10 Things You May Not Have Known About Super Mario

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Last week marked the 30th anniversary of the 1985 version of Super Mario Bros. Can you believe it’s been 30 years since Nintendo released one of the all-time greatest hits in the video game industry? In celebration of this milestone, FoS takes a look back at some facts that many classic gamers may recall, may have forgotten, or may be news to you.

1. Super Mario Bros. Was Not the First Title to Include Mario

Starting off with the basics with this one. For those who don’t already know, Mario first appeared as the protagonist in the 1981 arcade game, Donkey Kong.

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2. Mario Was Not His Original Name

The name originally given to the iconic character was Jumpman. Quite basic, and not very catchy. At the time, Nintendo America were renting a warehouse from their landlord named Mario Segale. The name was chosen during a brainstorming session shortly after Segale had given them some leniency on overdue rent. Added to this, Mario didn’t start off as a plumber either, but, in fact, a carpenter (while also making appearances as a tennis umpire and doctor in some other games). It’s worth pondering whether the character, or even the franchise, would still have been a market success with Jumpman the carpenter as the lead in Super Jumpman Bros.

3. Mario’s End Design Was Merely Due to Graphical Limitations

When Shigeru Miyamoto and his team design Mario they had to consider all the limitations of the 16×32 pixel square. While the character was supposed to be twice as large, the dimensions created problems with his wardrobe and facial features. Mario was, thus, given a moustache, as it proved difficult to draw a mouth with the same amount of pixels, and was also given a hat because the blocky hair looked too unrealistic. The overall was chosen to make it easier to give the impression of movement when Mario would swing his hands back and forth, while running or walking, whenever they moved passed the yellow buttons on the front.

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4. Super Mario Bros. 2 Is Actually Doki Doki Panic

Even after the success of the original Super Mario Bros., the sequel, Super Mario Bros. 2, wasn’t the actual successor. Instead, the game was an American adaptation of the Japanese version, Dream Factory: Doki Doki Panic. This game featured four characters (Imajin, Lina, Mama and Papa) traveling through a dream world, which had Arabian themed surroundings and designs and was simply switched out with the Sprites from the Mario Bros. universe. Many believe the actual Super Mario Bros. 2 was, in fact, The Lost Levels.

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5. Super Mario Bros. Has Warp Zones Because of Exitebike

Excitebike was Miyamoto’s previous work before starting on Super Mario Bros. and Zelda. The Warp Zones in Mario similarly match the choice of the three different courses you’re able to choose in Excitebike right from the start. Although Miyamoto liked the idea, he moved the zoning options to the second stage as he feared many gamers would simply skip right to level 8 without learning the gameplay.

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6. Bowser Was Originally an Ox

Bowser (or Koopa in the Japanese version), the Dragon-Turtle, was envisioned as an Ox at the start of the design process. A misinterpretation of Miyamoto’s original sketches by animator, Yoichi Kotabe, led to Koopa taking on a reptilian form we know today.

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7. The Super Mario Bros. Theme Music Was a Billboard Hit

For those growing up in the 80s, and early 90s, the hit theme tune for Super Mario Bros. is more easily identifiable than hits such as the Macarena, and dare I say, Gangnam Style. In fact, the theme, known as “Ground Theme”, composed by Koji Kondo, reached the number one, and stayed there for 125 weeks. Albeit, the chart in question was that of ringtones during the early days of cellphones, the theme has been played and resampled by some of the leading orchestras around the world. Watch as the London Symphany Orchestra perform Ground Theme.

8. Mario Was Supposed to Carry a Gun While Flying Around on a Cloud

Another of the design limitations to the character development, Mario was supposed to carry a rifle and beam gun. Mario, now a family-friendly character and gaming franchise, may not have turned out that way had the developers been able to pull off the original plan, as he set out for revenge with a higher perceived level of violence. In addition to his arsenal, the game was set to include a few shooter stages, whereby Mario rode around on a cloud (or rocket ship). Nintendo later settled on a less violent final game, removing the guns and opting to his fists. I suppose fireballs aren’t considered all that violent.

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9. Contrary to How the Poster Looks, Mario is Not Plunging to His Doom

In the original launch poster for the Super Mario Bros. game, it appears that Mario has hit a brick wall while trying to hurdle over the lava below him. After many years of unresolved speculation, Miyamoto finally broke his silence (just two weeks ago) on the matter to debunk those rumours. Unfortunately, he doesn’t go on to explain much further. Should we take his word for it?

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10. The Story of the Mushroom Kingdom is Dark. Very Dark

The story behind Super Mario Bros. is a lot darker than the game alludes to. The backstory, as seen in the official booklet below, discusses how Bowser and his minions used black magic to turn most of the Mushroom Kingdom into bushes, bricks, and mushrooms, in addition to turning the Goombas, friendly inhabitants of the Kingdom, into corrupted, chestnut-looking versions of the Mushroom people. Not so dark as yet, right? But, you’re now playing as Mario, smashing your way through the Kingdom, killing those evil Goombas, eating mushrooms and destroying bricks, all of which could be actual Mushroom Kingdom citizens. Many enthusiasts would suggest that all Mario’s efforts are for naught after his quest to free the people from the Bowser’s spell, I’d like to think that setting Princess Toadstool free may change the fate of all her subjects.

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Other Mentions:

  • Bowser’s Fireballs are Backwards. It may be an obvious one, but the fireball sprite has its trailing flames facing forward, with the ball at the back.
  • Super Mario Bros. was the first movie based on a franchise game (maybe not worth the mention given how bad it was).
  • It is possible to jump over the flagpole in the Super Mario Bros., but only thanks to a bug in World 1-1, and the elevator in World 3-3.
  • The Koopalings are not Bowser’s kids.
  • Super Mario Bros. sold more than 40m copies, and is the best-selling franchise of all time.
  • Super Mario Bros. released on a 256KB NES cartridge.
  • The Minus World
  • The sound of shrinking and descending a pipe are the same.
  • The Clouds and Bushes are the same sprite, just different colour.
  • If you wait long enough, the Hammer Bros. will chase you.

Let us know (in the comments or our Facebook page) how many of these you already knew, or perhaps a few more than may be interesting to other readers.

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