ByMark Newton, writer at Creators.co
Movie Pilot Associate Editor. Email: [email protected]
Mark Newton

Who am I talking about?: He has saved the Princess more times than any other character in the history of human civilization. He has sold over 262 million copies of his games worldwide, making him, arguably, the best-selling character ever. He is also often cited as the most recognizable character across all mediums, even beating out a certain theme park owning mouse.

The answer, if it isn't made clear by the massive image above, is of course that most famous of Italian, mushroom munching, koopa-trouncing plumbers, Super Mario.

On the 13th September 2015, Super Mario (and his perpetually overlooked brother, Luigi) celebrated their 30th birthday around the globe. Although appearing as the unnamed protagonist in 1981's Donkey Kong, as well as a few arcade titles, Mario first hit the home console scene with 1985's sublime platformer Super Mario Bros. The massive success of this title spawned an expansive web of sequels, spin-offs and even movie and television tie-ins.

In fact, you'd have to hire a team of archivists and gaming archeologists to figure out exactly how many Mario games there are, although most predictions put the figure around 171 titles in which Mario makes an appearance. Within that number are obviously the massive monolithic titles which changed gaming history, but there also some obscure hidden games (of sometimes questionable quality) which Mario also got involved in. So, strap on your overalls, saddle up your Yoshi, press play on the music below and let's take a jaunt through Mario's 30 year career - including some of his lesser known stuff.

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Super Mario Bros. - 1985

Released in Japan in 1985 and the US two years later, Super Mario Bros. is rightly held as a masterpiece of game design. It introduces many of the features which still exist to this day in Mario, such the character and world design, gameplay basics and iconic music composed by Nintendo luminary Koji Kondo.

The first level of Super Mario Bros. (World 1-1) is also perhaps the most famous level of any video game - owing partly to the fact the original Super Mario Bros. featured no saving feature, meaning it must be played each time the game is fired up. However, it also seen as the masterclass of early platformer design and introduces the concepts and mechanics of the game without the need for text explanations or any kind of tutorial.

I Am a Teacher: Super Mario Sweater - 1986

Released only in Japan, I Am a Teacher: Super Mario Sweater, is a strange game in which the player created sweater designs featuring Mario. It is certainly one of the weirder and more obscure Mario games, and shows how Nintendo tried to capitalize on Mario's success after the first game. After designing your sweater, you could send off the designs to a company which would print it in real life and send it to you. I'm assuming this service has since been discontinued.

Super Mario Bros. 3 - 1988

Although Super Mario Bros. 2 greatly changed up the Mario format, Super Mario Bros. 3 is now rightly seen as the zenith of the early Mario years. Beautifully crafted, with graphics that still tickle that nostalgia bone today, Super Mario Bros. 3 was also the biggest Mario game up to that point.

Introducing a whole host of new characters, abilities, mini-games and a world map which provided basic strategic choices to the player, Super Mario 3 is often cited as THE best Mario game and one of the overall best games ever made.

The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! - 1989

The success of Super Mario Bros. 3 lead to the creation of three Mario television series, the most famous of which was surely The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. Live action versions of Mario and Luigi (played by Lou Albano and Danny Wells) would introduce the show and act as links for animated sequences. It also opened with one pretty funky sequence in which we were told we'd be "Hooked on the Brothers."

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The show, which was a purely American, not Japanese production, played around with Mario lore a bit in order to provide more depth to the traditionally pixellated character. Due to this, Mario and Luigi became American-Italian plumbers living in Brooklyn.

Super Mario World - 1990

Another highlight of the series, Super Mario World is primarily remembered for its slightly different aesthetic style, incredible music and of course, Yoshi. Since appearing in Super Mario World, Yoshi became arguably even more popular than Mario, getting his own spin-off, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island and Yoshi's Story in the early 1990s.

Super Mario Bros. The Movie (1993)

Not all of Mario's endeavours in this period were well-advised, including the rather disastrous live-action Mario movie featuring Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper. The movie bombed in the box office and didn't hit a cord with either fans of Mario or wider audiences. Bob Hoskins himself would later claim it was his worst movie, stating he only signed on because his child was such a huge Mario fan. You can check out his performance below:

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Later years would be nicer to the Super Mario Bros. movie, and it is now seen as something of a cult classic - if only ironically.

