Five Reasons Mario Bros. Would Never Be Successful Today.

My first book was about video games and how they’ve aided (or in some cases, crippled) my generation. What was once a relaxing afternoon at the arcades soon tranformed into weeknights at home complete with microphones, trash-talking, and graphics so realistic you’d swear you were actuall in the game. It’s startling to even think that just about 10 years ago, people were still getting used to having cell phones. So look how far we’ve come in the blink of an eye. And with that progression, I couldn’t help but realize a rather harsh truth.

Whilst playing Super Mario Bros. this weekend, it came to my attention that even after 15 or so years, Mario Bros. was still fun for me. Sure, I’m pushing 29 and I’ve been living an “adult life” for the past decade or so, but the experience associated with controlling a tiny Italian plumber over the course of several “worlds” to save a princess is downright appealing. I’m not sure what it is, but something about that scenario gets me excited. Yes, it’s nostalgic and takes me back to when times were simpler, but it’s more than that. There’s a pursuit of grandeur; a rescue that needs to happen and a challenge set forth by a villain, King Koopa, who has openly said “no, you cannot save her” so I say back to him – “yes, I can and I will“.

That’s the core of Mario Bros. It’s an adventure first and foremost to prove one’s self. Philosophical? Yes, but it’s universal to youngsters and is attractive to their curiosity and growth. Even if you’re a young lady gamer, you can still enjoy the puzzles that Mario Bros. offers. You can always choose to not save the princess too. Just saying. Thus, the formula for an ultra popular franchise is right there.

But that’s not all we get today. I fear that many young gamers would never notice what made Mario so awesome. Which brings me to this post – had Mario Bros., one of video game world’s founding fathers, been released to the masses in 2013 – what might happen? Well, I came up with five reasons for why I think Mario wouldn’t succeed whatsoever. And naturally, you may comment how you see fit.

So here we go.

1) There’s no blood. Far as I know and for as long as I can remember, the Mario Bros. games are without any form of blood being shed. Sure, you may fall into a pit full of lava, be conked on the head with a block of ice or even be attacked by a venus fly trap large enough to eat you whole, but never (and I mean NEVER) will you ever see Mario shed an ounce of blood. I commend Mario’s creators for never giving into the pressures of social standards to create a game where Mario can bludgeon Bowser to a bloody pulp, but had Mario’s world been invented today, I find it difficult to imagine him being popular if he hadn’t added this extra level of detail to his adventures.

2) Princess Peach is either overdressed or without a pair of uzi’s. It’s the contradictory stereotype of any female character you find in a video game. She’s either a. a damsel in distress, wearning next-to-nothing outfits, or b. she’s a warrior fighting hordes of enemies but still in next-to-nothing outfits. Go figure, right? I suppose we have Lara Croft to blame for this one because we all know that the most skin Princess Peach has shown is on her face at the end of every game. But once again, there isn’t anything wrong with that, but if you ask the creators of Tomb Raider, they might think differently.

3) An Italian plumber whose always grabbing coins may be considered racist. Is there even a stereotype for this? Or is it just ethnic slander? The thought that all Italians are plumbers seeking riches may not be a real statement but I’m sure some nut out there looking to make a few bucks would be willing to draw up a stink over the fact that Mario is clearly of Italian descent. Phrases like “It’s-a-me, Mario!” and “Here we go!” are synonymous with the character (even fun to rehearse) but in a day where we love to argue about petty matters of opinion, I could see somebody getting offended. I mean, come on, the fact that a video game promotes plumbers as Italian and loving money must be true then, right? Right….

4) Beating up or killing other people is one thing, but the open assailment of defenseless turtles and using fungi to get more powerful may cause a stir. I’m by no means bashing PETA or trying to point out the subtle meaning behind a mushroom that grants a character more power, but wouldn’t it be intriguing to see the stir these little items about the game may cause today? I suppose we overlook these niceties now that Mario has been around for so long but one can ponder as I have. Then again, I could be blowing something out of proportion here, but a weed that enables you to “spit fire”? Yeah, I wonder….

5) Finally, Mario has no internal angst. He is focused on one goal and that’s it. This is the biggest differentiator I can find. The heroes of yesterday are overshadowed by the angsty, rage-driven, and scorned heroes of the present. Nobody likes playing a character today unless he’s been left for dead, has emotional baggage, or just flat out doesn’t want to be a hero at all – it just so happens that you’re stuck playing this ragtag character for the entirety of the gaming experience. Today’s hero must be full of complications; full of strife and for whatever reason, be conflicted about his path. His goals are many and his aims are even more so – but why? Why is that appealing? I like it better when I have one, maybe two projects to keep track of. Why should I have a million other things to keep me busy as I complete something? And if I’m saving the princess, then what other mission do I need? It gives me anxiety just thinking about it! And with that, I may have just proven myself a statistic of the systme itself.

But there you have it. The five reasons for Mario’s failure in today’s day and age of gaming. As we go on, my hope is that the ones who played the likes of Mario, Sonic and others would look back on their youth and see these experiences as their first step towards a larger world. However, what I feel like is happening is a constant need to push what was once deemed as protective knowledge to a younger audience with a desire to bolster sales. My generation has aged now; and we want the next gen to enjoy what we did, but we forget that we’re adults – they’re still kids – and these kids should be having relatively the same experiences we did. The thought of a 10-year old shooting up downtown L.A. in the middle of a video game may seem like a liberating concept to a youth, but is that really teaching them anything? Better yet, is it helping them see the “real world for what it is?” The answer is: absolutely not. Parents aren’t doing their kids a favor by showing them the “real world” before they are ready – they’re crippling them instead. And they’re giving them lessons that aren’t really lessons at all; merely permitting a broken perspective which doesn’t promote life or progression; only darkened doors and hardened outlooks on the world around them. The world can be scary enough as it is – so why push them into it when they’re not fully prepped to handle it yet?

Do I sound like someone whose against censorship? Yes, I may, but I’m not in the business of censorship – I’m in the business of preparation with protection rather than apathetic responsibility and neglect. And there is a difference. Will that change the course of video games as a whole? Maybe, maybe not, but recognition is the first step to something much greater.

So in the words of the Italian plumber himself, “Oh, mamma mia….”

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