This might come as a surprise to you, but Mario is the biggest gaming property in the world. Yeah, I know, you never heard that one before. He’s also probably the most iconic character in the world since Mickey Mouse began his semi-retirement. Because of this, Nintendo treats the property with kid gloves, and they watch it like a hawk. Anything that might endanger Mario’s status as a family friendly icon is taken out with the same force the Secret Service would use on a naked man running towards the President. It’s like Yahtzee Croshaw put it best–“They're afraid to show that Mario doesn't like peas in case they lose the entire pea-loving demographic."
But Nintendo has good reason to be wary. Before Mario was the icon he is today, the company did some… questionable things with the character. Still to this day they do some bizarre gymnastics in the hope of making you forget or never even know about some of the stuff that old Italian plumber gets up to. That Mario typing game or the one on the Philips CD-i are the least of Mario’s embarrassing past.
Here’s our list of the 15 shocking things Nintendo desperately wants you to forget about Mario.
15 Mario The Carpenter
Strap yourselves in, we’re starting this list with possibly the hardest hitting surprise yet. You know that whole “Mario is a plumber" thing? Well, I hate to break it to you, but that story he’s been telling for all these years is a lie. The shocking truth is that Mario is actually a carpenter!
Okay, not exactly the most startling revelation, but it’s definitely something Nintendo has moved on from. In Donkey Kong, Mario’s debut, he was actually a general construction worker, working on the building that Donkey Kong is standing at the top of on the first level. That’s why he grabs a hammer to smash barrels and not a wrench or a pipe or something.
There’s nothing nefarious going on here on Nintendo’s part, it’s just a tiny detail of a character they didn’t think much of at first. Mario wasn’t developed at all as a character in the first game, so by the time he got his own game, they probably just wanted to give him a more stereotypical job as a plumber, since he’s Italian and all. Still, it goes to show that Nintendo was pretty much making the character up as they were going along from game to game.
14 Philips CD-i Mario Games
Somebody thought it’d be a good idea to spice up the already well-worn Mario formula by giving him a hotel, the same tactic the Golden Girls employed two years earlier.
As part of the deal between Nintendo and Philips, the Dutch company was allowed to use Mario and Zelda characters in their own games. What they came up with was Hotel Mario, a game about Mario closing doors. Seriously, that’s it. In fairness, Hotel Mario actually isn’t terrible. You run around a large hotel, changing floors to close doors before Koopa Troopers can enter them, dodging enemies and obstacles along the way. While it’s not bad, it’s not very good either, just really boring.
Philips was going to make two other Mario games, Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds and Mario Takes America, which both actually looked like they had potential. Unfortunately (or not, depending on your morbid curiosity) the CD-i failed before either game could be finished, and they never saw the light of day. To this day, Nintendo doesn’t acknowledge the existence of any of the CD-i games.
13 Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic
When Nintendo finished development on the real Super Mario Bros. 2, they sent it off to Nintendo of America for localization. A warehouse worker and later occasional game tester at Nintendo of America, Howard Phillips, got his hands on the game before release and went to his boss, saying that the game was too difficult. Nintendo took this complaint seriously, and decided that instead of tweaking the game for the West, they’d just re-purpose an old game.
That game was Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, a 2D sidescroller released exclusively in Japan a year earlier. It was developed as a promotion for a Fuji Television event in Japan in 1987. Nintendo liked the game however, and removed the original characters, and replaced them with Mario characters, calling it Super Mario Bros. 2 for the West, and later releasing it in Japan as Super Mario Bros. USA.
Nintendo doesn’t want people to remember that they got lazy with one of their mainline games, and released what is essentially a butchered version of another game with their own characters slapped in it. Super Mario Bros. 2 has its fans, but it’s hardly a real Mario game.
12 Mario Dies On Iconic NES Box Art
The NES box art for Super Mario Bros. sure is iconic, isn’t it? It’s got Mario, some blue stuff, some red stuff, and even more red stuff! What’s there to not love? Well, probably the fact that it depicts a world famous icon dying a painful, agonizing death at the hands of not only a fireball, but also a pit of lava. And there’s an explosion at the bottom of the box for good measure.
The cover clearly shows Mario jumping (because his hand is raised) into a lava pit, while a fireball is about to singe his face off, and since he’s already jumped, he can’t jump over it. Even if he could find a way of avoid the fireball and the pit of lava, he’s about to smash face-first into a brick wall, thus falling into the lava pit anyway.
It probably wasn’t Nintendo’s intention to illustrate Mario in a way that he was clearly dying, they probably just wanted a nice action shot to grab people’s attentions and that was the only thing they could think of.
11 Mario Is A Ruthless Villain In Donkey Kong Jr.
Donkey Kong is, for a lot of people, their first video game. It introduced not only a cast of now familiar characters, but also basic gaming concepts like the standard “save the princess from an evil villain” plot formula, jumping over obstacles, climbing ladders, and hitting things with a big hammer. It was going to be hard for Nintendo to step things up for a sequel, so they decided to go a radically different route.