Mario's Game Gallery - 1995

Released on PC in 1995, Mario's Game Gallery, or Mario's FUNdamentals as it was later named in a re-release, featured Mario introducing five different traditional games: Go Fish, Checkers, Backgammon, Yacht (Yahtzee) and Dominoes.

This game is actually now considered one of the rarer and more obscure Mario titles, primarily because it was not officially developed by Nintendo and appeared on PC. Despite this, I managed to get my hands on a copy when I was younger, and even my mother became a little bit obsessed with playing Mario at Go Fish.

The game was also important for introducing Charles Martinet as the voice of Mario. He has since gone on to voice Mario in all his other iterations.

Super Mario 64 - 1996

1996 was a great year for Nintendo and Super Mario. This year saw the release of the N64, Nintendo's first major foray into 3D gaming. To showcase its potential, Nintendo launched the console with Super Mario 64, the character's first three dimensional platformer. Another classic and timeless game, Mario 64 broke the mold and ushered Mario into a new generation.

Mario Kart 64 - 1996

Perhaps even more exciting in 1996 was Mario Kart 64, the sequel to the previous Super Mario Kart which had released on the SNES. Mario Kart 64, like its many sequels, became an addictive multiplayer game and even rivalled the famous GoldenEye 64 as the ruiner of friendships among young gamers - especially if someone selected Yoshi before you did.

Mario Golf - 1999

Although Mario has flirted with sports since his earliest days, Mario Golf is seen by many as the first modern Mario sports game. Later titles would include Mario Tennis, Super Mario Strikers, Mario Superstar Baseball and Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games.

Paper Mario - 2000

Another watershed in Mario history was 2000's Paper Mario - an RPG Mario game with an interesting 'paper cut-out' style. Although a Mario RPG had appeared on the SNES, this was the first time it was attempted with the more powerful N64. As well as providing a new look to Mario, Paper Mario also greatly expanded the lore around the character - although, Mario still had to save the princess of course.

Luigi's Mansion - 2001

Of course, it's not just Mario who is thirty years old, his brother Luigi has also always been there since the start. Originally, Luigi was simply a different colored Mario who provided a character for Super Mario Bros.'s second player, however as time went on he gained a personality and abilities separate from his better known brother.

This culminated in 2001's Luigi's Mansion, a launch title for the Nintendo Gamecube and Luigi's first solo game. It has now become somewhat of a collectors item.

Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix - 2005

Hardly seen outside of Japan, Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix was Nintendo's only attempt at creating a Mario rhythm game - even further expanding the Italian plumbers already massive résume.

It featured Mario dancing off against Waluigi, which probably reveals how he got all his sick dance moves in Mario Kart 8.

New Super Mario Bros. - 2006

A reimagining of the original classic Mario games, New Super Mario Bros., which released on the Nintendo DS, was the first ever Mario 3D side-scroller.

The game very much harked back to the original glory days of Mario, delivering a gaming and visual style reminiscent of 1985's Super Mario Bros. Of course, not everything remained the same, and Nintendo used the new 3D element to add some interesting and innovative gameplay mechanics to the original formula.

Super Mario Galaxy - 2008

Seen by many as the best 'modern Mario game', Super Mario Galaxy took the same classic Mario recipe and blew it up to galactic proportions.

As you can guess, the game follows the same tried and tested formula. Browser has kidnapped Princess Peach, and now Mario must gather Stars before eventually saving her. This time, however, instead of navigating Worlds via pipes and castles, he must fly between planets and use a massive array of power-ups.

It would spawn a sequel in 2010.

Mario Kart 8 - 2014

Since the release of Super Mario Galaxy, most Mario games have been sequels to the main franchise lines, such as Mario Party, Mario Golf and Mario & Luigi. The same is also true for Mario Kart, which received its eighth iteration last year. This title gets a particular shout out as perhaps the best non-platformer Mario game ever made.

It takes the time-tested Mario Kart formula and delivers something which makes the player traverse all emotions known to man - from ecstatic glee to soul-crushing depression. It is particularly popular in the Moviepilot office and its 'easy to learn, difficult to master' nature means there are few here who have been left untouched by the Mario Kart bug.

So these are some of the main, and more obscure, gems from the Mario back catalogs. Of course, there also many other titles which didn't make it onto this list, so why don't you tell us your favorite Mario memories?

What is your favorite Mario game?
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