The one released on September 13, 1985 in Japan (and which will arrive in Europe only two years later) is the first title in which the symbolic character of the Japanese house Mario Bros enters the homes of the players thanks to the NES console. In reality, however, Mario appears first in other titles and in arcades.
It is 1980 when still unknown S. Miyamoto creates a video game called Donkey Kong.
Donkey Kong was the first video game to include a storyline and to give the protagonist the ability to move freely on the screen. Originally called “Jumpman” (jumping man), Mario appears for the first time wearing his red hat, mustache and dressed in dungarees. It is safe to say that Donkey Kong has opened the doors to today’s concept of video games.
It was 1981, and arcade goers went crazy helping a carpenter save his fiancée, Pauline, originally named Lady. Those players were unaware that they were playing a video game that would change the gaming world forever, and more: it was the very first appearance of Jumpman, the character who would later become Super Mario, changing profession and becoming a plumber! The antagonist was not yet Bowser, but the gorilla Donkey Kong, guilty of having kidnapped poor Pauline.
In fact, in the history of the video game, compared to the first version, it changes: the Mushroom Kingdom is a peaceful place where mushroom-headed creatures called Toads live in perfect harmony. This peace is compromised by Bowser, the evil king of the Koopa Troopa and his army who conquers the territory and transforms the inhabitants into blocks of bricks. Later he kidnaps the princess of the kingdom Peach Toadstool, the only one able to break the spell that he weighs on the Toads, and with whom he is in love and wants to have the kingdom delivered.
For a long time, darkness reigned in the Mushroom Kingdom, but when the news also reached the two Italian brothers Mario and Luigi, they headed for the borders of the kingdom to save the princess. After a long journey through 8 worlds, Mario and Luigi manage to reach Bowser’s castle and defeat him in battles. After completing the mission, Mario and Luigi decide to stay in the Mushroom Kingdom to protect it from any threats. The relationship between Mario and Princess Peach will become love over time.
In 1988, by now strong of its success, Super Mario Bros 2 is sold, which gives the possibility to choose between four different characters to face the levels, each one has its own abilities and peculiarities.
Mario’s design was initially dictated by the need to meet the graphic limitations of the technology of the 1980s. For example, the now inevitable red hat was used to avoid showing the hair, very difficult to render in a realistic way on screen. Similarly, the sideburns were necessary to distinguish the ears, while the mustache to separate the lips from the rest in the face in the space of a few pixels.
While the classic red dungarees and blue t-shirt were made him wear in order to properly animate the character without making his arms disappear.
And even before the name “Jumpman”, programmers also baptized him as “Mr. Video”, and again as “Ossan” which in Japanese means “middle-aged man”. But the final name was born in the American offices of Nintendo, during a meeting to decide a better name for the character, when suddenly the owner of the building Mario Segale entered and interrupted the meeting in progress.
Mario also has a day that celebrates him: it is March 10, “Mar10 Day” for fans, since in the US calendar March 10 can be shortened to Mar 10. The anniversary was born from an informal initiative by fans. Since 2016, Nintendo has also made official the tribute to the character who made his fortune out of it. Since then, on March 10, every year, the Japanese giant announces news and initiatives related to Mario.
In 2016, during the closing ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, a huge green tube appeared at the center of the scene to bring the then Japanese premier dressed as Super Mario to the fore! This remains a historic moment, a handover that has brought the image of the world’s most famous plumber to homes across the globe. The episode says a lot about the influence of Super Mario, heroic protagonist with granite values, ambassador of the soft power of the Rising Sun in the world.
A varied and ever-changing universe that embraces entire generations of players, unforgettable protagonists, now icons of the contemporary world, and finally some highly respected bad guys: the Super Mario series has all the credentials to stay with us for many more years still.