Mario was first created in 1981 as the playable character of Donkey Kong and he’s been popular ever since. Originally named Jumpman, Mario was renamed a year later in Donkey Kong Jr. and began starring in his own games starting with Mario Bros. in 1983. He has since become the most recognizable video game character in the world. His popularity has resulted in multiple Mario games as well as hundreds of references to Mario in other franchises.
While Mario is constantly referenced in other games, relatively few games have included cameos with Mario himself. The games that do include Mario often do so obviously, but there are some cameos that not all players notice. Whether he’s hiding in plain sight or tucked away in a secret corner, you have to explore certain games and recognize the Italian plumber in order to discover his cameos.
For many of the cameos on this list, Mario is added by his Nintendo creators into another Nintendo game. However, some cameos are made by completely different companies as fun allusions and, in many cases, in homage to the red and blue hero who so greatly influenced the video game industry.
Some of the games on this list have obvious Mario cameos, but the cameos are randomly generated and thus are not discovered by many players. Were you able to locate Mario in these 15 difficult-to-find cameos?
15 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
This is one of the most widely-known Mario cameos in the gaming world, but it’s easy for players to miss. After meeting Zelda for the first time, you may either explore her courtyard or leave with Impa. Due to Zelda’s urgent request and the small size of the courtyard, most players are tempted to depart immediately. If you explore, however, you’ll discover Mario within the castle walls. Through one of the courtyard windows, you can see portraits of Mario, Peach, Luigi, Bowser, and Yoshi. Many Legend of Zelda games include Mario Easter eggs, but this is one of the best in the series because your exploration is rewarded with multiple Easter eggs. If you shoot the window with your slingshot in the 3DS remake of Ocarina of Time, you’ll even be rewarded with a Red Rupee.
14 The Binding of Isaac
If you only experience the single-player mode of The Binding of Isaac, you’ll never discover Mario’s cameo. There are multiple references to the Mario games; colored mushrooms act as items that resemble the mushrooms from the Mario games, with the red Magic Mushroom increasing Isaac’s size, the green 1up! bringing Isaac back to life, and the blue Mini Mush decreasing his size.
You may discover Mario’s direct cameo in the game’s co-op mode. Multiple characters are available in co-op that are unavailable in single-player, including the Red Plumber Baby. This baby completely resembles Mario instead of Baby Mario, possessing a mustache despite the character’s young age. Many Nintendo characters are available in co-op, including Luigi, Bowser, and Peach—you can even play as a Chain Chomp instead of a dressed-up baby.
13 Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
In order to acquire and witness Mario’s cameo in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, you need to be an active fan of Mario. Metroid Prime 3 includes Easter eggs only if you play the referenced games; if you have Super Paper Mario saved on your Wii, a bumper sticker of Paper Mario’s head will show up on Samus’s spaceship. A variety of other stickers are available depending on the games you’ve played, including references to Zelda, Wii Sports, and WarioWare. Other games with Mario can lead to bumper stickers (Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros. Brawl), but only Super Paper Mario leads to a cameo from Mario himself.
In addition to playing particular games, you must also earn “credits” in Metroid Prime 3 and spend them in the menu in order to unlock the bumper stickers.
12 1080° Avalanche
At the end of the Midnight City track in 1080° Avalanche, players may recognize the massive ice sculpture beyond the finish line. Mario towers over the course, with small humans adding the final touches to the sculpture.
Mario actually makes one additional cameo within the game. If you unlock Ricky’s “8-Bit Soul” snowboard, you’ll discover a picture of Mario on the board’s underside. The picture is Mario’s sprite from Super Mario Bros. 3. In Ricky’s biography, you’ll notice that Ricky is a gamer who adores Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. Who knows—perhaps Ricky is behind the picture on his board and the sculpture in Midnight City. As a professional snowboarder and an avid gamer, Ricky could easily have combined his hobbies to fund an ice sculpture of Mario.
11 Animal Crossing
If you give Tom Nook specific, 28-character passwords, you’re rewarded with items. Certain passwords can be guessed through clever phrases (often in praise of Nintendo), but some passwords are impossible to guess. Two such passwords are needed to obtain a golden statue of Mario and a silver statue of Luigi. The codes for these cameos were originally made available through an issue of Nintendo Power. Unless you were subscribed to Nintendo Power or found out about the codes through the Internet, you would have had no idea these statues even existed. You can collect a lot of other furniture and clothing connected to Nintendo and Mario, but you couldn’t obtain the Mario statue without the password. Of course, you can see Mario in a variety of other Easter eggs—you can even play with him if you unlock certain NES games within Animal Crossing.
Modern Tetris apps are designed to be endless and increasingly challenging. The original Tetris, however, has a limited number of stages, allowing players to complete the game. If you finish, you’re rewarded with wonderful music, dancing characters, and a rocket launching into space.
The ending of the original Tetris, released in 1984, included faceless characters dancing and playing music. Five years later, an upgraded version of Tetris was released by Nintendo on Game Boy and NES. Nintendo’s version included iconic Nintendo characters, with Donkey Kong on drums, Samus playing cello, Link with a flute, Pit handling a violin, and Bowser rocking the accordion. Mario, Luigi, and Peach dance to the music—although Mario’s “moves” looks more like erratic jumping than dancing.
9 Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree
Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree has a lot of bizarre mini-games and images, but few surpass the weirdness of Mario’s cameo. During the “Speed Sorting” game, Raccoon Mario can appear as one of four possible answers. Whether you’re recognizing that Raccoon Mario “has a tail” or is not composed of “plant matter,” you get to sort Mario into a variety of odd categories.
