Mario (マリオ, Mario) is the eponymous protagonist of the Mario series. Unanimously viewed as the mascot of Nintendo, Mario is said to be the most well-known and most popular video game character in the world, having appeared in over 200 video games.
Years before video gaming exploded into mainstream popularity, prominent game designer Shigeru Miyamoto designed the original arcade game Donkey Kong in 1981, debuting Mario as the main playable character and Donkey Kong as his in-game nemesis. Mario's character design was heavily influenced by the extreme technical limitations of video games at the time; as a small batch of pixels, Mario was given a mustache under his big nose to show he had a face.
Red overalls and a blue shirt (the reverse of Mario's current red shirt and blue overalls) were also added to contrast against each other and the background, while a red cap was added to let Miyamoto avoid drawing the character's hairstyle, forehead, and eyebrows, as well as to circumvent the issue of animating his hair as he jumped.
Although unnamed in the Japanese release of Donkey Kong, the character was named Jumpman in the game's English instructions. However, during the localization of Donkey Kong for American audiences, Nintendo of America's warehouse landlord at the time—the late Mario Segale—confronted then-president Minoru Arakawa, demanding back rent.
Following a heated argument in which the Nintendo employees eventually convinced Segale he would be paid, they opted to officially rename Jumpman to Mario after Segale; this name would also be carried over into the game's sales brochure.
In Donkey Kong, Mario is portrayed as a carpenter whose girlfriend Pauline (originally "Lady" in Japan) is held captive by the gorilla Donkey Kong at a construction site. Mario must jump his way over the barrels and flames DK throws at him in order to climb the scaffolding of the construction site and rescue Pauline.
After his initial appearance in this pioneering game, Mario, under his proper name for the first time in Japan, was introduced in the sequel, Donkey Kong Junior (where he was portrayed as the antagonist), and identified as being of Italian ethnicity by Nintendo's president Hiroshi Yamauchi. Then Mario and his newly introduced brother Luigi starred in the 1983 arcade game Mario Bros. as plumbers.
Miyamoto's next game was the world-famous Super Mario Bros. for the Famicom/NES, the game that single-handedly brought video gaming into the mainstream and made Nintendo a major company in a now-major industry. Many iconic aspects of Mario and his franchise were established: Mario and Luigi now live in the magical Mushroom Kingdom ruled by Princess "Peach" Toadstool with her mushroom-like servants known as Toads, while the Koopa King, Bowser, kidnaps the princess, provoking Mario to rescue her.
Mario bounds across side-scrolling platform stages, jumping on the heads of common enemies like Goombas and Koopa Troopas to defeat them. He starts out small but can grow to double his size if he grabs a Super Mushroom, gain the ability to shoot out fireballs by grabbing a Fire Flower, and become invincible for a short period of time by grabbing a Super Star. Super Mario Bros. became a franchise with these elements lasered into video game iconography, consistent in most future games in the Mario series.
For over 30 years afterward, Mario would star in many games for various Nintendo systems. Mario and his accompanying franchise can be viewed as Nintendo's thematic tileset with which to create games of a whimsical, colorful, and light-hearted nature. Mario himself is meant to be a character anyone can enjoy playing as and can fit well as a protagonist figure and/or main balanced character in many genres of games. To this end, he is not portrayed as a character that undergoes development like what players would see from a character within an expansive story, but rather a character defined by the player's actions with a few defining traits of his own, such as his cheerfulness, whimsy, desire to help others, and humorous high-pitched Italian accent provided by Charles Martinet.
As such, Mario is a semi-silent protagonist, who is sporadically depicted speaking coherent English sentences. In contemporary Mario games, most of his vocalizations are grunts, yells, and the occasional catchphrase, such as "Mama Mia!", "It's-a me, Mario!" and "Let's-a-go!", although he is shown to speak at length in some spin-off games and official interviews. Likewise, while Mario largely serves as a "everyman" protagonist to fufill any role as needed to be, he has shown plenty of characterization; for instance, the ending of Super Mario Odyssey has Mario comfort his longtime nemesis, Bowser, after Peach rejects both of their marriage proposals, showing him to be a selfless person who sees the best qualities in others.
