The Many Incarnations of Mario

This month in “The Many Incarnations of… ” we take a look at the evolution of one of the most popular gaming characters of all time, Mario. As always, Pac-Man is here to provide “color commentary,” and Professor Pac-Man is on hand with interesting trivia tidbits!

1983
Mario Bros.

From the Flyer: Nintendo presents Mario and Luigi in Mario Bros. with Shellcreeper, Fighterfly and Sidestepper. Pests come pouring out of the waterpipes. Mario and Luigi clean up the place! Luigi says, “Come on Mario! Kick ‘em off!!” Mario replies, “Oh! Yeah Luigi!! But slippery floor got me dizzy.” Exciting!! A hit from under and pest flips over. Then kick into the water. Bonus Coin comes out of pipe each time you hit one off. Grab all the coins for a perfect score. Hit POW switch and flip pests on all floor. Jump! Punch! Kick them off when they’re down. Watch the slippery floor!

Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde would be the least of my worries if the Mrs. and I had any of those nasties crawling out of our drains! It’s a good thing Mario and Luigi are on the scene, as that’s one chomp I’d rather not take! Wocka! Wocka!

From the desk of Professor Pac-Man: This was the first game to feature Mario in a title role.

Now, hold up there a minute Prof! Everyone knows Mario debuted in Donkey Kong!

That’s where you’re wrong – well, at least you’re only half right. The hero we all know and love from Donkey Kong was actually named Jumpman. It wasn’t until the game debuted in the US that the hero’s name was changed to Mario. You see the character hadn’t been developed completely and Nintendo wasn’t prepared to name their character just yet. It was a very last minute decision. That’s also why Mario is a carpenter in Donkey Kong, but a plumber in later games like this one, for example.

I knew there was a reason I was covering The Many Incarnations of Donkey Kong in the next column! You see Professor I’m really just too smart for my own good! Wocka! Wocka! Anyway you can continue now…

Thank you… Mario Bros. is also the game that introduced us to Mario’s brother Luigi. Luigi was the more skilled of the two plumbers, as we note in the attract mode that Luigi starts with 2500 points and Mario with only 1800. The first movement of Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik was chosen as the game’s opening theme.

1984
Golf

From the NES Packaging: From tee to green, you’ve never played golf like this! Nintendo GOLF lets you choose your clubs, change your stance, control your swings – even select the angle of impact! You’ll view the hole from both close up and far away, judge the changing conditions of the green, and measure the wind velocity! But watch out. When the wind changes, so does the flight of your ball! With Nintendo’s state-of-the-art graphics and realistic game play you’ll really believe you’re on the fairways. So play Nintendo GOLF, because there is not a video golf game on par with it anywhere!

So I decided to play a round of golf… 244 balls later they threw me off the course… apparently they don’t provide complimentary golf balls for your snacking pleasure. So I’ve been known to throw back a pellet or 200 – it’s not my fault; it’s instinct. Wocka! Wocka!

From the desk of Professor Pac-Man: This title was also released as a bonus collectible in Doubutsu no Mori for the Nintendo 64 and in Animal Crossing for the GameCube.

1985
Vs. Wrecking Crew

From the NES Packaging: Here’s an off-the-wall demolition game that you design yourself! The amazing Nintendo programmable game lets you design your own building, place obstacles wherever you want them, and then blow everything to smithereens! You can play the game as designed by Nintendo, or you can be the game designer and build a different maze of barriers to tear down every time. You’ll have hours of fun demolishing monsters like Gotchawrench and Eggplant Man, and blowing up a building you built yourself, in this off-the-wall demolition game!

Personally, I think I should have been the star of this game as I have a knack for bringing the house down! Wocka! Wocka!

From the desk of Professor Pac-Man: Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix contains a song called "Destruction Dance" which was derived from the music originally in Wrecking Crew.

