That little guy, a bit on the chubby side in blue dungarees and a red cap emblazoned with an M. He’s a plumber and Italian, with a strong accent and an innate desire to save the world, one princess at a time. If you haven’t realised who we’re talking about by now, then you’re missing out on one of the most iconic figures in video game history. Never has a little guy with a black moustache and such an unassuming name hit it this big, and is still going strong more than thirty years down the line. Naturally, things have changed since he first appeared on video game arcades in 1981 and today we’ll trace just how much It’s-a-Mario has changed in three decades.


Mario at the Arcades

Mario wasn’t really Mario back then. In fact he was known as Jumpman in Japan, the game was called Donkey Kong and it did not have much to differentiate it from the plethora of other obstacle, prize-grabbing game. Until a developer from Nintendo saw potential in this little jumping man, gave him a name and turned him, overnight, into a star.

Super Mario Bros

In 1985, Nintendo released Super Mario Bros, described as both “pioneering” and “highly-influential”. It sold around 40 million copies and is still to this day the best-selling, single platform retro game of all time. You will also be amazed to know that the highest selling copy of that game was sold for $376, quite a feat when the original only sold for $29.99 back in the day. Maybe you were on to something when you refused to throw away any of your old memorabilia… This Mario head-butt his way to the end of his side-scrolling story to save Princess Toadstool, avoiding evil mushrooms and going down drain pipes along the way.

Super Mario Kart

Before this game there were actually a number of spin-offs, ranging from Super Mario playing golf (and looking super weird doing it) to puzzles and ring fights featuring our loveable moustache twitching character. However it wasn’t until Super Mario Kart that the icon grew once more into one of the most popular character in the video game world. Super Mario now enters the racing world astride a turtle, with all the character we know present in the race, including Luigi, Donkey Kong and Bowser. This was 1992 and Super Mario was making leaps and bounds in the industry, a global phenomenon the like of which was very rarely seen.

Super Mario 64

Technology advanced enough to allow Mario to sidestep obstacles now as the side scroll was ditched in favour of a 3D world where Mario could go around things and the player had much better visibility of the gameplay. Super Mario 64 is the best-selling Nintendo 64 game and was hailed as a game-changer (pun intended) in the gaming world.

The Lure of the Vintage

We’ve already made mention of the first game which sold for almost $400. During the course of its development, Super Mario still went back to his roots with a 2D appearance as recent as in 2007. Super Paper Mario in fact saw the familiar side scrolling feature, with Super Mario able to draw himself out of particularly tight situations. The definition of the game was excellent and lovers of the original turned to this game with zest, reminiscing older and simpler days.

Super Mario Galaxy

2007 and 2010 saw Super Mario leave this Earth to fight evil in outer space. Perhaps the world grew too small for Super Mario, as he now battled Bowser to protect the universe. Because, why not? He visited planets and fought on determinedly in what critics described a “revolutionary” approach to strategy and adventure.

Super Mario Maker

There must have come a time when the developers were at odds with what adventure to put Super Mario through next. Maybe the studios experienced a dry spell, or maybe it was an ingenious move, that got the developers to create a game in which the player built their own courses from any Super Mario Bros and Super Mario World games. Released in 2015, the game was available on WII U Console and players could play together online, adding an element of interaction to the whole series.

The ability to survive in today’s day and age is due to adaptation, flexibility and change. Super Mario remained relevant because it was able to adapt to the trends of the time. Naturally, the fact that Super Mario is also featured in movies, merchandise and is quoted in books, magazines and on TV, ensures that this icon remains recognisable not matter how old you are. It has surely made huge steps to get to where it is today, from a nameless jumping man in Donkey Kong’s realm, to having his own racing course, fight ring, golf and puzzle game. It will be exciting to see how his character evolves with the new technology, though we are sure he will remain the same little plumber we’ve always loved.

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