What the hell happened to this once jovial hero?
Something is clearly wrong. I’m as excited as the next guy for Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, but there’s clearly something disturbing going on here. Mario, our usually affable plumber friend, has gone insane. When the box art dropped for the game, his rage-filled face was all I could see. Sure, the rest of the cast are in action poses, but Mario is on whole other level. Frankly, it’s horrifying.
This prompted me to look back at Mario’s history on the cover of Super Smash Bros.games. It’s not pretty. Throughout the years, Mario has gone from the fun-loving plumber we once knew to the satanicvisage we see today. What has gone wrong in Mario’s life and can we ever get him back?
Look at this face.
I mean, really look into it.
It grabs your soul.
Insanity is erupting from his eyes.
There’s a tinge of fear there too, like deep inside the friendly, mustachioedhero. He appears to be launching a deadly flying kick towards your face. His fist showing the first signs of a ball of rage-inspired fire. There is no escape from him. His eyes follow you wherever you go. He’s going to kill you. This is where your life ends, at the foot of an Italian plumber whose lost his mind, as he’s forced, once again, to fight against close friends, his lover, and, yes, even his own brother. The Mario here knows nothing but fire and death and hatred. He is hell incarnate and there will be no stopping him until the world falls.
But how did we even get here? How did a mascot known for his brightly colored games and perpetually upbeat nature turn into this psychopathbefore us? It helps to start at the beginning.
Look at that guy there. He’s exuberant to meet some new friends. Running headlong, with a smile on his face, unaware of what goes on in Super Smash Bros. He doesn’t even look like he’s aware he’s about to fight these guys. It’s like he’s running in for a hug. These are Nintendo characters, after all. There’s nothing to be afraid of, everyone is a friend. The dark truth, of course, is playing out in the background as Samus becomes the first to get “biffed.” Yet even that violence is still comical, a friendly romp between newly acquainted buddies. Of course, Mario is happy, he doesn’t know the dark future awaiting him. After this, he’ll know the truth. Everyone is trying to kill him.
By the time Meleerolls around it’s clear Mario knows what’s up. His entire demeanor has shifted from one of unbridled joy to concentrated focus. He’s down to fight this time around. Maybe he actually trained up a bit ,or maybe it’s because his old nemesisBowser has arrived. Clearly, Mario is taking this seriously, but there’s no anger here. His brow isn’t furrowed and his eyebrows remain high with hope. Now that he knows what’s going on he’s fully committedto coming out on top in an epic, but friendly, competition between friends and rivals. Maybe he’s even a bit excited to meet some of these newcomers. Maybe he can trust some of them.
Wrong, Mario. Dead wrong. By the time Brawlhits, Mario knows that everything is a lie and no-one, not even his very own paramour, Princess Peach, can be trusted. Everyone is out to fuck him, and he stands alone. Unlike previous covers, his back is turned to everyone, his visage dark and shaded under his hat. His brow furrows as he looks around him at what he now knows are not friends, but mortal enemies.
People who will gladly punch and kick him repeatedly until he dies once again… Oh god, he’s died so much. Every time it hurts, but they keep bringing him back. Why can’t they let him rest? His expression now veers towards anger. Link is looking over his shoulder nervously at him. The elf knows something has changed and he is afraid. Truly afraid. Shit is about to get real.
Mario is now in full attack mode (hell, everyone is). After Brawlhe has lost any and all remnants of the joyous, rotund hero who ran with open arms towards the other characters. He’s tired of dying and being reborn, only to die again and he’s not going to take it anymore. He attacks first in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. His battle cry is already ringing out before the game even starts (“It’s a me-a, Motherfuckers!”). Fire is exploding from his hand as he launches fireballs at anyone in his way. The distrust, the fights, the violence have turned him into this, and he doesn’t care who this fireball hurts. They’re certainly not being launched towards his competitors.
And yet, there’s still some control there. The eyes are angry, but clear. The last vestige of the man he was. That last ounce of humanity pulls him back from total and complete insanity. This is probably best reflected in the box art for Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, where steely reserve seems to be the only thing holding him back from total and complete madness.
This brings us to the Ultimate. At some point between fighting for his life concurrently in two separate games as his friends and enemies showed no remorse, Mario snapped. He is lost and all that is left is a fighting machine, hell-bent on destroying EVERYONE. And now they’ve given him that chance. One game that includes everything. This is it. He can kill them all, destroy all the worlds, and never have to fight again. No more flying off-screen in a flash of painful light, only to be plopped right back down into the same battlefield as people cheer his untimely death. If he does this it can all be over, maybe he can even find some new friends, his battle-filled brain tells him. But he knows that’s a lie. They’ll all be dead… Every. Last. One. And he’s OK with that. He doesn’t feel anymore. There is only Smash and there is only one way for him to end it.
There was once a hero named Mario, and he saved people and did good deeds and even when his enemies crossed him he let them live on so they could play tennis or race each other sometimes. No more. That hero is gone. All that is left is madness. All that is left is fear. All that is left is death.