As an everyman character, the optimistic protagonist and the flagship character for both his series and company, Mario is inherently easy for players of his various games to appreciate, and he is usually the most balanced playable character in any game he appears in. While Mario's definitive, Martinet-voiced depiction was codified by Super Mario 64, most auxiliary media prior to that game (such as the live-action film and various cartoons produced by DIC Entertainment) provided different portrayals of the iconic plumber, typically as a mild caricature of a working-class Italian-American with a gruff Brooklyn accent.
Genres of games in which Mario appears in a playable role include the traditional 2D side-scrolling platformer Super Mario Bros. and its various sequels; the famed Super NES launch platformer Super Mario World, which introduced Yoshi as a trustworthy mount of sorts for Mario; and New Super Mario Bros. and its respective sequels, which are revivals of the Super Mario Bros. series' gameplay.
Mario has also had various 3D platforming adventures, such as the seminal Super Mario 64 adventure game launched for the Nintendo 64, followed up by Super Mario Sunshine for the Nintendo GameCube, Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii, Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U, and Super Mario Odyssey for the Nintendo Switch. In addition to each of these games being critical successes, 64, the Galaxy duology and Odyssey in particular are considered among the greatest and most influential games of all time.
Spin-off titles include the Mario Kart series of power-up and obstacle course-based racing games, a long-running series of multiplayer-based party games named Mario Party, and various series of Mario-themed sports titles, such as Mario Golf and Mario Tennis. There have even been RPG spinoffs, namely Super Mario RPG, the Paper Mario series, and the Mario & Luigi series. Finally, there is the puzzle-based spin-off game Dr. Mario, which sees Mario use Megavitamins, a medicine of his own creation, to combat viruses. In addition to being the debut of its own spin-off series, this game also saw the eponymous Dr. Mario become a playable character in the Super Smash Bros. series.
As a playable character
Main article: Mario (SSB)
Mario makes his first appearance in a fighting game in Super Smash Bros. as a starter character. His design is based on his appearances in Super Mario 64 and Mario Party. Like in many Mario spin-off games, he is touted as the most balanced character with no real strengths or weaknesses; therefore, new players of the game are encouraged to play as Mario in order to learn the game's fundamentals. In addition, his younger twin brother Luigi appears as a clone, albeit with a few different attributes.
Mario's neutral special move is Fireball, which is moderately fast but deals minor damage. His up special move is Super Jump Punch, which hits multiple times and is used as his recovery move. Lastly, Mario's down special move is Mario Tornado, in which he whirls his body akin to a Spin Jump in order to damage foes around him with a series of discus clotheslines and spinning backfists.
Mario boasts a potent combo game, thanks primarily to his spammable up tilt and versatile down aerial. His edge-guarding potential is also respectable: down smash, forward aerial and back aerial possess respectable power, while down aerial can meteor smash. Mario also sports two powerful KOing options in his up smash and back throw, while his forward smash and forward throw also sport KO potential, albeit to a lesser degree in comparison. Lastly, Mario's recovery is fairly good, thanks to Super Jump Punch's traveling distance and Mario Tornado's ability to cover more distance via button mashing.
However, Mario's overall range is sub-par, even in spite of having Fireball as a projectile. On a related note, he has difficulty dealing with projectiles and pressure. Mario also has poor mobility, which can hinder his combos and recovery, in addition to further compounding his aforementioned issues with projectiles and pressure. Lastly, the majority of Mario's frame data is laggy.
Due to his lack of both outstanding strengths and weaknesses, Mario is currently ranked 7th out of 12 on the tier list. This places him at the bottom of the B tier, and posits him as a mid tier character.
Mario's in-game character description reads as follows:
As a playable character
Main article: Mario (SSBM)
Mario returns as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Unlike in SSB, his design has been updated to appear almost exactly like his Nintendo 64 render artwork, instead of his in-game appearances in Super Mario 64 and Mario Party. Like his fellow veterans, Mario has now received a side special move. In his case, it is Cape, which can reverse the direction an opponent is facing upon contact, reflect projectiles, and even assist with his recovery. Although Luigi has been de-cloned to semi-clone status, Mario nevertheless received another full clone in Melee. In this case, his doctor persona from the Dr. Mario series appears as a playable character with a few different attributes.
