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Updated: September 29, 2010 20:44 IST

Happy Birthday, Mario!

(Courtesy: Blur)
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Mario, the most identifiable character in video game history. Photo: Special arrangement
The Hindu
Mario, the most identifiable character in video game history. Photo: Special arrangement

The iconic Italian plumber turns 25

Mario is the most identifiable character in video game history, making innumerable appearances in games that not only see him star as the main protagonist, but also as a race car driver, street-fighter, basketball player, snowboarder and all-round brilliant sportsman. His cameo appearances (often included in games as ‘Easter Eggs') are world famous as well, with game developers often paying tribute to his exploits and rich videogame heritage.

Created by acclaimed game designer Shigeru Miyamoto back in 1981, Mario would make his debut as a videogame character that same year as ‘Jumpman' in the arcade game Donkey Kong. Simple mathematics will tell you that ‘Jumpman', in fact, would turn 29 this year, but he would make his first appearance as the main protagonist in Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo's NES console only five years later.

While platforming games were not entirely uncommon at the time, they often lacked complexity and depth. Super Mario Bros. would change all of that with a gameplay system whose fundamental mechanics form the basis for the platformers of today, a whole 25 years later. While games such as New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Super Mario Galaxy serve as mantle-carriers of the franchise, several games have been inspired by the Italian plumber's exploits, including Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega's Crash Bandicoot and more recently, Sony's LittleBigPlanet, all of which owe a huge debt to Mario for creating and defining a genre of video games.

Over the years, however, Mario has been less than faithful to the platforming genre (although it clearly occupies a special place in his virtual heart), expanding to sports, racing, puzzle, role-playing, fighting and a host of casual and party games. Unsurprisingly, he has enjoyed considerable success in almost everything he has dabbled in, with games such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart and Mario Strikers: Charged all garnering critical acclaim while also proving successful commercially.

What's new for Mario? Well, with the release of Super Mario Galaxy 2 he has reinforced his position as the video game industry's undisputed champion thanks to a Metacritic aggregate of 97. One of the highest rated games of all time, Super Mario Galaxy 2 develops on the hugely successful Super Mario Galaxy adding features such as co-operative gameplay (a huge hit in New Super Mario Bros. Wii), the ability to ride the dinosaur Yoshi and dozens of new, exciting power-ups.

But it looks like Mario is not planning another adventure any time soon, allowing his other Nintendo comrades such as Link (Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword ), Samus Aran (Metroid: Other M) and Kirby (Kirby's Epic Yarn) to enjoy the spotlight. His next appearance will be at the ‘Game of the Year' awards at the end of the year, when Super Mario Galaxy 2 walks away with a bazillion trophies, all of which Mario will collect with his trademark nonchalance. Happy birthday, Mario, and thanks for the countless number of finger-breaking, yet fun hours in front of our TV sets.

Contest question:

What was Mario's profession before he became a plumber?

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