What is Mario’s Secret Ingredient?

Geek Culture

Our recent posts and discussions on GeekDad about Super Mario 3D Land got me wondering what it was about Mario that makes him such an enduring character. Before writing I thought I’d be saying how he ticks all the casual gaming boxes.

However, it turns out that Mario is about as hardcore as they come. It’s his ability to move with the times that has kept him in the limelight …

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For family gaming, Mario is something of a lucky charm. But, unbeknown to most families he is actually living a double life. The bastion of accessible non-violent game-play is actually the forerunner of the hardcore gaming revolution.

Super Mario Brothers, both in its original arcade and NES incarnations, was super difficult, packed full of insider secrets and not at all family friendly. Compare this to the modern day Super Mario 3D Land and things couldn’t be more different. Not only is the difficulty bar much lower, the game also jumps in to help if you get stuck with free Tanooki power-ups and invincibility powers.

While many would bemoan what has become of their beloved mascot, there is actually something much more interesting at play here. Many of the traits that made Mario games so good for core gamers back in the 80’s are the very same things that makes him well suited for those green to gaming today.

The most endearing of all Mario’s facets is that, like any well rounded individual, he doesn’t take himself too seriously. From the magical moment you break through the ceiling in world 1-2 of Super Mario Brothers to the absurdity of tail power flight when donning the Tanooki suite to popping a Koopa from his shell in Super Mario World and even taking to the skies with a water powered jet-pack in Super Mario Sunshine, Mario’s tongue is firmly in his cheek.

While we’ve pulled out some high notes of the Mario cannon, the diminutive plumber will doubtless mean something different to each and every player. Perhaps the biggest achievement of all is that everyone has an opinion about Mario, and a raft of stories to back it up.

Read my full article in The Telegraph.

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