Mario Bros. 1981-1991

It’s 2014 and if you don’t know Mario you must have been hidden captive in a bomb shelter somewhere for the last 30 years. Today Mario is the more recognised worldwide than Mickey Mouse.  Not too shabby for a character who didn’t even start out in his own game. If you’re itching to get some 8bit goodness on, you can play Super Mario Bros and many other 80s classics online at Nintendo8!

North American Donkey Kong promotional flier f...

North American Donkey Kong promotional flier from 1981, showing Jumpman, Donkey Kong and the Lady (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Right in the middle of the video game wars of the early 80s, Nintendo was struggling to sell their Famicom console and Radar Scope game to North America and Nintendo CEO Hiroshi Yamauchi‘s son in law Minoru Arakawa persuaded him to give the green light to redesign the game and try again. Unsold Radar Scopes were reprogrammed by Gunpei Yokoi and Shigeru Miyamoto (called the father of modern video gaming) to become Donkey Kong.

Basing the storyline on that of Popeye the Sailor Man, Bluto was substituted with Donkey Kong, Popeye with Jumpman and Olive Oyl with Jumpman’s girlfriend the “Lady” later renamed Pauline. Fitting this new gameplay to Radar Scope’s existing specs was difficult and in 1981 chip & conversion kits were shipped to the US.

Original Donkey Kong game (screen from NES ver...

Original Donkey Kong game (screen from NES version) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jumpman eventually was renamed Mario (after landlord Mario Segali) post -sales of Donkey Kong to the US market because creators didn’t feel Americans would go for the name as a title. Jumpman’s original purpose was as a sidekick creators would be able to pop into games whenever they needed an add’l character. He was renamed Mr. Video, then Ossan (old man) and designed simply for animation purposes and wearing bright colours that would show well against multiple backgrounds as needed. Designed as he was, players thought he looked like a plumber though in Donkey Kong Jumpman is actually a carpenter.

After Donkey Kong and its’ sequels’ successes, Miyamoto went to work on a game solely for Mario, putting work on Legend of Zelda on hold for the time being. The plumber idea was expounded upon and his world inspired by the sewers and underground pipes of New York City. The character Luigi was introduced; a brother for Mario in opposite coloured jumpsuit. It’s not clear how Luigi’s name came about but some think it was taken from a nearby pizza shop names Mario & Luigi‘s or maybe from a play on the Japanese word for ‘analagous’ because of the way Luigi is coloured.  Either way, the Mario boys stood out on their own through the underground pipes of Marioland well enough to be a hit.

In 1985 Nintendo relaunched Famicom and this began to spread in sales across Asia. But during this time US-based Coleco made a faux pas with Nintendo by showing Donkey Kong at a CES show. This in turn angered Atari, Nintendo’s direct rival and because of this were given rights to both home cartridge and disk versions of Mario Bros. Back in  Japan, the R&D4 unit was opened to design Famicom games and the next time Nintendo made a stab at the US market by renaming Famicom as NES and relaunching, Mario and Luigi had morphed into the game we know today- complete with Mushroom Kingdom, Koopas and the Peach Princess. The NES blew Atari away that Christmas season when Nintendo included  the ROB robot packaged with the console which made retailers more accepting of marketing the NES and buyers more apt to think of it as a toy.  But while ROB got people to come in, Mario got them to buy-packaged with the NES console, at shopping’s end 40 million Mario games had been sold.
Super Mario Bros gameplay NES 1985 courtesy oldclassicgames

Soon enough Miyamoto started work on Super Mario Bros 2 and finished Legend of Zelda for Famicom in Japan. Super Mario 2 featured much more difficult gameplay – Nintendo decided it was too difficult for North American Players and cancelled release. Instead they sold Yome Kojoi Doki Doki Panic (Doki Doki Panic), a game Miyamoto had put more time into than Mario 2’s gameplay and characters were similar. US gamers at it up. Doki Doki Panic hit US stores in the fall of 1988 while Japanese gamers got Super Mario Bros 3, calling the Super Mario Bros 2 release the “Lost Levels.”
Doki Doki Panic courtesy Steven M