1985
Super Mario Bros.

From the NES Packaging: Do you have what it takes to save the Mushroom Princess? You’ll have to think fast and move even faster to complete this quest! The Mushroom Princess is being held captive by the evil Koopa tribe of turtles. It’s up to you to rescue her from the clutches of the Koopa King before time runs out. But it won’t be easy. To get to the Princess, you’ll have to climb mountains, cross seas, avoid bottomless pits, fight off turtle soldiers and a host of black magic traps that only a Koopa King can devise. It’s another non-stop adventure from the Super Mario Bros!

There must be something about being SUPER and having to eat mushrooms. As Super Pac-Man I once had to eat an entire maze filled with mushrooms. Have I ever mentioned that I hate mushrooms? Wocka! Wocka!

From the desk of Professor Pac-Man: Mario's trademark toothbrush mustache and red hat were the result of artists cutting corners. During the game's development, it was decided that giving him a hat and a mustache would be easier than drawing and animating hair and a mouth.

1988
Super Mario Bros. 2

From the NES Packaging: Mario’s back! Bigger and badder than ever before! This time it’s a fierce action-packed battle to free the land of Subcon from the curse of the evil Wart. It’s up to you, along with Mario, Luigi, Toad and the Princess to fight your way through bizarre multi-level worlds and find him! This time you’ve got a brand new kind of power – plucking power – and now anything you find can be a weapon. But beware! You’ve never seen creatures like these! Shyguys and Tweeters! Ningi and Beezos! And you’ve never had an adventure like this! Only cunning and speed can save you now…

Hey Professor, any idea why they got away from the "run, jump, and stomp" play style of the original SMB and why the graphics and worlds in SMB2 look so different from what we saw in SMB?

From the desk of Professor Pac-Man: Well Pac-Man, the US Super Mario Bros. 2 was a conversion of the Nintendo title, Dream Factory: Doki Doki Panic. They simply replaced the characters in that game with characters from the well-known Mario universe. The levels still progress in a linear fashion, but for the first time Mario can backtrack.

Yeah, now that you mention it I did notice the backtracking ability. I guess Mario’s popularity was growing a little faster than Nintendo had foreseen! Wocka! Wocka!

1988
Super Mario Bros. 3

From the Flyer: New, different worlds! New, exciting levels! New challenges galore! Fight monsters and mini-bosses, avoid ghosts and the burning sun. Make your way through water and quicksand. Dodge cannonballs and bullets and rescue the King’s wand! In Super Mario Bros. 3 there are more warps, more chances at extra lives, and new special suits! The raccoon suit lets you fly and knock out blocks. The frog suit helps you out-swim deadly fish. There are suits for every occasion! Store up flowers and mushrooms to use later on. Play game-show type bonus rounds! Go back to that last screen and get a mushroom! Pause to take a break, then continue where you left off!

Ghosts? Did I read something about ghosts? Now I know a thing or two about ghosts that might come in handy in this game! Wocka! Wocka!

From the desk of Professor Pac-Man: Super Mario Bros. 3 was first previewed in the arcades as a PlayChoice-10 title before being released on the Nintendo Entertainment System. The tune played when using one of the warp flutes, hidden throughout the game, is the exact melody used from the flute in The Legend of Zelda.

1990
Dr. Mario

From the NES Packaging: Dr. Mario – the prescription is fun. It’s Dr. Mario for an intense new challenge! Mario throws multi-colored vitamin capsules into a bottle that contains an ugly variety of nasty viruses. You can move, shift or spin the capsules as they fall. Arrange them to align with other capsules on top of the virus. If you can get 4 or more of the same color in a row, POOF! They disappear! Destroy all the viruses in the bottle and you progress to the next round where things get even more difficult. Dr. Mario, with germs that are fun to catch.

Dr. Mario?? Who gave him a PhD? I wonder if this is how all doctors prescribe medication? Ooohhh that Purple Pill is kind of pretty!! I’ll take a few of those, Dr. Mario! Wocka! Wocka!

From the desk of Professor Pac-Man: Dr. Mario was the first non-action Mario game in which the Mario character was neither controllable nor playable. Some fans initially called the game 'Mario 4', as it was the first Mario game to be released after Super Mario Bros. 3.

