Mario explores the globe aboard the Odyssey in his all new 3D Sandbox game, Super Mario Odyssey! As we approach very rapidly towards release, I thought we would take a trip all the way back to 1981 where the character “Mario” made his first debut.
Designer Shigeru Miyamoto was given the task to create a unique video game for arcade cabinets. He landed on the idea of a “King Kong” based title, which lead to the release of Donkey Kong! The game featured; a Gorilla, a short and fat carpenter with a blue undershirt, red overalls, white gloves, and a mustache, and his love interest/damsel in distress, Pauline. The game consisted of jumping to avoid barrels, collecting hammer power-ups, and climbing ladders. At this point in time, Mario was not actually “Mario” at all. In fact, he was known solely as, “Jumpman”.
Mario got his name from the Nintendo of America Headquarters Landlord, Mario Segale. During distribution of Donkey Kong, Mr. Segale showed up demanding the warehouse’s late rent. This lead to the workers of Nintendo to begin calling the somewhat nameless character Jumpman, Mario.
Donkey Kong was a major success! Resulting in a sequel releasing just one year later, in 1982 titled; Donkey Kong Junior.
Mario’s first debut with the name “Mario”, came with the 1983 release of “Mario Bros.” in the arcades. In this game, Mario was no longer a carpenter, but instead an italian plumber! Taking place in the sewers, the game had players flipping and kicking creatures such as turtles and crabs. This was also the first game to introduce Mario’s green overall-wearing brother, Luigi! The game had moderate success, and was the first and last Mario title released in the arcades before the launch of Nintendo’s first major console, the Nintendo Entertainment System.
With the Video game crash of 1983, the game industry was quickly falling, but in 1985 things began to change. Nintendo released the 8-bit “Nintendo Entertainment System” which was a redesigned version of the previously released “Famicom” in Japan. The system was branded as an “entertainment system” instead of a console due to the failing video game market. They even launched a toy-like accessory for the system known as R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy), to sneak the NES onto toy aisles shelves in stores. The system launched alongside the game Super Mario Bros., which was a HUGE success! The game featured Mario and his brother Luigi on an adventure to rescue the Princess Toadstool (now known as Peach) from the evil King Koopa (Bowser). This game consisted of many characters which became a staple to the Mario franchise. Including; Goombas, Koopa-Troopas, and Hammer Brothers. It was also the first Mario game to introduce a variety of different power-ups like; Mushrooms, Fire-Flowers, and 1-UPs. The game ended up being the bestselling video game of all time for the next 30 years, and became a template of sorts for all future Mario titles.
Inevitably, a sequel was released very shortly after. Just one year later, Super Mario Bros. 2 arrived on store shelves for the Famicom in Japan. The game was very similar to the original, except it contained new levels and mechanics. The game was known to be extremely difficult, which was one of the main reasons the game was never released in Western countries (until over 20 years later). The rest of the world got a excruciatingly different “Super Mario Bros. 2”. Released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988, SMB2 was simply a reskin of the Japanese Nintendo title, “Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic”. Many changes were made to the title, but at it’s core both games are entirely the same. Some enemies from Doki Doki Panic were unchanged, and were kept for the SMB2 re-release. These characters such as Shyguys, Bob-ombs, and Birdo, have now become canon in the Mario universe, and have been in many following Mario titles. Doki Doki Panic actually had some Mario elements already in the original game, including POW blocks. These remained the same for the SMB2 release. Super Mario Bros. 2 was similar to the original Super Mario Bros., in the sense that it was a side scrolling platformer. However, the game was still quite different. A new mechanic was introduced which now allowed the player to pick certain items up and throw them. This allowed for unique gameplay from the original.
Super Mario Bros. 3 was released in 1988 in Japan for the Famicom, and 1990 for the NES in the West. It featured all new power-ups, characters, story, and a redesigned art style! Unlike the first 2 Mario games, SMB3 introduced an overview world map which allowed you to select the next level to play. While many new power-ups appeared first in Super Mario Bros. 3, the biggest new addition to Mario’s wardrobe was the Tanooki Suit, as well as “Raccoon Mario” which is obtained by collected the Super Leaf. Both items are very similar in SMB3, however the Tanooki suit grants you with the unique ability of transforming into a statue. In some future Mario titles, these two items will become one, but they both have been a major iconic addition to the Mario franchise after its first debut in SMB3. Many enemies were also introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3 that ended up being frequent characters in Mario titles. Boos, Dry Bones, the Fire Piranha Plant, and even Bowser’s 7 koopalings (Larry Koopa, Morton Koopa Jr., Wendy O. Koopa, Iggy Koopa, Roy Koopa, Lemmy Koopa, and Ludwig von Koopa) were enemies first in SMB3.
Due to the Nintendo Entertainment Systems massive success, in 1990/1991, Nintendo introduced the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (‘Super Famicom’ in Japan). The new system featured 16-bit graphics, and allowed for many new game opportunities. Super Mario World was released to the ‘world’ alongside the SNES, just as the original Super Mario Bros. did with the NES.