In the game’s sequel, Donkey Kong Jr., you don’t play Mario, instead playing as Donkey Kong’s son. Instead of rescuing a princess, you’re rescuing your father from, wait for it, the ruthless Mario. Taking place directly after the first game, Donkey Kong Jr. sees Mario capturing Donkey Kong and putting him in a cage, and doing everything he can to stop the dad’s child from rescuing him or even visiting him.
This marks the only time in Mario history where he’s actually the villain. This goes back to Nintendo not wanting to bring any harm to their band, and as a result, they rarely (if ever) re-release Donkey Kong Jr. They ported it to several consoles when it first came out in 1982, but since, it’s seen only one modern port to the Wii’s virtual console.
10 The 1980’s Hudson Soft Mario Games
As terrible as the Philips CD-i Mario games are, it’s not the first time Nintendo licensed out their icon Italian plumber. The first time they did so was to Hudson Soft in 1984 with the release of Punch Ball Mario Bros. and Mario Bros. Special, and again in 1986 with Super Mario Bros.
Punch Ball Mario Bros. is essentially a computer port of Mario Bros., with the addition of “punch balls.” These are red and green balls that can be thrown at the opposing player to temporarily stun them. Mario Bros. Special is more of a sequel to Mario Bros., featuring new levels with different gameplay mechanics.
Super Mario Bros. Special is a sequel the original Super Mario Bros., and is the only Mario Hudson Soft game to leave the shores of Japan, though only in South Korea. Like the real Super Mario Bros. 2 or The Lost Levels in the West, Special was essentially identical to the first game, with only a handful of new gameplay elements and levels.
To this day, Nintendo doesn’t acknowledge the existence of either game, and they’ve never been ported to any modern systems. It could be due to licensing issues with Hudson Soft, or it could be shame on Nintendo’s part since they’re essentially copies of their own games.
9 Super Mario Galaxy's Quebec Localization
Super Mario Galaxy was a first for the series, and not just in terms of gameplay. It was the first game in the franchise to be translated in Quebec French, which is different from regular French the same way American English is different from British English, mate.
However, the translation caused a fair share of controversy in the area. It featured what is known as a Joual accent and slang, which is considered outdated and a poor use of language today. It’s essentially a stereotype of the “upper-class,” and was criticized for teaching children playing the game poor French by the Quebec Board of the French Language and the Artists Union.
Nintendo actually didn’t apologize for this, instead saying they translated the game for the Quebec market in mind. But from then on, copies of all Nintendo games were translated to standard French.
8 Super Mario Spikers
There aren’t many canceled Mario games, and even fewer that are canceled far into development. Super Mario Spikers is one of those rare games, and at least according to Nintendo, it was cancelled for good reason. You know how Mario and the good guys randomly decide to sign a peace treaty with Bowser and the other villains to play several rousing sports and party games? Well, one of the games they would have played would have been volleyball, of all things.
Super Mario Spikers started out as a relatively benign volleyball game. It was only after Next Level Games started work on the game that they realized a generic volleyball game with Mario characters in it wouldn’t be very fun. So they decided to spice things up and add a little something extra. What they came up with was a bizarre combination of volleyball and wrestling.
Needless to say, Nintendo wasn’t a fan of the idea of Mario characters fighting each other. Sure they have Super Smash Bros., but that’s a cartoony fighter all about knocking people off the level. The wrestling in Super Mario Spikers was pretty realistic considering the cartoon visuals, and you could pull off some nasty moves. Nintendo didn’t like seeing their mascot clotheslining pile-driving people, and swiftly canceled it.
7 The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!
Super Mario Bros. The Movie wasn’t Nintendo’s only live action crack at adapting Mario (yes, of course that movie is on this list). The show was actually a cartoon, running for only four months at the end of 1989. The cartoon segments actually weren’t that bad, but what really irks Nintendo these days are the live-action segments.
Each episode began with a live action sequence, featuring WWE wrestler Lou Albano as Mario, and Canadian actor Danny Wells as Luigi. Both actors also provided the voice of their animated versions as well.
These segments were cheaply produced and poorly written, directed, and acted. Many of them served as advertising for other series or movies. At one point, Ernie Hudson showed up playing his Ghostbusters character, Winston, to capture a slime creature. It’s hard to say why these segments at all considering these shows were mainly about the cartoons. Future Mario-based shows like The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World would remove these live action sequences. Though there is King Koopa’s Kook Kartoons, but that’s a whole other mess entirely.
6 Mario Is A Major Italian Stereotype
Charles Martinet is probably the only actor in the modern world who can make a career out of doing a fake, stereotypical Italian accent. The American actor first landed the gig in 1994, voicing the character in Mario in Real Time, a 3D, motion captured display of Mario’s face looking at and speaking to the viewer.
But it’s not just the voice that can cause offense. The entire idea of Mario is a complete stereotype of Italians and Italian Americans. Everything from him being a plumber, to the mustache, the name, and even eating a big plate of spaghetti in the cartoon series. If you can think of an Italian stereotype, chances are Nintendo probably used it at some point.
