Super Mario 25th anniversary: How it all began for the Nintendo icon

A look back at the history of Mario: A gaming icon

Charting the console rise of the tiny Italian-American plumber from 8-bit sprite to multi-polygonal super star. How has the dunareed one done it?

Everyone’s favourite overweight plumber is 25 years old today, celebrating a quarter of a century as a headline act, and marking the anniversary of the first Super Mario Bros game on the NES.

So far Super Mario titles have sold a mind-blowing 240 million units around the world, and in homage to Sonic's bitter rival, we remind ourselves how Miyamoto's coin-collecting plumber obtained iconic gaming status.

NES lands
Nintendo had released their first home video game console, the Famicom, in 1983 in Japan. It launched with home versions of Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. and Popeye (which Nintendo eventually got the license for). Shortly after this it got a home version of Mario Bros. as well. But it lacked a killer title, something totally new.

Miyamoto was assigned to come up with another game, one even more innovative than Donkey Kong, in time for the launch of the Famicom (redesigned and renamed the NES) in America, where a huge video game crash had just taken place due to the deluge of terrible Atari games putting customers right off gaming.

Miyamoto came up with Super Mario Bros., a side-scrolling platformer that redefined gaming and went on to single-handedly save the games industry in America. Telling the story of Mario and his brother Luigi on a quest to save Princess Toadstool from the evil Bowser, King of the Koopas, the game enchanted many a child and hooked their parents too. In total, Super Mario Bros. would go on to end up in 40.24 million households worldwide, making it the second biggest-selling videogame of all time after Wii Sports.

It would be fair to argue that had Super Mario Bros. not been created, video gaming could have gone the way of the yo-yo and the hula hoop and died an eventual death due to lack of interest. But Nintendo wasn't finished yet...

Super Mario Bros.
Year: 1985. Format: NES

Some believe that Super Mario Bros. is still the greatest video game of all time. Despite its simplicity, every level is brilliantly crafted, with a perfect balance of difficulty throughout the game. Add to that some of the most memorable game music ever created and you have a game that, 22 years after its original release, still captivates to this day. In fact, almost every day without fail, one member of the ONM team (okay, it's Chris) loads up Super Mario Bros. on the Wii's Virtual Console and completes the game. The fact that in an age of innovative gameplay, next-gen graphics and immersive sounds we're still playing it speaks volumes about how perfect Miyamoto's game is. We're convinced that another 22 years from now, Super Mario Bros. will still be in our top five games of all time.

Moustache a question
So why exactly does Mario wear that unique outfit? You can blame the limitations of technology for that. Speaking in an interview in 1991, Miyamoto explained all. "We had to work under technical constraints including the number of pixels and number of colours the Famicom can display. There are many reasons why we drew him the way we did. We gave him a moustache rather than a mouth because that showed up better. We gave him a hat rather than hair because that looked better, too. Mario wears overalls because that shows the movement of his arms, and he's wearing white gloves because the white contrasts better with the coloured backgrounds. These are the technical reasons we made him look the way he does."

The massive success of Super Mario Bros. in Japan led Nintendo to start work on a sequel. When the Famicom Disk System (a floppy disk drive for the Famicom) was released, it was decided that Super Mario Bros. 2 would be released on that in order to help sell the add-on. Miyamoto did not have as much time to work on the game since he was also busy working on another Disk System game called Doki Doki Panic (more on that later), so the game was instead directed by Takashi Tezuka, the original game's programmer.

Named Super Mario Bros 2: For Super Players, the game helped shift loads of Famicom Disk Systems. There was no denying one thing though - this game was harder than a diamond apple coated with marble, sitting in Mike Tyson's pocket. Sales of the player's guide for the book went through the roof as the whole of Japan struggled to succeed.

This led to a bit of a dilemma for Nintendo. See, because the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was much more difficult than the original (as well as the fact that Nintendo of America chairman Howard Lincoln didn't like the fact it was so similar to the original game), it was decided that the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2 was never to be released in the western world. Instead, us Brits and the Americans would end up get a different Super Mario Bros. 2 altogether, based on another Japanese title...

Super Mario Bros. 2
Year: 1986. Format: Famicom Disk System
The much trickier sequel to Super Mario Bros. was full of extra challenges. Some warp zones took players backward instead of forward, many levels featured strong gusts of wind that could blow Mario off course, and the poison mushroom was introduced, which harmed Mario if he touched it. The game also had four hidden worlds (Worlds A-D) which could only be played if you completed the main game eight times! To this day, the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 remains one of the most difficult Mario games ever created, and is a true test for any gamer.

1987: Mario makes his UK debut
In Japan and America, 1987 was a bit of a non-event, as nothing much Mario-related happened other than the release of Punch-Out!! on the NES (which featured him as a referee). In the UK though it was a different matter, when the NES launched on 15 May 1987 bundled with Super Mario Bros. As we're sure you've gathered by now, it became a bit of a smash hit here as well. Us Brits know a good thing.

Feature courtesy of Official Nintendo Magazine
Check out the complete history Of Mario below:

Mario 2000-2009
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Mario 1990 -1999
History Of Mario: 1999-2000
I History Of Mario: 1996-98 I History Of Mario: 1994-95 I History Of Mario: 1992-93 I History Of Mario: 1990-91

Mario: Early Years
History Of Mario: 1988-89
I History Of Mario: 1985-87 I History Of Mario: The Early Years