Mario’s cameo is unexpected, for the other pictures in the mini-game depict organisms and objects from reality. Big Brain Academy abandons its theme of the outdoors with this one Easter egg. Even if you’re familiar with Raccoon Mario, his questions may still baffle you; after all, it’s difficult to tell whether Raccoon Mario legitimately has a tail or is simply wearing a costume.
8 Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
In early 2015, a free DLC pack was made available for anyone playing Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. If you downloaded the DLC and completed certain quests, you could unlock a variety of outfits and weapons related to Nintendo’s famous franchises. A Mario outfit is available for your Palico companions. With Mario’s color and signature mustache, your Palico looks hilarious—but don’t laugh, or the Felyne will destroy you with Mario’s hammer. The Invincible Hammer S is incredibly powerful and almost bigger than the Palico wielding it. Despite the hammer’s cartoony look, it can easily destroy any monster threatening you and your companions.
The Mario outfit and hammer fortunately returned in Monster Hunter Generations, making Mario a recurring cameo of the Monster Hunter franchise.
7 Wii Fit
While participating in the running mini-games of Wii Fit, you may spot a variety of 8-bit sprites alongside the running path. All the sprites come from early Super Mario Bros. games, with Mario, Luigi, Mushrooms, Stars, Koopa Troopas, and Goombas all programmed into the game.
Spotting these Easter eggs is not only fun but rewarding. At the end of the jog, you are asked three questions related to what you saw or did during the run. One question asks which of the sprites you saw. The question is one of the easiest since the sprites stand out so prominently against the modern graphics of Wii Fit, but recognizing the sprites is quite satisfying. Some of these sprites also return in Wii Fit U’s running mini-games, including Mario.
6 Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
This cameo is pretty much impossible to miss because Mario and Yoshi are clearly visible within a cutscene of Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. The two Nintendo characters show up as dolls on Octacon’s desk—and they stand out because there’s nothing else atop the desk.
What many players don’t realize is that the dolls aren’t simply visual references. If you shoot the dolls, they make sounds—Yoshi lets out his signature “Yoshi!” cry, while Mario’s doll releases the 1-up sound effect from Super Mario Bros. A 1-up gives you an extra life within the Mario games; in Metal Gear Solid, you regain health when shooting Mario. The Easter egg is bizarre but beneficial; too bad shooting dolls in real life isn’t equally rewarding.
5 Kirby Super Star
If you play Kirby Super Star, you’ll undoubtedly see Mario. Two copies of Mario stand out during the Megaton Punch Championship, where Mario and other Nintendo characters are cheering in the audience.
However, Mario makes more cameos in the game than most players realize. Mario also cheers during the battle with King Dedede, but he’s hard to see. Both copies of Mario stand at the outer edges of the audience; you must move to the fighting ring’s border in order to see him.
The most hidden cameo is controlled by the player. When Kirby gains the power to turn into stone, he can transform into a variety of objects—including a golden statue of Mario. Even if you spend all your time turning into stone, you might never see Mario’s statue because of its rare appearance.
4 Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow
You don’t actually see Mario in these games, but your character does. When you enter the Copycat’s room, you’ll notice a computer at one corner of the room and a TV in the room’s center. A console resembling the Super Famicom and SNES is connected to the TV. When you try interacting with the console, you see “a game with MARIO wearing a bucket on his head.” This references Mario & Wario, another video game developed by Game Freak. Mario & Wario came out three years before Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow on the Super Famicom.
Mario doesn’t make a visible cameo, but Pokémon wonderfully references Mario and allows your character to see Mario. It’s nice to know people in the Pokémon universe enjoy playing Mario games as much as we do.
3 Sonic the Hedgehog
Sega and Nintendo have competed throughout the past quarter-century through the Sonic and Mario games. Both have released platform, action-adventure, party, and sports games based around their iconic characters. The two companies recognized a friendly rivalry when they combined with Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games.
Although the franchises rarely included crossovers before that, Sega included Mario in its very first Sonic game. In Marble Zone, Mario’s face is etched into a building in the background. The face is difficult to recognize, particularly if you zoom past the building with Sonic’s incredible speed. If you pause to observe the face, you’ll clearly see eyes, a mustache, and a massive nose—all in honor of the Nintendo character who partially inspired the 1991 Sonic the Hedgehog game.
Mario makes an obvious cameo in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! as the game’s referee. He’s easy to see throughout the NES game, but he’s almost impossible to see in the first game of the franchise. In the original Punch-Out!!, released as an arcade game in 1983, a dark-blue crowd watches the boxing matches. Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, and Donkey Kong Jr. stand in the bottom-left corner of the screen within the audience.
Even if players weren’t preoccupied by the boxing match, they’d have an extremely difficult time spotting Mario and his companions. Mario’s usually recognizable because of his colorful outfit, but he wears only shades of blue instead of blue and red. This is one of Mario’s earliest and most well-hidden cameos.
Most players enjoy Minecraft outside of the Wii U; after all, the game came out five years before its Wii U Edition was released. However, those who play Minecraft through the Wii U are rewarded with the Super Mario Mash-Up Pack, which is only available on the Wii U. The pack is included in the Wii U Edition and features a variety of characters, enemies, items, music, and textures from Super Mario. A pre-made world may also be accessed with the pack, allowing you to discover iconic structures like a statue of Bowser, a Mario airship, and Peach’s Castle. You can build your own Mario worlds and design 3-D platforming levels like those from the franchise—all while playing as Mario himself.