep and elaborate. It has a rich creative history and a lot of hidden details. There are so many games to begin with and so many characters involved; you think you might know, but you really have no idea. Here are 20 things you probably didn’t know about the Super Mario Brothers.
The Mushroom Kingdom
When you buy a game, you don’t normally set it aside to read the instructions first. Everyone almost always jumps into the game right away. Well, you should’ve read your Super Mario Bros. instructions because it had some pertinent information about the storyline. We all know that the entirety of the Super Mario story happens in the Mushroom Kingdom. What most of us probably didn’t know is what the Koopas did to all the mushroom citizens of the kingdom. It turns out that the Koopas turned each and every one of the innocent mushrooms into a bunch of inanimate objects. All those blocks just lying about—they’re the mushroom citizens. So every time Mario breaks one of the blocks, he’s actually killing an innocent inhabitant of the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario might be doing what he possibly can to save the Princess, but he’s also murdering innocents along the way.
Mushrooms from mushrooms
Speaking of mushrooms, there’s more about those cute little things you might not know that’s also not so innocent. Some fans have speculated in the past how Mario must be high all the time because of all the mushrooms he consumes. The speculation might actual be factual. The mushrooms in the game are based on a real-life mushroom species, the Amanita muscaria, more commonly known as the fly-agaric mushroom. This British fungus is popular for its toxicity and hallucinogenic properties. Muscazone, a compound found in the mushroom, is known to cause distortions visually, making people feel they have grown in size after they’ve eaten it. Sound familiar? That’s exactly what happens to Mario each time he eats a mushroom. He grows bigger. So is Mario actually high every time he’s on his mission to save the Princess? There’s a huge possibility that he is.
The Chain Chomp
There are a couple of interesting stories about the intimidating Chain Chomp from the game. The first is a childhood story from Shigeru Miyamoto, Mario Bros.’ creator. The story goes that Miyamoto used to be terrorized by a certain neighborhood dog that chased him and tried to bit him. The only thing that stopped the dog from attacking Miyamoto? You guessed it. A chain. Everything about the Chain Chomp is reminiscent of a scary dog except for its appearance. It’s constantly barking and itching to attack. The other interesting thing about the Chain Chomp is the fact that if you let it tug on its chain 49 times in Super Mario Bros. 3, it’ll break its chain and fly free. We’re not entirely sure what that means from Miyamoto’s perspective nor do we know what the significance is of the number 49. But it’s definitely a cool thing to see if you never have.
We can’t talk about the Super Mario Bros. without ever mentioning Mario’s only partner-in-crime. We all know that Mario and Luigi are Italian. But we forget that these games were actually made by a Japanese game designer. That’s a testament to how creative and talented Miyamoto truly was. But just as a fun tidbit, you should know that Luigi’s name is actually a pun on the Japanese word, ruiji. Ruiji simply means similar. And of course, no one else could be more similar than Mario and Luigi. Luigi is the perfect foil for Mario’s character, and they also play well together. Mario and Luigi are legendary characters, but sometimes we all forget that Luigi is half of that partnership. He might have been “similar” to Mario, but Luigi was a unique character in his own right.
Sonic the Hedgehog
The Mario Bros. franchise has inspired many things since it first came out in 1983. The very first game resulted to so many different variations over the years; it’s been actually difficult to keep up with. There’s also been a show based on it and a movie as well. It comes to no surprise that The Super Mario Bros. have inspired other game designers as well. One designer in particular, Yuji Naka, was so obsessed with finishing the Mario Bros. as fast as he could. Weren’t we all? But his playing actually inspired him to create a franchise that also became quite successful on its own. Naka was inspired to create Sonic the Hedgehog in 1993, which was a game all about speed. Sonic the Hedgehog became a franchise itself, spawning sequels and a show as well. And that’s all because someone wished to make Mario just move a bit faster.
We can only imagine what must go through a game designer’s head when he or she is creating a masterpiece. There has to be thousands of little details that need to be ironed out, and that includes the things that we might normally take for granted. Let’s take Mario’s character as an example. Imagine if Mario was actually called “Jumpman.” At one point, that’s what he was actually called. What would’ve been Luigi’s character’s name if that were the case? The game would’ve been completely different. Before he was Mario, the character had a few name changes. After Jumpman, he was to become “Mr. Video.” That didn’t seem like the right fit either, obviously, so Miyamoto changed the name again to “Ossan.” Ossan translates to middle-aged guy in Japanese, and while the description might fit well, the name certainly didn’t fit all other else. Thank God that Miyamoto thought of Mario because that’s absolutely the perfect name for the princess-saving character.
