Mario is arguably the biggest video game star out there. He's been eating mushrooms, rescuing princesses, and stomping Goombas for nearly 25 years now. His glorious mustache has yet to show signs of graying, there's no bald spot underneath that iconic hat, and the spring in his step that sends him skyward toward coin-spewing brick blocks is still as strong as it was when he made his virgin march from left to right in the original "Super Mario Bros." for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
In commemoration of his decades of service and to celebrate the release of his latest adventure "New Super Mario Bros. Wii," we've collected 10 weird and interesting facts about Mario that you may not have known.
1) A Mario by Any Other Name
Originally, Mario was known simply as "Jumpman
" -- not too memorable for someone who would go on to become a gaming icon. In the seminal arcade game "Donkey Kong" (which also introduced the world to the titular ape), Jumpman had to traverse an obstacle course, avoiding rolling barrels and fireballs to rescue the damsel in distress, The Lady (aka Pauline). Sounds like art imitating life to us.
2) Covering Up Mario
It's easy to forget how far we've come in terms of graphics when you pop in a PS3 game and see each individual piece of beard stubble on a character's face rendered in high definition, but back in the early 1980s animating certain aspects of a video game character was simply impossible. The workaround Nintendo came up with was covering up
Mario's head, hands, and mouth. While Nintendo could easily create a Mario without the old-school trappings of a bygone era's restrictions, we shudder to think what he would look like: an actual overweight, 5 o'clock-shadow-sporting plumber.
3) Mario's Been Kicking Ass Since He Learned How to Crawl
Yes, Baby Mario has an ear-piercing cry that will make you hate children, but even the pint-size pisan sizes up baddies for stomping. Mario's adventures as a toddler got us thinking -- where are his parents? Most little kids are stuck at home behind safety fences while Baby Mario is riding on dinosaurs. There's obviously no DYFS in the Mushroom Kingdom.
4) Mario Is a Jack-of-All-Trades
Mario is the most accomplished video game character working today. He's been: a carpenter, a plumber, a doctor, a go-kart racer, a golfer, a tennis pro, a soccer player, a baseball slugger, a snowboarder, an Olympian, a referee, a basketball dribbler, a demolition man and a dancer. And those are all in addition to his full-time gig: hostage negotiator for Princess Peach.
5) Mario's Seen It All
It's a good thing the Berlin Wall was willingly taken down, because Mario would have fist-bashed the sh** out of it. Video game scholars agree that the coin-filled brick blocks that appeared in the original Super Mario Bros. were a clever metaphor for how destroying the Wall would lead to prosperity. Plenty of other historic moments have transpired over the last 25 years, and Mario has seen it all -- from the Cold War's end to the advent of the Internet, which incidentally gave rise to scads of naughty Mario/Princess Peach fan art.
6) Mario Supports "No Child Left Behind"
Most old-school gamers were children themselves when Mario became a household name. However, few recall his forays into educational software, and for good reason: They were terrible. "Fun With Numbers"? As if that's even possible. Sadly, much like the "No Child Left Behind" act, Mario's edutainment games failed to ultimately deliver.
7) "Mario Bros." Takes Place in the Sewers of NYC.
We honestly wouldn't be surprised if there really were giant turtles and evil crabs in the Manhattan sewer system. Compared to some of the stuff seen above ground, that actually sounds pretty normal.
8) Mario's Been in Over 100 Games
Mario's the hardest-working game character out there, and his résumé
9) Mario Loves Milk
Before the popular "Got Milk?" ads, Mario was used to convince a legion of kids to drink cow juice. He also taught a generation to eat 'shrooms.
10) Mario in the Movies
Always a leader, Mario started a sad precedent that still holds true today: Video game movies suck. You can trace back every terrible silver screen adaptation of a game franchise to "Super Mario Bros."
starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo. In the film, we learn that Mario's last name inexplicably is also Mario and that nothing is sacred when it comes to Hollywood. Not even Dennis Hopper could make this movie good.