Did you guys know that PBS has a YouTube channel where they post multiple different digital shows? I just found that out while watching this weekly segment from Game/Show, PBS’s YouTube show hosted by KillScreen founder Jamin Warren. He explains some of the mysteries of the Super Mario Bros franchise that most of us have probably just accepted at face value and never questioned.
Like, why is Mario dressed like that? Why the huge handlebar mustache? How can he breathe underwater and jump on clouds? And what’s with the warp tubes?
Turns out, Shigeru Miyamoto wasn’t a hairy Italian plumber superfan. A lot of the first game is based on restrictions with the 8-bit game design format, and Chinese and Japanese folklore. (Didn’t we all learn what a tanuki was thanks to Super Mario Bros 3?) Almost everything in the first Mario game stems from having to work within the confines of a burgeoning format, which means a lot of creative license was used to improve the graphics legibility and game flow.
Mario was originally Jumpman in Donkey Kong, and had to be discernible as a middle-aged man and not a fleshy blob. (His occupation was eventually changed from carpenter to plumber as he transitioned to different games.) After Nintendo and home gaming systems took off in popularity, why change Mario’s iconic overalls and gloves? Better game resolution and processing power was just a license to include even more weird nods to mythology.
You can subscribe to Game/Show here, or check out its sister show Space Time explaining what planet Super Mario World actually is.