I Can’t Believe THIS Was Supposed To Be Mario’s Age This Whole Time
There’s a few unspoken pop cultural myths I have taken for truth my entire life. Primary among these was that Mario Mario, the face of Nintendo, was in his forties. Ish. While the exact number was up for interpretation, you’d be hard-pressed to find a millennial or older who would place Mario any lower than 40. And that’s being generous.
And we had good reason to think this. In the 1980s, Lou Albano portrayed Mario in The Super Mario Super Show! while he was in his 50s. When Bob Hoskins got his turn in the 1993 film Super Mario Bros., he was pushing 50 himself. Those who grew up with the series and movie, or at least watched them at any point in their lives, were explicitly told in very weird but technically officially licensed Nintendo adaptations that Mario was middle-aged.
And, I mean, who do you know younger than forty who has that mustache? Even cool hipster dad-style mustaches aren’t like that. And the utilitarian work overalls? I have spent my entire thirty years of life never once considering that Mario and Link could be in the same general age group, less than a decade apart. I mean, look at Link. Meanwhile, I can easily imagine Mario having a li’l beer belly after spending a decade or two having a well-deserved cold one (or ones) after a long day of plumbing.
But we were all wrong.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie changed how I see Mario
Ahead the release of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, all anyone could talk about was Chris Pratt’s lack of voice acting. After it released in North America, I kept hearing people praise the film’s animation and obvious love for the game, while also grappling with its “obviously aimed squarely at kids” nature. But I was in Japan. I did not get to see this film for three weeks after its North American release, and I can’t believe you all didn’t exclusively harp on the obvious Earth-shattering talking point in this film: Mario and Luigi are young upstarts who still live with their parents.
At one point in the film, Mario and Luigi head home after a rough day, only to get BS from their family for their new commercial over the dinner table. We see that Papa Mario doesn’t really approve of what his son’s up to. Mario leaves the table in a huff after refusing to eat his mushrooms and goes to play video games (Kid Icarus, to be exact) in his bedroom like a goddamn teenager. His room even looks kind of teenager-y.
Throughout the film, Mario being sad that his dad isn’t proud of him is a returning point of conflict for his character—in that it returns maybe two other times. But still! WHAT!
This scene, and the fact Mario that returns to his dad issues as his Major Character Point of Conflict while potentially getting digested, drastically changed my mental image of a character I’ve known for my entire life. I’ve never thought of Mario has someone who would leave family dinner in a teenager-y manner. Or who would actively be pining for the approval of his father. Both feel distinctly like something a middle-aged plumber would not be doing.
I spent the entire half-hour walk home wondering: Exactly how old is Mario? Is he a teenager with a downright unbelievable mustache? Or in his 20s? Is this something Mario Bros. Movie animation studio Illumination came up with?!
The truth about Mario’s age
Fortunately, Mario’s portrayal in The Super Mario Bros. Movie freaked out at least one other writer: Polygon’s Nicole Carpenter. (Carpenter had previously placed Mario in the 45–60 range.) She did some digging and found an interview, which appeared in English via The Independent, in which Shigeru Miyamoto, Mario’s creator, said Mario is “24 or 25.” Even the reporter at The Independent was thrown off by this.
Carpenter points out that in Super Smash Bros. Melee, which came out in 2001, a trophy puts Mario’s age at 26. So from either source, we’re faced with a Mario in his mid-20s.
What’s more, in an interview with a Japanese gaming outlet, Miyamoto revealed that he and artist Yoichi Katabe designed Mario’s father and mother over 20 years ago. So none of this—not Mario’s age, nor the fact that his parents are alive and kicking and a part of his 20-something-year-old-life—is new information, per se. Miyamoto’s had it in his head this whole time. It’s just new to us.
So please excuse me while I readjust everything I thought I knew about gaming canon.
(featured image: Universal Pictures)
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