Mario will find his way to a mobile device for the first time in history today with Super Mario Run. But do you know how gaming’s favourite mascot started out?
15-12-2016 - by Thijs Kaagman
Mario might be the most iconic gaming character ever. Everyone in the world who has ever touched a game will instantly recognize the brushy moustache, the red hat and the “It’sa me!” catchphrase. Mario has played a major part in gaming’s history and he’s the star of literally every gaming platform Nintendo has produced in the last 25 years.
So it’s only natural that Mario will also be part of the mobile gaming hype. Together with Apple, Super Mario Run will be launched on iPhones today. You can buy and download the game using the button below (make sure you have enough iTunes credit) or read on to find out how Mario got to this point in his extensive career.
Most people don’t know that Mario didn’t start out as Mario. Or even in a Super Mario game, for that matter. In fact, the first time we met the red-hatted plumber, he was a carpenter called Jumpman in Donkey Kong (1981). Jumpman mistreats his pet ape, who escapes and kidnaps Jumpman’s girlfriend Pauline. The story for the game was based on Popeye, with Donkey Kong replacing Bluto and Jumpman starring as the hero Popeye.
Two years later, Jumpman even starred as the villain in Donkey Kong Jr. and it wasn’t until later in 1983 that Jumpman got his own game and was renamed ‘Mario’, after the landlord of one of Nintendo’s developers. The remarkable visual style of Mario is largely due to technical limitations at the time. Overalls made his arms more visible, his thick moustache was clearer than a small mouth, his bright red colors popped better against the dark background and his hat allowed Miyamoto to skip designing a hairstyle. Because Mario Bros. was a co-op game, Miyamoto created a second character that was identical but with a different colour template. He would later get his own identity as Mario’s brother Luigi.
After the relatively successful Mario Bros. – where you stomp on your enemies in a static screen – the big breakthrough came in 1985 with Super Mario Bros. The game introduced the traditional left-to-right level design, the mushroom power-ups and the warp pipes that you can use to teleport to hidden parts of the level. It was a revolution in the gaming world and instantly launched Mario into ever-lasting fame.
But it was also one of the first games to feature a prominent story. Granted, it wasn’t very deep or inspiring, but at the time gamers didn’t need much reason to play through a level. They just did. That changed as soon as Bowser (or King Koopa) kidnapped Princess Peach (or Princess Toadstool) and Mario set out to save her. Suddenly all the characters, including enemies like Koopa’s and Goomba’s were part of a consistent world and gamers loved it.
That didn’t mean it was all smooth sailing for our moustachioed friend. In fact, Super Mario Bros. 2 was ill received among fans of the first game in Japan. Visually it was identical to its predecessor, but it was way, way harder. So hard, that Nintendo decided it probably wouldn’t fly in the US so they re-skinned Doki Doki Panic as a Super Mario game. Except it wasn’t. The gameplay was fundamentally different and while some gamers enjoyed this weird re-skin, it just wasn’t the same. You can still play it on the Wii U, while the original Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was eventually re-released as 'The Lost Levels', which you can still play on the 3DS.
Simultaneous to the release of Super Mario Bros. 2 in the US, Nintendo launched Super Mario Bros. 3 in Japan. When it found its way to the States two years later it was received as one of the greatest games ever; a title it still holds today, according to some gamers.
Over the years, more and more characters and locations were added to the Super Mario franchise and Mario became more and more of an icon. Eventually, Mario personally introduced the world to 3D-gaming with Super Mario 64, one of the best system-sellers in the history of gaming consoles. Everyone who bought a Nintendo 64 played and loved every minute of Super Mario 64.
If you're looking to replay some of these classic Super Mario games (trust me, they're worth it), your 3DS and Wii U will serve as excellent retro-machines. Nintendo has published most of them through the Virtual Console, so check out the Super Mario catalogue here on Startselect!
But Mario wasn’t just the star of platforming games any more. As early as the 1980’s, Mario started to branch out to different game genres. He was a referee in the Mario Tennis series, hit the greens in Mario Golf, prescribed pill-related puzzles in Dr. Mario and even starred in a Super Mario RPG on the SNES.
The most successful spin-off is probably Mario Kart. The power-up based racing game proved to be so popular, that it has appeared on nearly all Nintendo platforms since the SNES, including most of the handheld systems.
Soon enough, Mario started appearing on non-Nintendo platforms as well. Mario taught kids how to type on MS-DOS, Windows and Macintosh with Mario Teaches Typing and he taught geography and history in Mario is Missing! and Mario’s Time Machine. On the Philips CD-i, Mario experienced some of his biggest flops. Hotel Mario was so mediocre, its sequels Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds and Mario Takes America were eventually cancelled.
And now, for the first time ever, Mario will appear on a mobile platform. Super Mario Run is an interesting collaboration between Nintendo and Apple, although it will eventually appear on Android as well. In the core game mode of the app, Mario will automatically start running and you’ll have to tap the screen to make him jump over obstacles.
We’ve seen the type of gameplay before, but as you can expect from Nintendo; it plays buttery smooth. Each level is full of hidden paths and bonuses, so you’ll probably need several retries to find all of the hidden features. Super Mario Run is free to play, but only by buying it for €9,99 can you unlock all the features. Of course you can get your iTunes Credit right here on Startselect, so you can start playing within minutes. Have fun!