The bullet and the torpedo
The bullet and the torpedo are just two among a long list of villains you’d have to go through in the game. These two are actually some of the more intimidating ones because they’re fast and difficult to avoid. You also can’t always tell when they’re about to come around. These villains actually have names; they’re known as Bullet Bill and Torpedo Ted. For many years, fans of the game have always thought that their names are in reference to and honor of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures. While it’s a nice thought, this reference might not be true. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures came out in 1989. While Torpedo Ted came out in after the movie in the 1990 Super Mario World game, Bullet Bill has been around since the first installment of the Super Mario games. So Bullet Bill couldn’t have been written and Bill from the movie.
Wario and Waluigi
They’re the characters that we love to hate. They’re so well imagined and well-written; it was difficult to imagine the Mario world without these villains off the bat. Wario and Waluigi are the direct contrasts of Mario and Luigi. When Wario first came out in North America in Mario vs. Wario, we knew that he was supposed to be the archrival of our favorite average plumber hero. And he was a great one. While Wario’s and Waluigi’s names are clearly portmanteaus of Mario and Luigi, we weren’t sure what they were made from. The Japanese word for bad happens to be “warui.” So Wario is actually a shortened form of Warui Mario. The same goes for Waluigi’s name as the shortened form of Warui Luigi. They’re both literally the bad versions of the good guys.
Japan in the game
It shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s a hidden homage to the place where the Mario Bros. started from: Japan. You wouldn’t really notice it unless you’re actually looking for it. If you are, head on straight to Super Mario Bros. 3. There’s an island there that looks just like Japan—at least like how Japan would look if it were in pixel form and squared form. The island in the game even has a castle standing where Kyoto would be, the headquarters for the Mario Bros. game. Now where exactly is this Japan homage? Think about it for a moment. If we were talking about an island, it has to be surrounded by water, right? While there are a few worlds in Super Mario Bros. 3 that are surrounded by water, there’s only one where the action happens mostly in water. Japan in Super Mario Bros. 3 is the island in World 3 – Ocean Side.
Mario and science
There have been many scientific studies involving videogames and their effect in people—long-term effects, short-term effects, and all other kinds of effects. Most of these scientific studies seek to prove that playing videogames produce more negative effects than they do positive, if there are any positive effects at all. Some scientists who studied the Super Mario games came across a different and unexpected result altogether. One study found that playing Super Mario 64 actually helped with memory formation, spatial orientation, strategic planning, and even fine motor skills. It’s not quite a surprise to all of us who have played the games before because you certainly need those skills in order to beat the game. It’s about time science kept up with the facts.
Super Mario Bros. The Play
As the curtain draws at the beginning of the game, one can’t help but imagine the setting as a stage play. This speculation about Super Mario Bros. 3 has been around since the game first came out in 1988. The fan theory was confirmed to be true by none other than the man behind the curtain himself, Shigeru Miyamoto. Miyamoto left quite a number of clues all over the game that you’ve probably just shrugged off as part of the game design. We already know about the curtain opening, but you should notice the shadows that are in the background as it happens. The blocks in this game are all fastened on each corner. Using a trick, you can even go backstage in some levels if you wanted to. Each time you finish a level, it also seems as if you are leaving a stage. The point is Mario was never truly in any danger in Super Mario Bros. 3. It was all just an elaborate stage play, and we were all just part of the audience.
It’s quite common for different actors to voice the same character over the character’s lifetime. In the case of Mario, there have actually been several voice actors that have played the character over the years. Walker Boone was the voice that played Mario in Super Mario World and The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3. Lou Albano voiced the character in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. Currently, Mario is being voiced by Charles Martinent. In addition, one of the most popular voice actors that played Mario was Peter Cullen in 1983 for the Donkey Kong shorts on Saturday Supercade. Cullen also happened to be the voice for Optimus Prime in the original Transformers series in the 80s. If you don’t remember what he sounded like then, just watch the 2007 Transformers live-action film. That Optimus Prime voice is the same one that did Mario so long ago.
Donkey Kong and Popeye
One of the most iconic games from Nintendo almost didn’t involve Mario. Remember Donkey Kong? That one where Mario had to climb ladders and jump over rolling fiery balls? Originally, this game was supposed to be a Popeye game. Mario’s character was supposed to be Popeye; the Princess’s character was supposed to be Olive Oyl; and Donkey Kong’s character was supposed to be Bluto. However, Nintendo couldn’t get the license for Popeye, so Miyamoto decided to go for the character switch, which ended up saving Nintendo’s American arcade division. Some things are probably just meant to be because we can’t imagine that game without Donkey Kong. Popeye could’ve been just as awesome, but we’ll never know now for sure.
