Mario at 35: ‘The little plumber who defined a genre’

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Nintendo's various characters from the last 35 yearsImage copyright

September 1985. Mario and his faithful brother Luigi make their debut in the first ever “Super Mario Bros.”

No-one could have known that 35 years later, the moustached men would have sold a staggering 373 million games across the world.

Mario, with his distinctive red overalls and unfortunate habit of losing his love interest to a spiky over-sized turtle, has become a much-loved part of millions of people’s lives.

But why more than three decades on is he still so popular? Four Super Mario super fans have been telling Radio 1 Newsbeat about their love for the pint-sized plumber.

‘I can’t remember a time when I didn’t play Mario’

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Ethan Hunt

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Ethan, 23, playing on the N64 – a console released in the year he was born

To celebrate Mario’s 35th birthday, Nintendo is re-releasing three of his classic adventures.

Super Mario 64 (originally released on the Nintendo 64), Super Mario Sunshine (GameCube) and Super Mario Galaxy (Wii).

The oldest of the three – 64 – is Ethan Hunt from Liverpool’s favourite game of all time, despite being three years old when it was first released.

“I’ve got an appreciation for just what the game did,” he tells Newsbeat.

“I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t play Mario games.

“I got the Gameboy Advance when I was six, then the Nintendo DS version of Super Mario 64 (its first re-release which came out in 2004).

“I just fell in love with the game. I’d seen footage of of the N64 original, so I went back from there.”

Ethan went on to buy a second hand Nintendo Entertainment (NES, first released in the eighties) a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), and a Nintendo 64, all because of his passion for the game.

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Ethan says the polygonal visuals, music and gameplay help make Super Mario 64 just as fun to play today

‘The gameplay is timeless’

In a world of ultra high definition, 3D gaming and huge budget titles being made every year, what makes people like Ethan in their twenties play Mario games that are older than they are?

Jon Doyle writes for two Nintendo magazines – Switch Player and Ninty Fresh.

“The games are so well made that the gameplay is timeless,” the 29-year-old says.

“Mario 64 back in the day was revolutionary in terms of how it played and the content.

“The graphics weren’t quite up to what the PlayStation was managing, but the gameplay itself was second-to-none.

“And that’s been the case over every console generation where they’ve released a new Mario game”.

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Jon Doyle

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Jon: “Nintendo is the go to console for gameplay, they put so much attention into it. That’s what makes the games timeless”

Jon says one of the most impressive things about the Mario series is Nintendo’s ability to keep reinventing it while still keeping up quality.

“Mario 64 still feels like an incredible platform today as it did back then.

“Mario Sunshine on the GameCube for example, if you play it today, it feels like a completely fresh idea.

“Very few games define a genre and repeatedly do so with nearly every title.”

‘Families playing together’

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Special Effect

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Becky and the Special Effect team help people access games who otherwise wouldn’t be able to

Becky Frost is from charity Special Effect, which helps gamers with physical disabilities.

In a world where some games can be complicated or daunting, Becky says Mario’s pick up and play style has helped him jump, climb, swing and fly (we could go on) through three and a half decades.

“Mario and the Nintendo games have a great focus on accessibility”, she tells Newsbeat.

“You’ve got Mario Kart for example which has all of its different accessibility options built in, which is absolutely fantastic for charities like us when we’re creating setups for people to to use in in different ways.

“You also get families playing together on different skill levels , where it levels the playing field as well.”

That was certainly the case for 28-year-old Vaneet Mehta.

‘I can’t wait to see where they take Mario next’

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Vaneet Mehta

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When it comes to playing Mario games, Vaneet has been there, done that and got the t-shirt

One of his earliest memories is running around with Mario, making Luigi jump and Yoshi eat anything he could find, as well as watching his dad get to higher levels than he could.

“Every single game since then has really tried to capture that magic. The way that it’s created this hub, the castle, there’s so much to explore.

“You’re sort of learning more and more as you unlock new areas, jumping through paintings not knowing what’s going to be in front of you.

“It had so much magic to it. You jump through that painting in to a world of change.”

Vaneet, like thousands of others is looking forward to bringing the three classic games back into his life for Mario’s birthday, but also to see where Mario travels to for his next mission.

“You just have this big sandbox, you can just mess around in and explore this giant world in front of you. I’m really interested to see what they do next.”

Mario may have had three and a half decades of racing karts, travelling trough space and swinging a fire-breathing turtle round and round until he lands on a bomb (we’ve all done it.)

But hold on to your hat Mario, you’re far from finished.

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