1991
Mario’s Open Golf

From the NES Packaging: How can sand traps and water be this much fun? Whether you’re an aspiring amateur or a professional-class golfer, Mario’s Open Golf puts you right in the thick of a world-class golf tournament. Select your club, check the wind and lay of the turf, and then drive your way toward winnings worth over one million dollars! Pick from three tough courses: one in the US, one in Japan, and one in the U.K. Practice your strokes, then compete against a friend. For the ultimate challenge, tee off against 36 computerized golfers and compete for top ranking. It’s all here in Mario’s Open Golf! So warm up on 18 holes and move up to tournament play. The better the golfer, the bigger the prize. Give it your best shot and go for the big money!

Now that I understand the golf balls are to be hit and not eaten – I thought I would give it another try. I played a round with Mario and I scored a 236!! He only managed a 74, so I declared myself the winner! Mario informed me that the person with the lowest score wins. Go Figure!?! I think golf is a bit of a backwards game. Wocka! Wocka!

From the desk of Professor Pac-Man: The Japanese release of this title had three additional courses not available in the other version (located in France, Australia and Hawaii) and did not include a US course.

1991
Super Mario World

From the NES Packaging: Tackle a whole new world with Mario and Yoshi! Mario’s off on his biggest adventure ever, and this time he’s brought along a friend. Yoshi the dinosaur teams up with Mario to battle Bowser, who has kidnapped Princess Toadstool once again. Guide Mario and Yoshi through nine peril-filled worlds to the final showdown in Bowser’s castle. Use Mario’s new powers and Yoshi’s voracious monster-gobbling appetite as you explore 96 levels filled with dangerous new monsters and traps. Climb mountains and cross rivers, and descend into subterranean depths. Destroy the seven Koopa castles and find keys to gain entrance to hidden levels. Discover more warps and thrilling bonus worlds than ever before! Mario’s back, and this time he’s better than ever!

Who does this Yoshi think he is?!? “Yoshi’s voracious monster-gobbling appetite” – my little round yellow butt he’s got a voracious monster-gobbling appetite. Has he never herd of PAC-MAN? I coined the phrase monster-gobbling and I’ll take him on any day! Wocka! Wocka!

From the desk of Professor Pac-Man: Super Mario World introduced many concepts to action gaming, such as giving the player the ability to revisit levels to find overlooked secrets and rewarding the player for finding all the secret exits in the levels.

1992
Super Mario Bros. Pinball

From the Flyer: The hit videogame comes to pinball!!! Introducing Gottlieb’s new dot matrix display! Pinball fun for all ages! Mario Mania comes to pinball!!! Bold graphic, light & sound spectacular! Super high earnings and reliability! Shoot Yoshi’s ramp for “quick shot” or the cave for “hidden treasures”! Join Mario and Luigi for adventures in 7 worlds of pinball excitement! Enjoy the video mode on the new dot matrix display! Crank up the sound on Gottlieb’s new powerful sound system! And don’t forget to rescue the princess from the animated castle!

“Ever since I was a young boy I've played the silver ball. From Soho down to Brighton I must have played them all. But I ain't seen nothing like him in any amusement hall...” Wocka! Wocka!

From the desk of Professor Pac-Man: This was Gottlieb's first pinball game to use a Dot Matrix Display.

1992
Super Mario Bros. Mushroom World Pinball

From the Flyer: Introducing the world’s first convertible redemption game… Super Mario Bros. Mushroom World! Finally, a fully adjustable game designed for any size! Any age!! Any location!!! All new short setting for little players!! It’s Mario Mania all over again… in redemption! Featuring: dynamic dot matrix display with interactive and non-interactive video mode, bold graphics, explosive lights and sound, and adjustable play (tickets or standard mode). Special space saving cabinet – same depth as most 4-player video cabinets. Adjustable game height – short and standard leg settings.

“He stands like a statue, becomes part of the machine. Feeling all the bumpers, always playing clean. He plays by intuition. The digit counters fall... He's a pinball wizard. There's got to be a twist. A pinball wizard, he's got such a supple wrist.” Wocka! Wocka!

