There aren’t many video game characters that are in the consciousness of the general public, however Mario certainly has made great strides in this area. It’s rare to meet someone who has not heard of the Italian plumber named Mario, but those who don’t play video games often may be unaware of his humble beginnings.
Mario was not the main character in his first video game appearance. You may be surprised to know that he wasn’t a plumber, and his name wasn’t Mario either. He made his first appearance in the 1981 pioneering Nintendo arcade game Donkey Kong. Mario’s character was called ‘Jumpman’ and he was a carpenter rather than a plumber. ‘Jumpman’ had to jump over barrels that were being thrown by Donkey Kong in order to save a damsel in distress (which would later be called Princess).
Since those small beginnings, Mario has come a long way. Over the last 30 years Mario has appeared in more than 200 video games and has been referenced in hundreds more Nintendo and non-Nintendo titles. Today we’d like to show you the changes Mario has went through since his humble beginnings over 30 years ago.
The Evolution of Mario
1. Donkey Kong (Arcade) – 1981
Who would have thought that ‘Jumpman’ would go from being a minor character in this game, to being the most successful character in video game history? Even in Mario’s first appearance, most of his trademark looks were there. Including the red hat, tradesman jumpsuit and famous Italian moustache.
2. Donkey Kong (Game & Watch) – 1982
Before Nintendo ruled the world of portable gaming with the Nintendo Gameboy, they had a lot of success with their ‘Game & Watch’ range of handheld games. Mario’s second appearance was in the port of the popular arcade game that was released the year before.
Game & Watch games had a fixed background which allowed the user to take Mario from the bottom screen to the top. Mario is almost recognizable in the game though this has more to do with the limitations of the Game & Watch system.
3. Donkey Kong Jr (Arcade) – 1982
Mario returned in the follow up to Donkey Kong in 1982. The Jumpman moniker was replaced with Mario for this game. Graphics were slightly improved this time around, and Mario was noticeably larger in comparison to Donkey Kong and the background. Apart from his size, the Mario sprite hadn’t really changed in any way.
4. Mario Bros. (Arcade) – 1983
The simple yet addictive Mario Bros was the first game of which Mario was the star. Of course, he had to share the limelight with his brother Luigi, a new character that used green clothing where Mario used red (though they were identical apart from that). Mario himself had changed slightly since his last venture, most notably his nose was a little less protruded.
5. Mario’s Cement Factory (Game & Watch) – 1983
Mario’s Cement Factory was the first Game & Watch game to have Mario as the star. Mario himself was unchanged since his last appearance in the handheld environment.
6. Pinball (NES) – 1984
Mario was frequently used on the cover of NES games, even when he had very little to do with the actual game. In Pinball, Mario was used on the front cover of the game though his appearance in the game was limited to the bonus stage.
7. Super Mario Bros. (NES) – 1985
The game that defined Mario and created a video game mega star. Mario initially started the game small however by taking a mushroom he would grow to double the size. This essentially gave you an extra life as when you were hurt as large Mario you simply reverted back to small Mario. Players could also change into fire Mario by collecting the fire flower. In addition to making Mario bigger, this power up also allowed him to kill enemies using fireballs.
8. Golf (NES) – 1985
Golf was a simple golf game that was highly playable. It was pioneering in many ways as it introduced the power and accuracy bar that has been used in most golf games since.
In the game, Mario resembled a fat middle aged man with a big nose. The design of Mario was bizarre to say the least.
9. Wrecking Crew (NES) – 1985
In Wrecking Crew, Mario donned a safety helmet and a sledgehammer. His skin color was slightly different from other games, though the actual design of Mario wasn’t too different from Super Mario Bros.
10. Super Mario Bros. (Game & Watch) – 1986
Super Mario Bros was brought to Game & Watch in 1986. This time the character looked more like Mario from its console namesake.
11. Mario Bros. II (Commodore 64) – 1987
The sequel to the original Mario Bros was only released on the Commodore 64 and bore little resemblance to the original game. Due to the Commodore 64 being less powerful than the NES, Mario & Luigi were not as defined as in their console games.
12. Punch-Out!! (NES) – 1987
Little Mac was the star of the popular game Punch Out though Mario was still able to play a part as the referee. Like Golf, Mario looked a little more human in the game. His stomach was fairly big again too!
13. Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES) – 1988
After Nintendo decided that the sequel to Super Mario Bros that was released in Japan was too difficult for American gamers, they adapted the Japanese game Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic and re-branded it as Super Mario Bros 2. Due to this, the game didn’t feel the same as other Mario games.
This was the first game in which Luigi was not the same as Mario except with different colors. Mario’s brother was noticeably taller, giving the ability to jump higher than Mario. Mario could run faster though.
14. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) – 1988
Regarded as one of the best video games of all time, Super Mario Bros. 3 saw Mario being given a lot of new powers. In addition to the super mushroom and fire flower power ups, it introduced the raccoon suit for flying, frog suit for swimming and hammer suit for throwing hammers. A similar suit to the raccoon suit was the tanooki suit. It also allowed Mario and Luigi to fly, however they could also turn themselves into stone to avoid being seen by enemies.
15. Super Mario Land (Gameboy) – 1989
Mario’s first adventure on the Gameboy was based on the original Super Mario Bros that was released 4 years before. Whilst it shares the same style and Mario uses the same power ups etc, all of the levels are completely different.
16. Super Mario World (Super Nes) – 1990
Super Mario World was the fourth title in the Super Mario Bros series. Mario had mainly appeared in NES games for the several years previous to this release and he looked much better in the new Super NES system. Colors were brighter, bolder and more defined.
The game featured a feather power up that allowed Mario to fly. It worked in a similar way to the raccoon suit in Super Mario Bros 3 however the cape allowed Mario to fly up and down and then make a crash landing. The game also introduced Mario’s friend Yoshi, a friendly dinosaur that could eat berries and shoot out flames.
17. Dr. Mario (NES) – 1990
Dr. Mario was a popular Tetris like puzzle game that featured Mario dropping medicine down to eliminate viruses. Despite the game being named after him, Mario was only represented at the side of the game as a Doctor.
18. NES Open Tournament Golf (NES) – 1991
Mario looked a lot better when he returned for his second golf game for the NES. Luigi could be chosen as a second character and Princess Peach and Princess Daisy were used as caddies. The game also featured a cameo appearance by Donkey Kong.
19. Yoshi (NES) – 1991
Graphically similar to Dr. Mario, Yoshi was a puzzle game that featured lots of common Mario enemies. Mario was controlled by the player and could switch around to ensure the enemies fall into the correct places.
20. Super Mario Kart (Super NES) – 1992
Another Mario game that is regarded by many as one of the best console games of all time. Super Mario Kart featured lots of characters from the Mario world such as Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong Jr and Bowser. Each character had different strengths and weaknesses for driving and players that weren’t controlled by humans had their own special powers e.g. Donkey Kong Jr threw bananas.
21. Mario Paint (Super Nes) – 1992
Mario Paint was an interesting game that came packaged with the SNES mouse. The game allowed you to create drawings and music within the game and save it for later. Mario appeared throughout the game in a variety of ways. For example, in the music generator he would jump along on top of the beats.
22. Mario is Missing! (Super NES) – 1992
As the game title suggests, Mario is missing, therefore his brother Luigi took centre stage in this educational game. The game bears a striking resemblance to the graphics used in Super Mario World.
23. Super Mario All-Stars (Super NES) – 1993
Also known as Super Mario Collection, Super Mario All-Stars contained Super Mario Bros 1, 2 and 3. The original Super Mario Bros 2 that was only released in Japan was included as well and was referred to as ‘Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels ‘. A later version of the game also included Super Mario World.
All of the games had been visually enhanced to take advantage of the 16 bit graphics the Super Nes offered. Other than that, the games were identical to the original NES equivalents.
24. Mario & Wario (Super NES) – 1993
The 1993 side scrolling game Mario & Wario was only released in Japan. Users had to take Mario through each level avoiding obstacles using the SNES mouse accessory.
25. Hotel Mario (CD-i) – 1994
Another Mario themed puzzle game that has the unfortunate tag of one of the worst Mario games ever released. The cut scenes featuring Mario and Luigi used full motion video.
26. Donkey Kong (Gameboy) – 1994
The first game to be designed with the SNES Super Game Boy peripheral, it is perhaps surprising that one of Nintendo’s flagship games was not released until 5 years after the Gameboy was first launched. The player had to guide Mario through a whopping 101 levels in order to save Pauline from Donkey Kong. The game play is very similar to the original Donkey Kong games released in the arcades.
More on Page 2
Mario’s evolution is far from complete! Check out the rest of his gaming career highlights over on page two