In addition to retaining a useful projectile in Fireball and a potent combo game, Mario's overall frame data has become faster, while his edge-guarding potential, grab game and mobility have each improved in certain ways. Cape's reversal property can gimp recoveries, while his new forward aerial is capable of meteor smashing. Like the rest of the cast, Mario has received a pummel, up throw and down throw; in addition to expanding his grab game's options, the latter two are useful for chain grabbing. Lastly, the implementation of wavedashing improves Mario's approach.
However, Mario continues to lack a reliably safe and/or particularly strong finisher: his new forward smash consists of a sweet spot and sour spot, the back throw is burdened by his overall short grab range, and up smash is much weaker. In addition, Mario's overall range remains poor, which impairs his ability to fight against characters with disjointed ranges, such as Marth.
Due to his continued lack of outstanding strengths or weaknesses, Mario is currently ranked 15th out of 26 on the 13th official tier list. This places him in the C+ tier (notably two spots lower than his doctor persona and three spots lower than Luigi), and reaffirms his status as a mid tier character.
Main article: List of SSBM trophies (Super Mario Bros. series)
In addition to the standard three trophies which playable characters in Melee get - a standard trophy won by defeating Classic Mode, and "Smash Red" and "Smash Blue" trophies won by beating the Adventure and All-Star modes, respectively - Mario, as Nintendo's mascot, also features on a number of other trophies as Dr. Mario (see Dr. Mario (SSBM)), Raccoon Mario, Metal Mario, Paper Mario, and Mario & Yoshi. The last trophy, in particular, is especially notable for being one of three trophies (the other two being Samus Unmasked and (in Western versions only) Tamagon) that cannot be found during normal play: it can only be acquired in the NTSC and PAL versions via hacking device, whereas it could only be acquired in the Japanese version via a special Japanese events or by using a hacking device. There is also a trophy for Baby Mario, a baby version of Mario that mostly appears in Yoshi games.
All trophies showing Mario, including his Baby Mario trophy, read as follows:
Mario [Smash] (Adventure Mode)
Mario [Smash] (All-Star)
Mario & Yoshi
As a playable character
Main article: Mario (SSBB)
Mario returns as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, although his doctor persona has been cut as a playable character. Mario's design has been updated, as it is now based on his appearance as of Luigi's Mansion, Super Mario Sunshine, and Mario Party 4, albeit with a realistic aesthetic and subdued color scheme. In addition to gaining his Fire Mario attire as an alternate costume, Mario has gained F.L.U.D.D. from Super Mario Sunshine as his down special move, while Mario Tornado is now his down aerial attack.
Like his fellow veterans, Mario now has a Final Smash; in his case, it is Mario Finale, which consists of him firing a pair of colossal, intertwining Fireballs to engulf all opponents in the direction he is facing. In addition to retaining overall quick frame data and a useful projectile in Fireball, Mario now boasts improved KO potential: forward smash's sourspot is much stronger, down smash's back hit now deals consistent damage, and both Mario Tornado and Super Jump Punch have gained KO potential thanks to their much stronger final hitboxes.
Mario's already respectable edge-guarding potential has also improved. The universal decrease to falling speeds makes forward aerial easier to meteor smash with. Cape is even more potent for gimping, thanks to it now reversing the opponent's momentum and controls upon contact. Lastly, F.L.U.D.D. is a chargeable move that possesses push boxes and, when fully charged, decent range as well.
However, Mario has received significant nerfs as well, largely from changes to gameplay mechanics. In particular, the introduction of hitstun canceling severely harmed Mario's once-useful combo game: up tilt can now only combo into itself at low percentages, while up and down throws have lost both their chain grabbing and combo potentials entirely. The removal of both wavedashing and L-canceling also hinder Mario: the former results in his approach being unimpressive like in SSB, while the latter results in his aerials' landing lag not being fully compensated.
Due to his nerfs outweighing his buffs, as well as his balanced motif being drastically outclassed by noticeable strengths displayed by various characters, Mario is currently ranked 31st out of 38 on the tier list. This places him in the F tier, and posits him as a bottom tier character.
Mario has a trophy that is awarded each time Classic Mode is completed with him on any difficulty. The player can get a Mario Finale Trophy each time the player completes All-Star mode with Mario. See Mario Finale for the trophy description of Mario's Final Smash.
