ByMarlon McDonald, writer at
Umm... are you going to drink that Skooma?
Marlon McDonald

There is literally no stopping the plumber Mario Mario's influence on pop culture. He's been handed down from generation to generation and has come out of each as legendary as he could ever be.

I mean, Super Mario Galaxy is being rereleased on Wii U's Virtual Console 10 years after its initial release, which stands as testament to how timeless and how great an icon he is.

So in honor of this incredible feat of nostalgia, let's have a journey through time and see how Mario has grown over the decades of remaining atop the mountain of genuine video game legends.

Pre-Console, Jumpman Era

Donkey Kong (1981 - Arcade)

Jumpman & pals
Jumpman & pals

Mario's very first outing wasn't actually as Mario at all, he was better known as the three colored "Jumpman," who did exactly that throughout the entirety of Donkey Kong: jump, man!

DK arcade machine
DK arcade machine

Donkey Kong (1982 - Game & Watch)

Had to throw this classic in, because is it technically an appearance of Mario or is it Mr. Game & Watch feeling a little left out?

Honorable Mentions

  • Donkey Kong Jr (1982 - Arcade)
  • Mario Bros. (1983 - Arcade)
  • Mario’s Cement Factory (1983 - Game & Watch)

Console Era


Super Mario Bros. (1985 - NES)

The game that introduced the world to a new legend, SMB blew minds with its mechanic that allowed the titular hero to change in size by chewing on 'shrooms. With an increased amount of sprites and a color change, this all new Mario was fast on his way to actually kind've resembling a real life person.

Super Mario Bros. 2 (1988 - NES)

This strange Mario sequel wasn't even a Mario game to begin with! After Nintendo realized the sequel released in Japan would be too hard for American gamers, they retconned a game called Doki Doki Panic and replaced its four protagonists with Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad.

This marked the first appearance of a standalone Luigi, who was now taller than his brother and could jump considerably higher than "Jumpman" himself!

Here's a vid of Doki Doki in action:

Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988 - NES)

SMB 3 is arguably the best of the bunch and introduces Mario to a whole host of new power-ups and enemies. Frog suit FTW. Also, in graphical cleverness, in order to make Mario appear slimmer, Nintendo changed the color of Mario's overalls from blue to black.

The more you know, right?

Honorable Mentions

  • Golf (1985 - NES)
  • Wrecking Crew (1985 - NES)
  • Mario Bros. II (1987 - Commodore 64)
  • Punch-Out!! - (1987 - NES)
  • Super Mario Land (1989 - Gameboy)

Early '90s

Super Mario World (1990 - SNES)

The global phenomenon finally introduced us to Yoshi, as well as a more defined Mario. I mean, look at those whites in his eyes. Thanks, 16-bit!

As it stands, SMW has sold over 20 million units, and it's constantly lauded as one of the greatest games of all time. Which is totally fair to be honest.

Dr. Mario (1990 - NES)

Not content with popping up in random titles like Wrecking Crew and Golf, here's Mario playing doctor in this classic Tetris clone that was actually pretty darn good! You didn't actually get to play as the plumber, but you did get to eliminate some pretty nasty viruses.

Super Mario Kart (1992 - SNES)

The beginnings of yet another legendary franchise to include the plumber and his squad, Super Mario Kart was an absolute riot back in the day. And is still pretty difficult.

Honorable Mentions

  • Mario Paint (1992 - SNES)
  • Mario's Time Machine (1994 - SNES, NES, MS-DOS)
  • Mario's Early Years! Fun with Letters (1994 - SNES)

Mid/Late '90s

Super Mario 64 (1996 - Nintendo 64)

What's this? Actual definition on Mario's character design! When the N64 rolled around, the leap in processing power was a substantial kick up the rear for Ninty's mascot supreme.

There was shadowing, Mario had a posable skeleton and Super Mario 64 did for open world games with incredible cameras what Metal Gear Solid did for expansive stealth-em-ups: define a generation.

Mario Kart 64 (1996 - Nintendo 64)

Arguably the best iteration of the seminal racing franchise, Mario Kart 64 would go on to sell 9 million copies and enrage children and adults across the globe with its blue shelled f*ckries.

Honorable Mentions

  • Mario Party (1998 - N64)
  • Paper Mario (2000 - N64)

Early '00s

Super Mario Sunshine (2002 - GameCube)

What was meant to be Mario and pals sunning it up on beautiful Isla Delfino, turned into a race against time to stop the dastardly Shadow Mario from sullying the town in thick ink.

This was Mario's greatest deviation from the norm what with having FLUDD — a bonafide weapon — on his side, but using the badass water cannon opened up a whole new level of interaction with the colorful world.

Also, look how slick the lighting, shadows and general build of Mario is now!

Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (2003 - GameCube)

Stunning for its day and actually really tough, Double Dash was a sofa co-op dream; driving one kart with two buddies was a sight to behold. Ah, those summers...

NBA Street V3 (2005 - GameCube)

An obvious wildcard on the list, NBA Street V3's inclusion of the plumber just goes to show how synonymous Mario had become with the image of video games.

Mid '00s

New Super Mario Bros. (2006 - Nintendo DS)

As Nintendo's handheld consoles got considerably more powerful, their homages to Mario's past got more and more thrilling, if not a little repetitive. Tongues were wagging with disdain wondering if Nintendo was able to pull another truly original Mario title out of their sleeves.

Naturally there were naysayers, but then the next game happened.

Super Mario Galaxy (2007 - Nintendo Wii)

Rightfully lauded and even awarded with... awards, Galaxy took Nintendo's imagination to levels previously unseen in the world of platformers, once again solidifying the plumber's grasp as the king of jump and run.

The idea for Galaxy was lifted from a GameCube demo called Super Mario 128, created in order to display the graphical fortitude of the aforementioned console.

And The Story Continues...

With a few more sidescrolling Mario titles released, a Galaxy sequel and a host of others, the outlook for pop culture's favorite plumber is good. He'll be sure to be with us for possibly another 30 years, who can say! But will his design change much? I honestly hope not, because blue dungareed, red capped Mario is literally synonymous with millions of people's childhoods across the globe.

I mean, remember the fallout when SEGA decided to turn Sonic into a hipster?

*sighs* Gotta go... fast. Or, you know, whatever.
*sighs* Gotta go... fast. Or, you know, whatever.

(Source: Imgur, Super Luigi Bros)


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