Forget the Bermuda Triangle, Easter Island, and the Lizard Queen of Buckingham Palace, the biggest mystery of the modern world has to be the nearly unending appeal of one fat plumber – not a cute hedgehog or a crazed bandicoot but a portly pipe bender. It is, of course, Nintendo’s long-serving mascot Mario, who, with the October 2017 release of Super Mario Odyssey, will have appeared in more than 250 original titles since his inception in 1985. The character reportedly has a single grey hair in the latter game; with the mileage Nintendo have got from the moustachioed Italian, it’s no surprise.


Mario: A Journey Through Minigames

IMAGE SOURCE: NintendoViewer on Facebook

Mushroom Roulette

Much like old rival and now frequent collaborator Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s arguably the path Mario forged through his world, the peculiar Mushroom Kingdom, that made, and continues to make, the franchise so popular with fans of all ages. From the blue sky of the first Super Mario level (World 1-1, where the clouds are just recolored bushes) to the labyrinthine Forest of Illusion in Super Mario World; the Rainbow Road in Mario Kart and New Super Mario Bros’ Fortress, which, for some reason, was built around a deadly drill bit, Mario has been just about everywhere; he even starred in his own version of the 2008 Olympic Games with Sonic.



However, there’s a great deal sequestered between Mario’s levels, the secret and not-so-secret mini-games that provide a distraction from saving Princess Peach. There’s even an entire series based on the concept – Mario Party, the longest-running minigame franchise in video gaming history, and one that had racked up sales of nearly 40m prior to the release of its tenth and most recent instalment. Thanks to Mario Party, there are almost 1,000 different minigames under Mario’s hat today but one of the most memorable in the main canon is actually one of Luigi’s from Super Mario 64 DS – Mushroom Roulette.

Casino Nights

Casinos are a popular source of inspiration for video games (remember Sega’s effort in Sonic 2’s Casino Night Zone?) and, indeed many aspects of mainstream media; according to online sources everything from the work of Fyodor Dostoyevsky to James Bond as helping immortalize the industry beyond its own gilded doors. Nintendo’s Mushroom Roulette was a standard, albeit simplified, roulette game that had the player bet up to 5 coins on black or red, or on 12 individual betting options, represented by icons of clouds, fire flowers, mushrooms, Mario, and Luigi. The portable Mario Party DS also added a casino-themed hockey game, Shuffleboard Showdown.



As mentioned though, Mushroom Roulette is far from the only minigame to ever grace players’ screens, and Strawberry Shortfuse (Mario Party 6), an experience that falls somewhere between Cooking Mama and Bomberman, is particularly entertaining; the player has to remember which monkeys have explosives and which have cake slices under the food dome they’re each carrying, Strawberry Shortfuse is a truly chaotic multiplayer game that punishes indecisiveness. That kind of frantic action was also central to Mario Party 9’s Tumble Temple, a minigame that throws spiked balls at the stricken players below.

Booksquirm

In a similar way to Mario Kart, Mario Party has always made the best use of its resident console’s multiplayer capabilities. Booksquirm, from Mario Party 4, pits up to four players against falling book pages. With different shapes cut into each page, the players simply have to stand in such a way so that they slot safely through the stars, suns, and crescent moons cut into the tumbling book leaves; otherwise, they’ll get squashed. The lava-themed Burnstile (Mario Party 6) leaned on a similar premise – act or lose. The game, which was played in a 2v2 format above a lava pit, featured a quickly rotating bar that players had to leap over to stay in the game.


The next installment in the popular Mario Party franchise is due out spring 2018 on the Nintendo Switch. The title’s plot is based on a character called Starlid, the keeper of stars, who is attacked by (who else?) Bowser and loses all his beloved stars to the land below. Inevitably, the task of returning them all to the heavens falls to Mario and co. The title introduces a Coin Chaos mode based on the collection of gold coins, along with minigames like Beanstalk Battle, Block Builders, Roulette Rally (another casino-style experience), and Marathon Mania. With support for up to eight players (there are 26 characters to choose from), Mario Party 11 perhaps ought to have been a launch title, given the Switch’s unique multiplayer capabilities.

Given the thousands of entertainment hours players have got from the eleven Mario Party games, it’s perhaps not so difficult to see Mario’s appeal after all.

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