You might’ve been too young to remember the live-action film adaptation of the Super Mario Bros. If not, you probably just didn’t care for it so much to even remember it. But it happened in 1993, and the world had forgotten about it not too long after. The movie starred Bob Hoskins as Mario and John Leguizamo as Luigi. As beloved as the videogames have always been, the film was equally disliked by the worldwide Super Mario fan community. It probably didn’t help that Tom Hanks turned down the role of Mario. He ended up starring in a film called Philadelphia instead, for which he was awarded an Academy Award for his Leading Role. We couldn’t tell you if the Super Mario movie would’ve been better with Hanks, but we’re glad for him that he made the right choice for his career. We’re also glad that Arnold Schwarzenegger turned down the role of King Koopa, also known as Browser. He gave us the cool family flick, Last Action Hero, instead.
Mario the Carpenter
It’s never too late to switch careers—no matter your age or skill. If Mario can do it, so can you. It’s true that Mario wasn’t always the plumber we all know him to be. He actually started off as a carpenter. In the Donkey Kong game, we can see Mario trying to scale a construction site in order to save the princess. The story is that he was a carpenter that worked in the construction site. Miyamoto just made him a carpenter so it could fit the construction theme. However, Miyamoto changed Mario’s character from being a carpenter into a plumber. In the original Super Mario Bros. game, pipes and sewers became essential to the story, so it only made sense for Miyamoto to change Mario’s profession into plumber. Also, someone hinted to Miyamoto that Mario’s attire looks more like something a plumber would wear. Miyamoto was convinced, and so were we.
Mario the Villain
All of us see Mario as the hero that saves the princess at the end of the day. In almost every game that has the character, Mario is always the person that does the right thing—except in one game. In the sequel game to the original Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Mario was actually the villain. In the game, we see Donkey Kong caged up as little Donkey Kong Jr. goes through a rather difficult obstacle course for a gorilla to save his dad. We also see Mario close to the cage with a whip in hand. Once you finish the game, you’ll Donkey Kong Jr. free his father by defeating Mario. If you read the manual for the original Donkey Kong, you’ll learn that Donkey Kong was actually Mario’s pet, and Mario wasn’t the best of pet owners as he was mean to the gorilla. Donkey Kong enacted his revenge by escaping from Mario and kidnapping his girlfriend. And here we all thought that Donkey Kong was always the bad guy.
Mario the Office Landlord
We already learned earlier that Mario had a few name changes before the final one stuck. When Mario was still known as Jumpman, Nintendo was just trying to break through to the American market. The story goes that Nintendo of America at the time was behind on their rent for their Seattle office. The office landlord decided to let it slide, putting in faith that Miyamoto and his team would pay him back later. In appreciation, Nintendo of America decided to do something special. They changed Jumpman’s name to honor the office landlord that gave them a break: Mario Segale. Segale might have never gotten compensation for the inspiration, but he’ll always be known to be Mario’s original namesake.
Mario sunshine makes people happy
Everything about sunshine can bring about a good dose of warmth and positivity. It turns out that the same thing can happen when you play Super Mario Sunshine. Here’s another positive effect that a videogame can trigger in those who play it. One study a few years ago decided to study the usual correlation between videogames and their effect on gamers’ behaviors. But instead of just looking into violent games, they also used games that are prosocial in nature. In these games, characters and players help each other out in nonbelligerent ways. The study concluded that children who played prosocial games displayed more prosocial behaviors afterwards. Maybe it’s time we let all the children of the world play Super Mario Sunshine. We could let adults play too; it might make a difference.
Yoshi vs Boshi
Mario and Luigi aren’t the only characters with evil counterparts. The beloved Yoshi, as difficult as it may be to imagine, has an evil counterpart as well. Its name is Boshi. Boshi is not as well known, but he is alive and well in the world of Super Mario. As a matter of fact, Boshi had only one appearance. He came out in Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, and his character is the complete opposite of Yoshi. Boshi is a complete loner, but at the same time he reveled in competing and beating others. In Legend of the Seven Stars, Boshi’s character was the champion of the Mushroom Derby. However, he stole everyone’s cookies and wouldn’t let anyone else race on the course. He later on changed his ways, but he still maintained his bad-Yoshi look: sunglasses and a spiked collar.
Mario had a gun
There are many ways you can decimate enemies in a typical Mario game. You can throw fireballs, throw boomerangs, kick turtle shells, or use a ground smash. You can even just use the time-tested successful stomping. However at one point, Mario was designed to be able to wield a gun and shoot at enemies from a cloud. This same Mario could also fly be equipped with a jetpack to fly around with. These early game designs never made it to the released games, as Miyamoto ended up scratching any of the shoot-em-up stages in any of the games. He focused more on the jumping action of the Super Mario Bros. games instead. Miyamoto ended up with a product that was not only wholesome; it became one true cultural icon.