art_donkeykong_jumpmanVideo Game Analysis: Mario’s Origins

More than a reoccurring video game character; Mario is an icon. Named the most popular video game character in history by various publications, the 32-year old plumber isn’t exactly an open book. Certainly, Mario is a legend in the Mushroom World, after saving Princess Peach countless times and restoring balance after many attacks from the relentless Bowser and and his band of Kooplings.

So let’s start from the beginning. Not necessarily the beginning of the franchise which started with the arcade title “Donkey Kong” in 1981, but the beginning of the story. Which started in the 1995 title “Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island.”

To properly retell this story, we will be filling in the blanks between games as we go. We have color coated which game the information comes from so that you can help us fill in any possible blanks. Let’s try and make a third dimension out of the world of Mario.

YoshisIsland--article_imageDonkey Kong – Red
Donkey Kong Jr. – Maroon
Super Mario Bros. – Orange
Super Mario Bros. 2 – Amber
Super Mario Bros. 3 – Olive
Dr. Mario – Pink
Super Mario Land – Green
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins – Teal
Super Mario World – Blue
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island – Royal Blue
Super Mario 64 – Indigo
Super Mario Sunshine – Purple
Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Brown

It all started with a vision. Kamek, a Magikoopa, spent many years as Baby Bowser’s caretaker, practically raising him. Kamek is haunted by a dark vision. He forsees a pair of twins causing trouble for the Koopas in the future. While the stork flies across the sky Kamek snatches one of the babies as the other falls down to an island. This island, Yoshi’s Island, is known for inhabiting Yoshies, a friendly dinosaur-like creature. The baby falls and lands on Yoshi’s head. That baby’s name is Mario.

The Yoshi Clan decides the help Baby Mario save his twin brother Luigi from Kamek and Baby Bowser. Kamek does everything in his power to stop Yoshi and Baby Mario from storming the castle. He uses his dark magic to transform enemies into more powerful creatures.

After many trials, Yoshi reaches Bowser’s castle. He is greeted by Kamek who demands that Yoshi surrender Baby Mario unto him. All of the noise awakens Baby Bowser. Kamek uses his dark magic to enlarge Baby Bowser, destroying much of the castle in the process. He is still no match for Yoshi. The young dinosaur and younger baby manage to defeat Kamek’s evil forces. Kamek vows to return before flying off with Baby Bowser to the moon. Yoshi frees the captured stork and Baby Luigi. The stork flies the twins to their parents in the Mushroom Kingdom.

“Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island” actually provides a lot of Mario’s back story. The biggest thing we can take away from it is that Mario and Luigi were indeed born and raised in the Mushroom Kingdom. Who knows why they are humans and the Italian accents though when all of the other Mushroom Kingdom inhabitants are primarily Toads.

We are also given some insight into Bowser’s past. The most intersting thing is how Baby Bowser isn’t really as much of a villain as Kamek, Bowser’s caretaker.

The Kooplings start many feuds amongst the Mushroom World throughout the years, so it’s interesting how Kamek forsaw that Mario and Luigi would cause trouble. The biggest question is if Mario and Luigi are from the Mushroom Kingdom, then why are they humans? Why the Italian accents?

It had to have been that their parents weren’t originally Mushroom Kingdom inhabitants either. The Mushroom Kingdom acts as a capital in the Mushroom World. There are many worlds throughout this chronology, but it’s likely that Earth, our world, is one of them. It’s also likely that Earth, or anything like Earth just doesn’t exist in the world of Mario. The problem is the “Super Mario Bros.” manual specifically states that they are in New York when strange creatures appear in the sewers. 

Let’s move on.

Many years Mario and Luigi live separate lives on Earth. It is possible that they grow up most of their life in Italy, and that their parents were of Italian descent. Either way, Mario they both eventually end up in New York.

Mario gets a job as a carpenter. During the job he is handed the bizarre task of watching over a giant ape named Donkey Kong. Mario lives comfortably with his girlfriend Pauline in a busy city. Mario goes by the nickname “Jump Man” considering his astounding ability to jump high and long. 

One day, while mistreating the disgruntled ape, Donkey Kong gets loose and kidnaps Pauline. After fighting to catch Donkey Kong, Jump Man is soon confronted by Donke Kong’s son.


After being kicked to a distance, Jump Man is faced with the realization that the Carpenting Company he is working for isn’t all it seems to be. He abandoned his career as a Carpenter and re-connected with Luigi. From there they started a plumbing business in New York. Mario also abandoned his nickname, he was no longer “Jump Man.” As Donkey Kong Jr. and his father returned to DK Island in the Mushroom World. 

