History and Evolution of Mario
By Fishayyyyyyyyyyyyy November 10, 2011
Even today when intense, realistic first-person shooters like Call of Duty seem to be at the forefront of gaming, Mario is still going strong. With new Mario games and spin-offs still coming out each year and several upcoming 3DS games charted for 2012, the good ol'fashioned model for a save-the-princess platform game seems to be immortal.
The story of Mario, one of the most iconic characters of all time, began in 1981. Nintendo was a struggling company, having recently failed to capture the market in an attempt at expanding into North America and falling far below expectations. Shigeru Miyamoto, a game designer working for Nintendo, was asked to create a new game that would be more modern and appealing, with the hope of gaining stronger footing in North America.
Taking inspiration from Popeye, Beauty and the Best, and King Kong, Miyamoto devised the love triangle plot for the original Donkey Kong arcade game where the character that would become known as Mario made his debut as Jumpman. Miyamoto had planned to name Mario's character Mr. Video and use him in every game he made. Legend has it that Nintendo employees renamed Jumpman "Mario" after their landlord Mario Segale, to whom Nintendo's failing North American operation had fallen behind on rent payments. Needless to say, Donkey Kong did give Nintendo the boost it needed to succeed in America.
Much of Mario's design reflects early limitations in graphics and programming. His overalls helped make his proportions appear more natural, his hat hides his hair to avoid intricate details, and his large nose and mustache spared developers from animating his mouth or facial expressions.
Mario in Super Mario Bros. for NES is still a somewhat awkward and pixelated character with few high-contrast colors in a platform game. Mario was originally a carpenter, but in part due to games like this one taking place underground and the prevalence of pipes, in the original Mario Bros. his profession was changed to a plumber.
In Super Mario World for SNES, also a fairly simple platform game, Mario has gained a lot more detail and much more color. Notably the M on his hat, though present before this game, is much more apparent and the use of shading instead of solid colors.
Super Mario 64 for Nintendo 64 was one of the first platform games in 3D. Though still a bit pixelated, here Mario has been given a much more polished look nearly resembling his modern appearance in detail and proportions.
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