In the late 80s R&D4 came out with the 1st mobile Mario game for Gameboy, Super Mario Land. In 1991, Super NES sold twice as many copies of Mario as Sega’s 1st 2 Sonic the Hedgehog games total. Since then Mario has gone on to conquer the gaming world in just about every form there is but let’s look back and his appearance in the 1980s:

Mario Bros 1983 Arcade Gameplay courtesy TheUnmasterofGames

Games Mario has appeared in from 1981-1991:
1. Donkey Kong
2. Donkey Kong, Jr
3. Donkey Kong Circus
4. Donkey Kong Hockey
5. Donkey Kong for Gameboy
6. Mario Cement Factory
7. Mario’s Bombs Away
8. Pinball
9. Mario Bros.
10. Famicom Grand Prix F-1 Race
11. Tennis
12. Super Mario Bros
13. Wrecking Crew
14. Golf
15. Super Mario Bros Special
16. Vs. Super Mario Bros
17. Super Mario Bros Lost Levels
18. Doki Doki Panic
19. All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros
20. Punchout!
21. Super Mario Bros 2
22. 3D Hot Rally
23. Super Mario Bros 3
24. I am  teacher: Super Mario Sweater
25. Tetris
26. Kaettekita Mario Bros
27. Alleyway
28. Super Mario Land
29. Dr. Mario
30. Return of Mario Bros
31. Super Mario World
32. Mario Vs Donkey Kong
33. Yoshi
34. Yoshi’s Cookie

Other 1980s appearances:
The Saturday Supercade Show
Super Mario Brothers Super Show animated show (1989)
Super Mario Brothers Super Show courtesy darkjudges0

A little trivia on Mario:
1. Was originally a carpenter in Donkey Kong
2. Donkey Kong was originally created to compete with Atari’s bestseller, Pac-Man
3. Mario’s 1st girlfriend was names Pauline
4. Mario’s 1st name was Mr. Video, though he was also referred to as Ossan (loosely, ‘old man’ in Japanese) because he was planned to be featured in many games
5. In Super Mario Bros 3, Mario wears a Tanooki suit, Tanooki (tanuki) being a subspecies of the Japanese raccoon-dog which features in Japanese folklore. Though a real animal, the tanuki is regarded as supernatural with powers that allow it to shapeshift.
6. Mario is supposedly 26 years old
7. He loves italian food
8. His father was a plumber and gave his tools to Mario
9. He had a very strict mother
10. Mario and Luigi teamed up as babies to stop evil
11. Mario’s 1st friends were Yoshi and Toad
12. Luigi’s girlfriend is Princess Daisy
13. Mario is from New York City and speaks English and Italian
15. Mario spent his high school graduation ball with Princess Peach
14. Though Mario and Luigi are known as the Mario Bros, Nintendo has never revealed a surname for Mario

List of Mario Items
1. Hammer (Donkey Kong)
2. Fire Flower- throws fireballs
3. Super Mushroom- grows larger
4. Star man- temporary invincibility
5. 1up Mushroom – extra life
6. Poison Mushroom – shinks or dies
7. Mega Mushroom- grows very large
8. Mini Mushroom- shrinks
9. Super leaf/ raccoon suit- power up
10. Tanuki suit- fly or turn into a statue

The scoring of Mario Bros by Koji Kondo has garnered worldwide following. Below is a list of Mario Albums. Play piano? You can download sheet music of Mario’s greatest hits at Mario Piano. Complete list at MarioWiki.
1. The Donkey Kong Album
2. Super Mario Bros 3* Akihabara Ekwectric Circus
3. Super Mario Compact Disco
4. Happy! Mario 20th- Super Mario Sound Collection
5. Famicom Sound History Series: Mario the Music
6. Super Mario History 1985-2010
7. Super Mario World

Mr. Kylan R. Duncan
Game Theme Songs
Mario Piano


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