I’m assuming this is how Mario went from being a carpenter to becoming a plumber. After “Donkey Kong Jr.” the next game featuring Mario was “Super Mario Bros.” where he was a plumber. In “Donkey Kong Jr.” Mario is the antagonist. It’s a good way to tie DK Island in there too. We are just focusing on Mario’s back story right now, but all the Donkey Kong Countries and Donkey Kong 64 could indicate that DK Island is just a part of the Mushroom World just like Yoshi’s Island. It has been said that Donkey Kong Jr. became the main Donkey Kong in the Country games and in “Donkey Kong 64” and that Cranky Kong was the original Donkey Kong.

We won’t get into too many of the party games or the small puzzle games, but you could probably say that the “Mario vs. Donkey Kong” franchise also took place in this time.

Let’s move on.


Mario and Luigi’s plumbing business was functioning smoothly until many people reported strange creatures appearing in the sewers around New York City. The Mario Brothers were aware of the Mushroom World and the other Worlds and how they fucntioned on a piping system, so they became concerned with their own world and Kooplings making their way to Earth.

This is why plumbing was a primary career choice for the brothers, so they could stay connected to the dimension they grew up in. They ran into the Bowser, The Great Koopa Turtle King, and stopped him from crossing the dimensional barrier.

The Great Koopa Turtle King escapes and Mario and Luigi make their way into the Mushroom Kingdom only to see that it has fallen to ruin, invaded by the Koopa, a tribe known for their black magic. The magic spell was strong, but Princess Peach Toadstool, the daughter of the Mushroom King, could undo it. She was kidnapped and held in Bowser’s Castle. Many of the Toads amongst the kingdom were turned into bricks and other objects.

Mario and Luigi storm the castle to save Princess Peach and restore the Mushroom Kingdom. 

This is back when they referred to Bowser as “The Great Koopa Turtle King,” but really we know it’s Bowser. It has always been Bowser. This is where Mario and Luigi probably would’ve met Toad as well.

At some point it’s worth noting that Mario and Luigi probably moved back to the Mushroom Kingdom, considering this is where the rest of their adventures take place from here on out.

Many years after the great battle for the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario is haunted by nightmares. There are many dimensions outside the Mushroom World, and somehow a portal to another world is opened through Mario’s devastation. The world of Subcon.

In this world the inhabitants are more ghoulish. Snifts, Shyguys, Phatos, Ninjis are all out to hurt Mario and his friends as they navigate the mysterious world. It is likely that Mario has found familiarity in the Great Koopa King and is struggling to cope with the traumas brought onto him as an infant (Talk about reading too much into it). With the help of Peach, Luigi, and Toad he is able to confront these dark memories, represented here by King Wart. King Wart was the leader of a militaristic dictatorship known as the 8 bit Club. He had ill intentions to enslave the inhabitants of Subcon, creating many monsters using a device called the Dream Machine. Mario and his friends are able to stop this madness.


I’d say “Super Mario Bros. 2” is a pretty deep game. Some how we are in another World that is within Mario’s subconcious. Again, we know that none of these games are ever meant to really be read into at all, but just for fun, it seems like Mario may have had some psychological issues or traumas he was dealing with after “Super Mario Bros.” Connecting it to “Yoshi’s Island” is quite a stretch, but if we are trying to make a three-dimensional character out of a very two-dimensional one then it’s worth notating.

The Mushroom Kingdom forms an entrance to the rest of the Mushroom World where all is not well. Bowser has sent seven of his children out to cause chaos all over the world. Don’t know how the Mushroom Kingdom politics work, but completely shutting your Kingdom off from the rest of the world isn’t exactly a good thing. 

Each of the seven children travel to the seven countries of the Mushroom World to have each country’s king turned into different animals, using a new darker form of black magic. Mario and Luigi set out to recover the Royal Magic Wands from Bowser’s seven kids to return the kings to their former selves.


After several years of cleaning up the Mushroom World of crime and misdeeds (and I’m sure a lot of serious PR work on the Mushroom King’s part), Mario decides to help in other ways. He decides to work on getting his medical degree.

Hey, had to fit “Dr. Mario” in here somewhere. Due to being a strong role model, and possibly because he has saved the Kingdom several times, Mario receives his own Land called Mario Land. Where he has a castle. Don’t know if castles are as common as houses in the Mushroom World, but Mario Land exists in the “Super Mario Land” games.

A few years later a mysterious alien named Tatanga appears and hypnotizes the inhabitants of Sarsaland. A world outside of the Mushroom World. Sarasaland’s Princess Daisy is kidnapped as Tatanga wishes to indoctrinate her into marrying him. Mario travels to the Sarasaland dimension and travels to each of its four geographical countries to defeat Tatanga and his minions.

Mario confronts Tatanga in the skies of the Chai Kingdom (Sarsaland’s capital?) bringing down his alien warship and rescuing Daisy. He brings her back safely to her castle.

Meanwhile, while Mario is away saving Daisy an evil spell is cast out over Mario Land. The inhabitants of Mario Land are brainwashed into believing that an imposters is their master and that Mario is their enemy. The imposter’s name is Wario. Wario was envious of Mario and wanted his castle; he wanted a palace of his own. Mario travels to find the six gold coins that can break the spell over his castle. Once he breaks the speel Wario runs off.