There have been some discussions about this for years, and for the most part, most Italians chiming in don’t seem to be offended by the character. But that hasn’t stopped Nintendo from pulling back in recent years, only referring to Mario as a plumber from Brooklyn, and cutting pasta from his diet completely.
5 Speaking Of Stereotypes…
One aspect of Mario’s past that can’t be so easily brushed aside is Qix, an arcade game originally developed by Taito in 1981. It was eventually ported to the Nintendo Game Boy in 1990, which was handled by Nintendo directly. Because it’s Nintendo, they shoved Mario in the game frequently, during intermissions between stages.
Mario appears in different locations throughout the world during each of these intermissions. The problem is that Nintendo surrounded Mario with the most basic stereotypes of every country he visits. In Mexico, for example, Mario is wearing a giant sombrero and playing a guitar in the desert. In China, Mario is wearing his hair in a tight ponytail and spinning dishes. He’s snake charming in India, bull fighting in Spain, and marching with the Queen’s Guard in England.
It’s all rather odd, especially considering these scenes have no relevance to the game at all. Stranger still is that after all of these years of pretending like it never happened, the Mexican character outfit will be unlockable in Super Mario Odyssey.
4 Super Mario Bros. The Movie
Super Mario Bros. has been credited with sinking the reputation of video game movies before the genre even got started. It’s been called one of the worst movies of all time. The actors all hated it, almost as much as they hated the directors. So is that movie really that bad? No, not really. It’s not great, it’s not even good, but it’s an entertaining watch if you’ve got nothing better to do.
Nintendo had no idea what they were doing when they got the idea for a Mario movie. They sold the rights to a small production company and went through several different writers, directors, and actors before the film was finally done. It bombed at the box office and developed an infamous reputation. This convinced Nintendo to never allow anyone to make a movie with their characters ever again, and Nintendo distanced themselves from the project.
To this day, Nintendo is hesitant to work with Hollywood again. However, they’ve loosed that policy somewhat. They licensed their characters in out in Wreck It Ralph and Pixels, and have even reported agreed to a deal with Sony of all companies to produce an animated movie. But still, much like the Philips CD-i games, Nintendo still doesn’t recognize the existence of the bizarre and terrible movie.
In October 2013, college student Josh Goldberg created the website FullScreenMario.com, a remake of the original Super Mario Bros. with updated, HD graphics, widescreen support, and randomly generated levels and enemy placement that could be played for free. The basic art style of the game was the same, the music was the same, and it of course used the same characters.
Nintendo wasn’t a fan of this though, not the least of which because they continue to sell the game on various platforms. They shut the project down not long after it debuted, issuing it with a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice.
Whether or not Goldberg was in the wrong isn’t for us to decide. However, a lot of work went into the game to make it presentable on modern machines, far more work than Nintendo has ever done with their original work, they pretty much just port the original game to modern consoles as is, sometimes even running it as a ROM on emulating software. Above all, it showed just how lazy Nintendo is with their porting of their classic games, and how good we could have it if they weren’t.
2 Mario Roulette
That Mario guy sure is a wholesome character, isn’t he? If he were American, he’d probably be in all of those PSAs from the 80s and 90s telling kids not to do drugs or do the deed or they’ll die or whatever. The point is, Mario would never do anything unseemly—wait, what’s this? An officially licensed gambling game, created in conjunction with Konami no less?
Mario Roulette was a pachinko gambling game released in 1991, officially licensed by Nintendo and developed by everyone’s favorite developer, Konami. It had the graphics from Super Mario World, and its gameplay was just the bonus level card-matching mini-game. Instead of earning power-ups, you earn (or more likely lose) money.
These machines were only available in Japan and were somewhat rare, though how many were produced and sold, and for how long they operated, has been lost to time. Still, the idea of family friendly Mario and his pals being used to potentially market gambling to the youths of Japan is a skin-crawling thought, and certainly one Nintendo doesn’t want you to think about today.
1 Super Hornio Brothers
Speaking of corrupting youths, did you know that adult parodies are quite popular on the internet? It should come as no surprise that there are plenty based on Mario and other Nintendo properties, but did you know that Nintendo went so far as to actually purchase the rights to one to ensure it would never been seen?
“Hold on to your joystick…” the original DVD cover reads. There were originally two films, Super Hornio Brothers I and II, and like any good adult parody, they had almost nothing to do with what it was “parodying.” Mario was being played by Ron Jeremy though, which would have turned out well, at least. The two films would have gone out at the same time as Super Mario Bros. hit theaters. Apparently, director Buck Adams tried to emulate the live action segments from the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, and that production cost $20,000, according to Jeremy.
Before the films could be distributed (this was before the internet was popular), Nintendo swooped in and bought the rights to the films. They did this rather than suing Adams to ensure nobody would ever even hear about them, and it worked. News about the parodies didn’t circulate to the public until 2008, 15 years after they were made.
That just goes to show the lengths Nintendo will go through to protect their IP. To think, sitting at some Nintendo vault right now are two adult parodies featuring Ron Jeremy as Mario.
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