Super Mario Bros.: Stories, Facts, And Trivia You Didn't Know About The Video Game

By | September 9, 2020

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Released in 1985, Super Mario Bros. began as the last gasp of the cartridge era for Nintendo and became the game by which everything that followed was measured. Mario has had three decades of monumental success, with a movie, a few cartoons, and of course, a myriad sequels that have kept players glued to their consoles. How this simple 2-D platformer came to life and inspired pretty much every game for the next 35 years is the story of a small group of creatives who poured all of their talent into 31 kilobytes of data while turning glitches and limitations into part of the gameplay.

The Real Mario Map

Growing up in the Japanese town of Sonobe, a rural town northwest of Kyoto, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto was fond of two things: expeditions into the countryside and drawing. He told NPR:

I spent a lot of my time playing in the rice paddies and exploring the hillsides and having fun outdoors. When I got into the upper elementary school ages—that was when I really got into hiking and mountain climbing. There's a place near Kobe where there's a mountain, and you climb the mountain, and there's a big lake near the top of it. We had gone on this hiking trip and climbed up the mountain, and I was so amazed.

It was landscapes like these that inspired the different levels and worlds of his two most famous franchises, Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. He actually initially wanted to draw manga, but when he fell into game design at Nintendo, he found it to be the perfect medium to recreate the vastness of Sonobe. He even used his swimming experience as a frame of reference for the underwater scenes of Super Mario 64.

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The Anonymous Tradesman

When he initially appeared as the protagonist of Donkey Kong, Mario was just called "Jumpman" because, well, he jumped and he was a man. Due to graphical limitations, he was just a little guy with a hat instead of hair and a mustache so designers didn't have to create a nose. When it came time to give him a name, Miyamoto deferred to Nintendo's U.S. office. At the time, the company wasn't doing so well, but their landlord, Mario Segale, gave them a break, and a star was born.

But Mario could have been named anything; to Miyamoto, he was just a blue-collar guy doing his job. In fact, Mario is a bit of a jack of all trades:

In Donkey Kong, Mario was actually a carpenter, and he was working on a building, and then the next game we made after that was a game called Mario Bros., and that was a game that was set in the sewers, and the pipes were green, and there were turtles coming out of the pipes. And so we thought, in this game, it would make sense that Mario would be a plumber because of all the pipes. And so that's where the plumber came from. But my vision of Mario has always been that he's sort of representative of everyone. He's kind of a blue-collar hero. And so that's why we chose these roles for him that were things like carpenters and plumbers.