On This Day

Mario Brothers, nintendo, Shigeru Miyamoto
Paul Sakuma /AP
Shigeru Miyamoto speaks as a Mario Brothers game plays in the background, March 8, 2007.

On This Day: Nintendo Releases “Super Mario Bros.”

September 13, 2011 05:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Sept. 13, 1985, Nintendo released “Super Mario Bros.” for the Nintendo Entertainment System; the game would sell over 40 million copies, and become one of the most popular video games of all time.

The Creation of Mario

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Created by legendary Japanese video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, Mario made his debut in 1981 as the “the ladder-climbing, barrel-dodging, gorilla-enraging protagonist” of the arcade game “Donkey Kong,” writes Jay Garmon in Tech Republic.

His trademark appearance—a squat body, cap and bushy mustache—was the product of the limited pixel and color capacity on arcade displays, and the preferences of Miyamoto. “The game’s programmers could not animate Mario’s movement without making his arms disappear,” says Mario Brothers Online, but “making his shirt a solid color and giving him overalls fixed this.” Because there was no space for a mouth or ears, Mario was given sideburns. And as Miyamoto didn’t draw hair very well, Mario got a cap.

In “Donkey Kong,” Mario was known simply as “Jumpman.” It wasn’t until Nintendo executives decided to feature him in his own game that he was renamed. He was named after Mario Segali, the landlord at Nintendo’s New York headquarters, who bore a resemblance to the character.

The revamped Mario appeared in the arcade game “Mario. Bros.,” released in 1983. That same year, Nintendo also released the 8-bit home game console Famicom, which was later renamed the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Miyamoto was assigned the task of creating the marquee game for the revolutionary console.

Miyamoto adapted “Mario Bros.” for the NES, adding “hidden blocks, multiple pathways within each level, and underground passages,” to form “a fantastic world that could only have been experienced in a dream,” writes Game Cubicle.

“Super Mario Bros.” was an immediate hit when it was released in Japan in September 1985. It would be released in North America on Oct. 1, 1986, as part of the full launch of the NES. The game was a massive success and transformed Nintendo into the leader in the video game industry.

Mario in Popular Culture

Throughout the world, Mario has become a widely recognized character. According to a survey conducted by Nintendo of Canada, more people could identify Mario than Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Over time, Mario has appeared in cartoon shows, comic books and even a rock opera. In 1993, he made it to the big screen in the film “Super Mario Bros.,” starring Academy Award-winning actor Bob Hoskins, Dennis Hopper and John Leguizamo.

To a large degree, Mario’s popularity is a product of his likeability. “In an industry where an ever-increasing number of complex and hyper-real—and in some cases, hyper-violent—characters and concepts grab headlines and zeitgeist,” writes Garmon in TechRepublic, “it’s nice to think that a simple Italian plumber named Mario still carries a lot of weight with avid game consumers.”
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