Super Mario at 35: How has the gaming icon evolved?

Believe it or not, this year marks 35 years since an Italian plumber became a video game icon. That’s right, the Mickey Mouse of video games himself and Nintendo’s mascot, Mario is celebrating the release of Super Mario Bros.

Here is a look back at how he has evolved over the last 35 years and beyond by looking at ten games which best represent him.

Donkey Kong (1981)

Donkey Kong Original Edition | Arcade | Games | Nintendo
Mario in Donkey Kong (1981)
Image Credit: Nintendo

This arcade classic was our first sight of Mario – but at the time he was a carpenter known as Jumpman. Mario must rescue Pauline from the crazy ape known as Donkey Kong. Many of the things we associate with modern games today were introduced from cutscenes to the jump mechanic. However, of course as we all know both Mario and Donkey Kong would go on to do bigger and better things and asserted Nintendo as one of the world’s leading video game companies.

Super Mario Bros (1985)

Super Mario Bros. | NES | Games | Nintendo
Super Mario Bros (1985)
Image credit: Nintendo

For many, our first thought of Mario is that classic jingle at the start of World 1-1. Originally devised as a sequel to the arcade game Mario Bros. – where his brother Luigi first appeared – Super Mario Bros has many things that we associate with Mario, including power ups such as the super Mushroom and Fire Flower, Pipes, Goombas, Toads, Princess Peach and his arch nemesis: Bowser.

The game is prominent in today’s pop culture and has sold over 40 million physical copies since its release. For the longest time it was the bestselling video game of all time! The game was built up upon by two sequels also for the NES.

Super Mario World (1990)

Super Mario World | Super Nintendo | Games | Nintendo
Super Mario World (1990)
Image credit: Nintendo

Widely considered the best Mario Game (2D or overall), Super Mario World was a launch title for the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) and the first time we see Mario in 16-bit. In this game Mario must rescue Princess Peach from Bowser (old habits die hard), but rather than the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario must navigate his way through Dinosaur World.

Most people may remember this as the introduction of his dinosaur companion Yoshi – who stars in its sequel Yoshi’s Island, released five years later – but this game has stood the test of time and continues to be loved today.

Mario Kart (1992 – present)

Mario Kart 7 Is Still Selling Like Hotcakes - Nintendo Life
Mario Kart
Image credit: Nintendo Life

Mario Kart is unquestionably the most popular Mario spin-off. The series started the racing game genre with Super Mario Kart for the SNES in 1992 and has been a regular console release ever since. Despite the change in graphics and new characters, tracks and mechanics introduced across each game, you can’t beat screwing over your friends on various tracks from Mario Circuit to the infamous Rainbow Road…

Super Mario 64 (1996)

NINTENDO 64 (Console) Super Mario 64 1996 PLAYTHROUGH (100%) - YouTube
Super Mario Bros (1996)
Image credit: YouTube

Super Mario 64 is Mario’s first adventure in 3D and a launch title for the N64. Mario journeys to various worlds reclaiming stars to Peach’s castle. The game started (and set the bar) for the 3D platforming genre and allows Mario to explore open worlds, allowing the player as much time as they want to explore the various worlds from Bob-omb Battlefield to Jolly Roger Bay. This game’s influence can’t be overlooked.

New Super Mario Bros (2006)

New Super Mario Bros. | Nintendo DS | Games | Nintendo
New Super Mario Bros (2006)
Image credit: Nintendo

When Mario jumped into the 3rd dimension, the 2D games disappeared completely. They were brought back out in this classic for the Nintendo DS. This game took Mario’s moves from the 3D games and translated into the 2nd dimension in yet another quest to rescue Peach from Bowser.

Sequels with increasingly similar gameplay, obstacles and multiplayer gameplay have followed.

Super Mario Galaxy (2007)

Super Mario Galaxy | Wii | Games | Nintendo
Super Mario Galaxy (2007)
Image credit: Nintendo

Super Mario Galaxy takes the plumber across the universe and a variety of galaxies and planets with their own gravity – from Eggs and Space Junk to Gardens and Toys – to rescue Peach from Bowser and stop his intergalactic empire. This game’s appeal – in addition to gameplay – also rests in its story and spectacular orchestrated music soundtrack. Who doesn’t like the Gusty Garden Galaxy theme? The game is one of the highest ranked in the series. As well as this, a sequel was released in 2010 which streamlined the gameplay and added some new power ups and Yoshi.

Super Mario 3D World (2013)

Eurogamer's Game Of The Year 2013 Is Super Mario 3D World – My Nintendo News
Super Mario 3D world (2013)
Image credit: My Nintendo News

A sequel to Super Mario 3D Land (2011), Super Mario 3D World is basically the 2D Mario games translated into 3D. In this game, Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad pursue Bowser across the Sprixie Kingdom to rescue Fairies captured by the Koopa King. The main power up introduced in this game is the Super Bell which turns the characters into cats to climb up walls and pounce on enemies. The game is the only 3D Mario to allow for multiplayer gameplay allowing you to either assist or torment your fellow players for the crown.

Super Mario Maker (2015)

Super Mario Maker | Wii U | Games | Nintendo
Super Mario Maker (2015)
Image credit: Nintendo

Super Mario Maker allows players to create their own Mario levels with aesthetics based on Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros U. They would then be shared across the internet to allow players from around the world to try them out. A 3DS port and a Switch sequel were also released.

Super Mario Odyssey (2017)

Super Mario Odyssey | Nintendo Switch | Games | Nintendo
Super Mario Odyssey (2017)
Image credit: Nintendo

Mario’s latest adventure sees the plumber travel to stop Bowser from marrying Peach – finally some story variety. In this quest, he can throw his hat (possessed by a sentinel named Cappy) to use as a platform or capture his enemies to get past obstacles as he chases across the world from the falls of the Cascade Kingdom to the Metropolitan New Donk City to stop the wedding of a lifetime. Rather than the linear gameplay of previous games, it returned to the sandbox worlds of Super Mario 64. The game also featured the series’ first song with lyrics, “Jump Up Super Star” sung by Pauline. Yep, the same woman from Donkey Kong…

By Stuart McComb

Feature image: JustDial

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