Super Mario Celebrates 30th Anniversary: Did You Know These Mario Facts?

Super Mario turned 30 this weekend. Super Mario Bros. aside, it’s fair to say there are few gaming characters that survived the ’80s to continue being popular today. Whether you’re a hardcore gamer, casual fan or just someone who only knows about Super Mario from TV ads, here are a few fun Mario facts for you.

First of all the Super Mario brothers were originally just one brother, and he wasn’t always so super. In fact, he wasn’t even the star at one point — Donkey Kong was. Mario first appeared in the 1981 Donkey Kong arcade game as a barrel-jumping protagonist. At the time, Mario was simply known as “Jumpman.”

The Donkey Kong game was so popular, a 1982 spin-off was made introducing Donkey Kong Jr. The new main character was a youngish ape on a mission to rescue his father from incarceration. If one had to guess, it was probably for the kidnapping and barrel-rolling antics in the first game. According to Games Radar, what’s so interesting about this follow-up game is that Mario plays the role of a villain. Series creator Shigeru Miyamoto said this was done to demonstrate that neither Super Mario nor Donkey Kong were entirely good or bad. That lesson seems to have been largely lost, because although people remember DK having a bad guy for a grandpa, few appear to recall a whip-wielding, villainous Mario.

Three years later, the world got its very first Super Mario Bros. game. What set this game apart in its time was the ridiculously intricate level design. Levels were filled with various hacks and cheats that weren’t nearly as standard as they are today. The success led to numerous Super Mario Bros. games, and the 1993 movie that nobody likes to talk about.

Yes, before Dragon Ball: Evolution angered millions of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z fans, there was the Super Mario Bros.film, which aside from an awkward Bob-omb deus ex machina, bore hardly any resemblance to the games. For an idea of everything wrong with this attempt to cash in on the popular Super Mario games, look no further than the Cinema Sins review.

Why is it this film had so little to do with the games that made it famous? Well, John Leguizamo (who played Luigi), thought the problem was that Nintendo wanted something family-friendly and the director wanted a darker, adult take on the franchise. John didn’t enjoy the process and Bob Hoskins, the movie’s Mario, was reportedly intoxicated through much of filming just to deal with the nightmarish process.

As far as adaptations go, at least the made-for-television Super Mario cartoon managed to be a bit more fun. Although, it’s still puzzling why Princess “Peach” Toadstool is a brunette in this cartoon rather than a blonde.

Want one final takeaway about the Super Mario Bros. game that started it all? In retrospect, it’s ridiculously simplistic. Players walk, run, jump, or perform a big leap. With some games relying on a series of button combos and others, like Wii Fit or Kinect Sports, that expect players to physically participate, the moves of Mario Bros. seem comparatively dated. Yet, the old NES Super Mario Bros. games still hold up against the test of time. Don’t believe me? Why not try it for yourself.

The original Super Mario Bros. is available on Nintendo’s virtual console for Wii, Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS. Nintendo has also released Super Mario Maker this weekend, which allows fans to use the elements from the classic games to create their own Super Mario levels. Have fun, and be sure to wish Super Mario a happy 30th anniversary.

[Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]