The “Super Mario Land” games are interesting because we meet two key characters. Princess Daisy and Wario. “Super Mario Land” implies that there was romance between Mario and Daisy, indicated by an 8-bit heart above them at the end of the game. Also, Wario went on to have his own adventures, most of them not involving Mario. Including being the founder of “Warioware Inc.” Which I’m sure isn’t a greedy business.

Winding down from his medical studies, Mario, Luigi, and Peach decide to take a vacation to Dinosaur Island. While resting on the beach, Princess Peach vanishes. Mario and Luigi go searching for her before coming across a giant egg in the forest. Yoshi hatches from it. Yoshi tells them that his dinosaur friends have been imprionsed in eggs throughout the forest. Mario and Luigi suspect it to be the work of Bowser and his Kooplings.

After storming Bowser’s Castle they confront the dictator and save Princess Peach, restoring peace to Dinosaur World.

It’s interesting that they call it “Dinosaur World” and not “Yoshi’s Island.” I’m guessing that Yoshi’s Island is just a part of Dinosaur World as oppsed to being a part of the Mushroom World.


After these we jump over to the Nintendo 64. So I’d like to think a lot of years passed by before “Super Mario 64.”

After many years of eerie silence and impatience. Mario is growing older and more weary. He receives a letter from Princess Peach inviting him to join her at the Mushroom Kingdom castle for cake. When Mario arrives he discovers that Bowser had invaded the castle and has imprionsed Peach and her servants within the castle by using the castle’s 120 power stars. 

Mario had learned before from Peach that the castle’s paintings can be used as portals to other worlds (or dimensions). After going world to world Mario traverses several more obstacles before fighting Bowser. Bowser is banished to another world away from the Mushroom World. Peach rewards Mario by baking him the cake she promised.

If we were skeptical about Mario’s relationship with Daisy in “Super Mario Land,” it can be easily said that him and Peach weren’t really ever a couple. I’d say sometime in between “Super Mario 64” and “Super Mario Sunshine” that changed.


Mario and Peach take a vacation to Isle Defino accompanied by Peach’s longtime steward Toadsworth. A person resembling Mario, named Shadow Mario, vandalizes and pollutes the island using a magic paintbrush. The vandalism causes the Shine Sprites to flee from the island’s main city, Delfino Plaza, and blanket the island with darkness. Mario is blamed for the mess and is arrested by the island authorities. Mario becomes equipt with FLUDD, a robotic housing device invented by Professor E. Gadd, which he uses to clean up the pollution and collect the Shine Sprites.

Meanwhile, Peach is kidnapped by Shadow Mario who reveals himself to be Bowser’s youngest song who stole the paint brush from Professor E. Gadd. Mario confronts Bowser and Bowser Jr. and rescues the princess. With the island cleaned up Peach and Mario continue their vacation.

One day Mario is invited by Princess Peach to the Centennial Star Festival in the Mushroom Kingdom. Upon arrival Bowser invades the kingdom and rips the Mushroom Kingdom’s castle into outer space. Mario must save Peach (again). Mario meets star like creatures called Lumas and their companion Rosalina. Rosalina tells Mario that Bowser has stolen the Power Stars, the source of power for Rosalina’s observatory and has fled with Peach to the center of the universe. 


Mario is able to save Princess Peach from Bowser, but some time later Bowser manages to steal more Power Stars and turn himself into a giant and kidnap the princess yet again. Mario pilots a Starship Mario, a mobile planet in the shape of his head, in order to travel to various galaxies to collect the Power Stars and to find Bowser’s lair at the center of the universe. He is able to storm Bowser’s castle and rescue the princess.

So all this gets pretty repetitive near the end. The Mario franchise is notorious for replicating it’s previous damsel-in-distress format. We also kind of lose track of Yoshi and Luigi in the last few games. I’d like to get into their individual games to give you an idea of their adventures, but this is Mario. 

Nintendo has had a hard time selling the WiiU, and many predict it won’t be long before Nintendo is no longer in the console game. I have never owned a Wii or a WiiU, but I couldn’t imagine living in a world where Mario games aren’t being produced around the clock.

There are many of characters and opportunities to develop each of these unique characters. Not saying that the Mario games need more story dimension, we can fill in the blanks there. But give us more adventure games where Yoshi, Wario, Peach, Daisy, Donkey Kong or any of them are front and center and Mario is a supporting character.

Mario is iconic. Yet people know so little about him as a character because the games have never called for a deep character arch. They are puzzle games with an adventure coating. It’d be nice to have some of those blanks filled, but this isn’t that kind of franchise and it never has been.

I understand that Mario has been featured in many other games, so there are probably a lot more hints about his back story within them. Please let me know if you know something I don’t.