How is Mario So Versatile?

How is Mario So Versatile?

With the release of the excellent Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope, the spinoff franchise’s reputation for consistent quality has been cemented. When the first game, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was leaked and subsequently officially revealed, many fans were skeptical that the idea could work. Crossing Mario with Ubisoft’s sometimes divisive Rabbids series? Designing the game around turn-based tactics? Giving Mario a gun? These were all risky ideas that could have crashed and burned if not handled properly. But the teams at Ubisoft Milan and Ubisoft Paris that made the two games somehow got all the pieces to come together beautifully. This statement is in no way meant to diminish their hard work and smart choices, but at least some of that result can be attributed to the flexibility and versatility of the Mario franchise. Both Mario as a character and the world he inhabits can fill pretty much any gameplay or story roll needed. Why is it so easy to imagine a Mario game in almost any style?

Part of the reason that Mario can fit into almost any mold is because his games have been an eclectic mishmash of ideas from the very start. In his early days, Mario was facing off with gorillas and battling turtles and crabs that were clogging up the sewers. In his first “Super” title, he was framed as an Italian plumber, and he somehow found himself in a world of giant mushrooms inhabited by various forms of walking fungus and winged turtles. His main adversary, some kind of pointy, fire-breathing dragon-turtle, has consistently been obsessed with forcing his unrequited affections on the land’s monarchal heir. Despite his repeated acts of treason, Bowser is still invited to all manner of parties, sporting events, and go-kart outings.

Through the years, Mario has found himself jumping, golfing, go-karting, RPG-ing, and partying through every landscape and scenario imaginable. He once owned his own castle. He’s a certified doctor of medicine. He became a convicted criminal while vacationing on a tropical island. He’s made multiple trips to space, during one of which he witnessed the destruction and rebirth of the entire universe. He has been the prisoner of a king’s ghost. He has ridden a dinosaur and forced it to eat bigger dinosaurs. He has invaded and forced his will over the bodies of others using the powers of a parasitic hat. He became a kaiju-sized cat. A flatulent and greedy buffoon apparently has enough of a beef with Mario to change his name to something similar, copy his style of dress, and dedicate his life to harassing him. He has battled and defeated literal dragons, giant caterpillars, wizards, sentient pinatas, and a royal frog made of dreams. Despite Nintendo’s insistence that Mario is “about 24-25 years old”, he has seen and experienced more in his short life than a dozen average men would in their lifetimes.

Given the madness his life had consisted of up to that point, seeing Mario move on a grid and blast screaming rabbits with cartoonish laser guns is actually a pretty easy pill to swallow.

But there will always be one lingering question that has eluded answers for decades: is Mario a little man that grows bigger when eating mushrooms, or is he a regular sized man who shrinks when injured? We may never know for sure.

Leave a comment