I have this picture in my mind that I can’t forget. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories: my brother and I both excitedly screaming “pay attention to the turtle” or “hurry, the mushroom is coming up!” It was wintertime and we were pretty young. We were in the living room sitting on the carpet we used to have in front of the television. We were both leaning back against the coffee table and we didn’t care about the leather couch behind us. It was our first time playing Nintendo’s Mario Bros. and we were going crazy.
Mario Bros has been a revolution in our lives. It was the first time we really felt involved in a videogame because of the characters’ nationality and names. The truth is that back then we didn’t know that the videogame was set in New York and not Italy, nor did we think about the fact it was made in Japan. It was very disappointing to find that out. We were too young to ask ourselves if for the rest of the world Mario and his brother symbolized what Italian people were like. We just wanted to play the game. But let’s start from the beginning: who is Mario?
As the story goes, Mario appeared for the first time in 1981 in the videogame Donkey Kong as the character named Jumpman. In 1982 he developed into an Italian-American plumber who had to save New York by fighting against some dangerous creatures (turtles, carnivorous plants and other fantastic animals) living in the city sewers. He was helped by his brother Luigi, a character created to allow another player to join in the videogame. In the beginning, Luigi looked just like Mario, except green.
I think the most surprising, and least known, part of this story is how the name Mario was chosen. According to legend, in 1981 Nintendo was having some economic troubles and was late with its rent on its American headquarters. When their landlord visited them and demanded to be paid they reached a deal to put off the payment.. Guess what was the landlord’s name? Mario, of course.
Since 1981 a lot of changes have been made to modernize the videogame. Mario has appeared in more than 150 games. He has faced new adventures and gained more powers, becoming Nintendo’s most famous character. Even Luigi has come into his own as a tall and skinny character distinct from Mario. When I was a kid my brother was definitely the boss among us kids, so I always ended up playing Luigi. However, no matter which role I played or how much I have seen that Mario and Luigi can be somewhat of an Italian stereotype, I have to say that the original Mario Brothers will always be the best videogame.