As a playable character
Main article: Mario (SSB4)
Mario appears as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4, with his return being announced on June 11th, 2013 during the E3 2013 Nintendo Direct. Mario's design has been updated, as it is now based on his appearance as of Super Mario 3D Land and Super Mario 3D World. Mario's blue and yellow alternate costumes have also been updated, while he has gained two new costumes: the first is from his appearance in Family Computer Golf: U.S. Course and NES Open Tournament Golf, while the second is based on Waluigi. On a related note, his doctor persona also returns as a playable character for the first time since Melee.
Mario is once again touted as a balanced character, but the plethora of significant buffs he received in several areas actually allow him to function effectively as a pressure-oriented character as well. Most notably, direct and indirect changes have not only rejuvenated Mario's once-lost combo game, but also resulted in it becoming the most effective it has ever been.
Down throw, in particular, benefits tremendously from both the changes to hitstun canceling and the alterations to its knockback and launching angle: in addition to its infamous damage racking potential alongside several consecutive up tilts at low percentages, it can be followed up with aerials at medium to high percentages, including forward aerial for a potential KO combo while near the edge. Although down tilt is not as potent in comparison, its much lower ending lag and hitstun canceling's aforementioned changes nevertheless grant it various follow-ups at low to medium percentages.
Unlike in previous installments, Mario's mobility and power are no longer unimpressive and adequate, respectively. His dashing and air speeds have become noticeably faster, while his jump is higher as well. When coupled with the retention of his overall quick frame data, Mario now boasts a surprisingly threatening neutral game, and is an even more potent edge-guarder. On a related note, Mario's recovery has also improved: in addition to his aforementioned aerial attributes, Super Jump Punch now covers slightly more vertical distance and, more importantly, no longer sharply drops him right before its conclusion.
However, Mario did receive some nerfs. Most noticeably, his overall damage output has decreased: while this actually helped in the restoration of his combo game, it nevertheless weakened three of his strongest attacks (down smash, back throw, and clean back aerial). On a related note, Mario's KO potential is very inconsistent because of his very small number of guaranteed KO set-ups, all of which are hard to confirm.
Although two of Mario's special moves were buffed, they also received nerfs which outweigh said buffs. Fireball has increased knockback and range, but is overall laggier and can no longer auto-cancel with a short hop. In comparison, Cape can now instantly sweetspot edges, but grants less of a boost in midair and has lost the advanced techniques it gained in Brawl.
Aside from his nerfs, Mario retains a few noticeable weaknesses. His unimpressive overall range makes him susceptible to disjointed hitboxes, and thus forces him to typically use his all-rounder playstyle instead of his newfound pressure-oriented one when fighting characters with such hitboxes. In addition, Mario's now-serviceable recovery is still burdened with linearity.
Overall, Mario's impressive strengths, negligible weaknesses, and minimal learning curve have collectively allowed him to be very successful in tournament play, earning strong representation and results throughout SSB4's lifespan. As a result, Mario is currently ranked 9th out of 55 on the tier list; in addition to placing him in the A tier, this posits him as a top tier character.
As a costume
Mario's cap is available as headwear for Mii Fighters.
Mario + Standard Kart
Mario + Standard Bike
Tanooki Mario & Kitsune Luigi
Mario (With Propeller Box)
Mario Golf: World Tour
Flying Squirrel Mario
As a playable character
Main article: Mario (SSBU)
Mario appears as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Initially teased alongside Link and the Inklings during the then-unnamed Super Smash Bros. trailer at the end of the March 8th, 2018 Nintendo Direct, he was formally announced alongside the rest of the cast via Ultimate's E3 2018 trailer on June 12th, 2018.
Mario's design has once again been updated: it is now based on his appearance in Super Mario Odyssey, complete with Cappy in place of his usual hat, and having his wedding attire as a new alternate costume. In addition, Builder Mario from Super Mario Maker appears as an alternate costume, with that form and the wedding attire replacing the Wario-themed and Fire Mario costumes.
Compared to his fellow veterans, Mario has received very few major direct changes in his transition to Ultimate, possibly less than any other veteran. However, changes to game mechanics brought about by Ultimate have impacted Mario to a higher degree, as they slightly heightened his learning curve, yet made his playstyle more rewarding.
Despite the slight nerfs he received in his transition to Ultimate, Mario has maintained his status as a competitively viable character and continues to achieve respectable tournament results.
As a costume
Mario's cap is available once again as headwear for Mii Fighters. Additionally, a costume based on Builder Mario is available for Mii Brawlers.
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