From the desk of Professor Pac-Man: Only 519 of these pinball machines were actually produced.

2000
Mario Kart Arcade GP

From the Flyer: Classic Mario Kart action comes to the arcade! Select from an all-star cast including Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Mario, Luigi and Donkey Kong. Eleven characters in all! NamCam captures your face, combines it with the character’s and displays it on the screen. Put your driving skills to the test on 24 different tracks. Collect coins and power ups as you drive. Hundreds of power up items available. Slow your opponent down with a banana peel or an oil slick. Throw a pie in their face to block their vision. A new experience every time you play! Make your friends and family eat your dust! Two twin cabinets can be linked for 4 player serious fun. Massive fan base can’t wait to put the pedal to the metal on this arcade version!

Would you look at that screenshot - just whom is Mario trailing behind? Yeah, you know that’s right! Eat my pac-dust Mario!!! Wocka! Wocka!

From the desk of Professor Pac-Man: This game was co-developed and released by Namco, and as a result it was the first Mario Kart to feature playable crossover characters.

Beyond the Arcades

1989 - Super Mario Land
1991 - Super Mario Bros. & Friends: When I Grow Up
1991 - Mario Teaches Typing
1992 - Yoshi
1992 - Super Mario Kart
1992 - Mario Paint
1992 - Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
1993 - Yoshi's Cookie
1993 - Mario is Missing!
1993 - Mario's Time Machine
1993 - Super Mario All-Stars
1994 - Hotel Mario
1994 - Mario's Early Years: Fun with Letters
1994 - Mario's Early Years: Fun with Numbers
1994 - Mario's Early Years: Pre-school
1994 - Tetris & Dr. Mario
1995 - Mario's Game Gallery
1995 - Mario's Tennis
1995 - Mario Clash
1995 - Mario Picross
1995 - Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
1996 - Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
1996 - Super Mario 64
1997 - Mario Kart 64
1997 - Mario Teaches Typing 2
1999 - Mario Brothers Deluxe
1999 - Mario Golf
1999 - Super Smash Bros.
1999 - Mario Party
2000 - Mario Tennis
2000 - Mario Party 2
2001 - Paper Mario
2001 - Mario Party 3
2001 - Super Mario Advance
2001 - Mario Kart: Super Circuit
2001 - Luigi's Mansion
2001 - Super Smash Bros. Melee
2001 - Dr. Mario 64
2002 - Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World
2002 - Super Mario Sunshine
2002 - Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi's Island
2002 - Mario Party 4
2003 - Mario Party 5
2003 - Mario Kart: Double Dash
2003 - Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3
2003 - Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour
2004 - Mario vs. Donkey Kong
2004 - Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
2004 - Mario Golf: Advance Tour
2004 - Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
2004 - Mario Pinball Land
2004 - Mario Power Tennis
2004 - Mario Party 6
2005 - Mario Party Advance
2005 - Mario Superstar Baseball
2005 - Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix
2005 - Dr. Mario & Puzzle League
2005 - Mario Party 7
2005 - Mario Tennis: Power Tour
2005 - Mario & Luigi: Partners In Time
2005 - Super Mario Strikers
2006 - New Super Mario Brothers
2006 - Mario Hoops 3-on-3
2006 - Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis
2007 - Mario Party 8
TBA - Mario Strikers Charged
TBA - Super Mario Galaxy
TBA - Super Paper Mario
TBA - Super Smash Bros. Brawl

I think Mario will forever be known as the guy that has to rescue the princess by jumping around a lot and I as the non-stop munching machine. That's our lot in life. It's not a lot, but it's our life. Wocka! Wocka!

* This article is only a listing of known unique game titles. It does not cover clones of released titles, nor will it list the various platforms the titles have appeared on. It is not meant to be an all-inclusive reference listing, and should be viewed only as the recreational offering it was intended to be. Game descriptions, game titles and registered trademarks mentioned herein are properties of their respective owners.

First Published May 2007