I remember when my parents would bring us to the neighbor’s house, and all of the kids would sit in front of the TV to watch someone play video games. It was then that I first noticed a small plump character on the screen that ultimately led me to become the avid gamer that I am today.
It was an adventure game where an Italian plumber would jump over platforms and creatures that awakened the curiosity that I have for games. I would wait for my turn to play the Mario game, and when I did, it was one of the best experiences of my life.
What started as a Sunday afternoon habit became a lifelong passion for me. The Mario franchise has influenced many people since its inception, and today, we learn more about this game.
- The Life Of One Shigeru Miyamoto
- Getting Inspiration
- The Start Of A Legacy
- A Misstep That Could Have Ended The Franchise
- The Super Mario Franchise
- The Pop Culture Phenomenon
The Life Of One Shigeru Miyamoto
Before we try to delve deeper into the world of Super Mario, we need to acknowledge who created the iconic character and how he came to be. Video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto designed Mario.
He first started as a manga artist and later on developed an interest in video games.
He was inspired by Western television shows and the narrative structure of manga. This ultimately led him on a path towards Nintendo.
It was through a mutual friend that he got an apprentice position in the company. In 1977, he helped create the art for an arcade game that soon became the stepping stone for his famous Donkey Kong game, released in 1981.
At this time, Nintendo was still a small fledgling Japanese company that wanted to break through the tough industry of gaming.
It wasn’t until Miyamoto became part of the team and created Donkey Kong that things started to become better for the company.
The origins of Mario can be traced back to as early as 1977. This was when Miyamoto started a draft on what would become the first big break for the company.
Miyamoto imagined a different version of a love triangle that was highly reminiscent of another popular game of the time – Popeye. He wanted to have a gorilla, a carpenter, and a damsel in distress.
With inspiration from King Kong and Beauty and the Beast, Miyamoto created a game with the right platform mechanics.
How Jumpman Came To Be
The main character was named Jumpman due to his ability to jump over obstacles sent by Kong. He could also move left and right and climb ladders to rescue the girl trapped by the giant gorilla.
It wasn’t until the game was sent to Nintendo America that the game was eventually called Donkey Kong. Soon after, the staff of the American branch had to create names for all the characters.
The name Mario was thrown around a lot as a nickname by the staff. It was a joke referring to the owner of the warehouse who always demanded that they pay the rent. Soon after, Jumpman became the iconic plump man that we now know today as Mario.
The Start Of A Legacy
Miyamoto started working on different projects after the success of Donkey Kong. He worked on the sequels of the Mario game, where another player was able to control another character known as Mario’s brother, Luigi.
This was also the first time that the company introduced Mario with superhuman abilities. Mario cannot die by falling from the platform in this game, and it wasn’t long before a new game was born.
I know you would immediately recognize this game from its iconic music and the popular characters that form part of the game. This was probably the first-ever game that millions of people played all over the world.
It is not hard to understand why Super Mario Bros became the best-selling video game of all time. It was new, fun, and highly entertaining to play. You could even enjoy watching others play.
I could still remember the days when we as kids would take turns trying to finish a level, and it was fun watching ourselves struggle to finish the game. I knew then that this was a game that would forever change the gaming world.
A Misstep That Could Have Ended The Franchise
The overall success of Super Mario Bros birthed two sequels that eventually became Nintendo’s first misstep. Super Mario Bros 2 was quite similar to the first game; however, many people felt like the game was very difficult.
As a kid, I would share the same sentiment as many others who have anticipated the game. Another game was released in America but was also scrapped later on.
The disappointment from the fans was short-lived when Nintendo introduced Super Mario Bros 3 to the world. The game invigorated the entire franchise by having similar controls and mechanics to the original Super Mario game.
The Creative Resurgence
I wouldn’t say it was a direct copy of the first game. I would not even say that it was the same game with better graphics. Super Mario Bros 3 was the first game with a world map and an inventory, another game-changer.
This was the game that changed the way we play Mario. Super Mario Bros 3 added new powerups, and the game was non-linear to an extent.
I could skip levels if I wanted to, depending on the layout of the game. Up to this very day, I would still consider Super Mario Bros 3 as one of the greatest games ever released by Nintendo or by any video game company.
The Super Mario Franchise
By the time the 90s rolled in, Nintendo had plans to release a new console and release it together with the newest and biggest Mario game to date. Super Mario World was introduced, and it gave us the wonderful sidekick Yoshi, the beloved dinosaur.
The game became a worldwide sensation and showed us what the new Super Nintendo was capable of doing. However, this was also the last side-scrolling platform game that Nintendo would publish over the next few decades.
Instead, the company opted to develop next-generation games for newer consoles and slapped the Mario brand into it. This time with Super Mario 64. Super Mario 64 was the first-ever 3D Mario game and arguably the first 3D game to be played on a console.
This further expanded the Super Mario franchise in territories that were unheard of before, making Nintendo a powerhouse in video games.
The increasing popularity of the franchise meant that Nintendo had to branch out to other genres apart from the usual platformer games.
Games like Super Mario RPG delved into the role-playing genre with much success, and Dr. Mario became a widely successful puzzle game based on the Mario character.
Various educational games were also developed that would appeal to the younger generation. Games like Mario Teaches Typing and Mario’s Game Gallery were all widely accepted by the younger audience.
The Pop Culture Phenomenon
There is no denying that Mario is a very popular and iconic character. Anyone would be able to identify him. Mario has been established as a pop culture icon and has been a prominent figure throughout the game’s history.
I can see various products that feature Mario such as, Mario plush toys and even shampoo bottles. Mario has received seven world records by the Guinness Book of World Records.
The popularity of Mario continues to dominate even to this very day. Mario even has his own special day, with Mario Day being celebrated every 10th of March since 2016.
Ever since the original Mario game sold 40 million copies worldwide, the game has seen different versions of itself. However, one character has stood the test of time and has remained very distinguishable amongst the many changes.
The Future Of Mario
Mario will continue to become a pop culture phenomenon even after I stop playing games. And the entire franchise will continue to charm new audiences as it goes ahead and creates new paths for the game and the iconic character to live on forever.
To this very day, many companies are trying to figure out how they can produce their own Mario or emulate the success of the character.
There is still no formula to becoming an iconic character. From what I’ve seen, everything just fell into place when Mario was introduced to the world.
When I look back over my younger years, I wouldn’t imagine becoming a gamer. It was until that fateful day when a plump plumber with his crazy mustache came on TV that has truly influenced how I look at my life.
For some, Mario is just a character in the game, but for others like me, he was and still is the source of inspiration and influence within the gaming industry.