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Mario turns 25

By Staff | Dec 28, 2010

Everyone’s favorite mushroom-stomping plumber had such a hold on Brian Palmer’s eight-year-old mind that he and a friend would often draw their own levels on pieces of paper.

For Palmer, 30, of Marietta, his affection for Mario began simply enough.

“I guess I was kind of made to love him because (“Super Mario Bros.“) came with a Nintendo,” he said. “But it really became a standard (for video games). There was nothing else like it.”

And there’s been nothing else like it since.

Mario turns 25 this year, but he still has a stranglehold on the minds and hearts of young and old just like he did at his birth, if not more so.

Even though Mario first appeared in “Donkey Kong” in 1981, the mustachioed Italian-American didn’t set the gaming world ablaze till four years later when Nintendo released “Super Mario Bros.”

The game’s star has since become an icon, even surpassing Mickey Mouse in character recognition in the mid-1990s. Appearing in multiple video game genres, like sports, RPG, platform and more, Mario is now the best selling video game franchise in history, moving more than 200 million units since his creation.

Mario is, simply, universally loved.

In the process of putting this story together, an older, female advertising rep stopped to chat with me about how much she loves the latest Mario game “New Super Mario Bros.” My own son plays the game almost religiously on his DS.

I, along with many my age, grew up with Mario. I was about my son’s age when “Mario Bros.” first came out, and I remember waking up Christmas morning to see a Nintendo hooked up to our TV.

Apparently, my dad and uncle were too excited to wait and opened the system and game on Christmas Eve, playing “Super Mario Bros.” and “Duck Hunt” into the wee hours of the night.

I’ve never known my dad to play a video game since.

I continued playing Mario games well through my childhood. “MarioKart” was a personal favorite and opened social gaming to a whole new level among my friends and me.

In the beginning, however, Mario was barely a character.

His name originally was “Mr. Video” and he was a mere side character in the Donkey Kong video game. He wasn’t even a plumber initially. Mario’s creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, had him as a carpenter in “Donkey Kong” because the game took place on a construction site.

And he certainly wasn’t a hero in the game either.

Everything else from that early appearance has stayed nearly the same, right down to his iconic looks — those blue overalls, red shirt, cap, bulbous nose and mustache.

Miyamoto has said he gave Mario those looks to make him stand out on 16-by-16 inch screen.

“The character I came up with to fit that best was this little guy with a big nose and a mustache, the characteristics that would stand out in that medium,” he recently told “USA Today.”

In 1983’s “Mario Bros.,” Mario finally became a plumber as the game moved underground.

The quality of Mario’s games have kept him on top, Palmer said.

From “Mario 64,” which was one of the first 3D platformer games, to the “New Super Mario Bros.” for the DS and Wii, Palmer said he’s enjoyed nearly every iteration he’s played.

“They’re just amazing,” he said.


Contact Justin at jmcintosh@graffitiwv.com