It’s me, Mario: the world’s favorite video game turns 40

It does not mean anything. The game is called Super Mario Bros, but actually only one character is called Mario, and he’s much more famous than his brother Luigi. Mario is a plumber – mustache, overalls, cap and all – but doesn’t do any pipe work. Guided by you, he has to run, slide, jump, jump, jump and fight his way through each level to find that his girlfriend, Princess Peach, is trapped in a different castle by the evil Bowser. Along the way, you’ll find bonus mushrooms, deadly turtles and plants, collectibles, and themed music that lodges in your brain and never leaves.

And yet, 40 years since Mario made his Donkey Kong debut and 36 years since he made the headlines of his own game, he remains a video game superstar. The franchise has sold over 763.45 million units worldwide, making it the best-selling title of all time. Take a closer look at the acts of faith that helped him achieve fame.

He wasn’t always Mario: At Nintendo in the 1980s, video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, now 68, hoped to create a Popeye hero. But the rights are too expensive. So his local game, Donkey Kong (1981), featured the eponymous evil monkey throwing barrels and obstacles for a little carpenter to dodge. Miyamoto called him Mr. Video; the team named him Jumpman. It wasn’t unusual for the time – other games were called Pac-Man (1980), Space Invaders (1978), and Asteroids (1979). But the US division of Nintendo wanted a new name for the character of Miyamoto. Some warehouse workers thought he looked a bit like their owner Mario Segale. The name stuck. Miyamoto also approved.

He’s a blue collar hero: Miyamoto’s next game was set in sewers, with green pipes and turtles. So his little carpenter turned into a plumber for 1985’s Super Mario Bros. The big nose, bushy mustache, hat, blue overalls, and stocky body of the original design remained. Miyamoto had designed Mario to fit into the few pixels available in video games of the time and always stand out against the blue sky and white clouds of the new game’s simple background.

In India, the game infiltrated via handheld devices and contraband cartridges played on bulky local samurai consoles that ran Nintendo software. Games and tech writer Jaison Lewis, who grew up in Mumbai and now lives in Germany, remembers playing on it. “I had a handheld that played both Donkey Kong and Mario and was powered by two button cell batteries,” he says. The cartridge and samurai version, which plugs into the TV for a 16-bit big-screen experience, was the dream. “You had to have a rich friend who let you borrow his toy or rent one for ??10 as a Sunday treat. It was very fun.”

The theme melody is a classic in itself: There is only three minutes of original music in the 1985 game, but composer Koji Kondo uses it like a maestro. The games of the 80s did not have the technology for complex symphonies. The cartridges had tiny synthesizers that played the limited sounds as you moved through the game. Kondo crafted a catchy, almost swinging melody, using three notes at a time, for the opening level. . For the underwater sections, where Mario swims through enemy territory, there is a lighter waltz. And of course, throughout the Overworld theme, when Mario collects coins, there’s that triumphant metallic ping.

They teach Mario in universities: The first level of Super Mario Bros is so easy to follow that it is part of the design programs. We instinctively know when to jump, what to avoid. Miyamoto’s gameplay is also smooth. The jumps last as long as you hold the button, Mario accelerates while running. In an interview with US National Public Radio in 2015, Miyamoto said Mario is popular because his background is universal. “Everyone is afraid of falling from a great height. If there is a gap you need to jump, everyone will try to run to jump over the gap. These are things that are uniquely human and are a shared experience, really, everyone. “

Mario is a lot of money: The 3D version of the franchise, Super Mario 64, was released in 1996, and its cinematic style and moves quickly set the standard for 3D games. Most fans have used up their cartridges. In August, a sealed game grossed $ 2 million at auction, setting a new record for the highest price ever paid for a video game. He broke a record set less than a month earlier, when a sealed copy of Super Mario 64 grossed $ 1.56 million. Lewis says a big part of the call is nostalgia. “Gambling, after all, is not uncommon. There is a Mario game for every generation of Nintendo device. But as with toys, it’s hard to find a classic sealed game in perfect condition. What child would have received a Mario game as a gift and not ripped off the packaging to play right away? “

Mistakes were made: Mario and Luigi appeared in the 1993 live-action Super Mario Bros. movie, a film so bad that Nintendo refused, for decades, to give Hollywood studios the right to do more. Now they’ve given in. A 3D animated film is in the works, featuring the voices of Chris Pratt as Mario, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Charlie Day as Luigi and Jack Black as Bowser. It is slated for release in December 2022. Will the plumber flush out the $ 300 million his Sega rival, Sonic the Hedgehog, raked in last year when it became the most lucrative video game adaptation? all time ? Mario better give all of them a head butt ??? for mushrooms.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Rachel Lopez is a writer and editor for the Hindustan Times. She has worked with The Times Group, Time Out and Vogue and is particularly interested in the history of the city, culture, etymology, the Internet and society.

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