Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
Super Mario is the franchise that saved video games. Or, Super Mario revolutionized how we now play video games. You’ve probably heard those before. Any gamer worth their salt knows the importance of Super Mario to the vast library of video games. As a franchise that spans decades, every gamer has run across a Mario video game. Whether that would be the original Super Mario trilogy and the party favour Mario Party series, or even the blue shell soul destroying Mario Kart franchise, at one point or another, gamers have been in control of this infamous overall-wearing, red hat sporting mustachioed Italian plumber.
Because really, what’s not to love? The franchise is family-friendly. Anyone from age 5 and up is able to pick up the controller and enjoy a Mario game. The extensive roster is relatable in one way or the other. There’s a damsel in distress, the often overlooked younger brother, a pet sidekick, and even a notorious villain that doesn’t know when to give up. Beneath their exteriors lies a typical personality trope we can all get behind.
But from time to time, the Super Mario franchise forgets its a series that celebrates the wholesomeness of video games. After all, no character is perfect, and no franchise is flawless. Mario and his cohorts sometimes suffer from the hands of overreaching developers who want to appeal to a more “adult” audience, giving us this list.
Here are the 15 times that Super Mario forgot its PG-status.
15 Chopin To Eat You Alive
This is one of those moments in Super Mario video games that often makes the rounds. While its presence is relevant to the level’s theme, it still scares the bejeezus out of us.
When you enter Big Boo’s Haunt in Super Mario 64, you come across a seemingly unassuming grand piano. But when you approach closer to obtain the Red Coin within its proximity, the piano comes alive, like a bat out of hell. With its gnashing razor-sharp teeth and erratic, relentless pursuit to bite you to death, you wouldn’t be faulted for dropping your controller, one or two times. After all, who would expect a Mad Piano to come alive and attempt to ruin your love of musical instruments in a Mario game. Its frightening sounds, like banging piano keys is enough to make anyone scared of pianos–real or not.
14 The Mario And The Octopi
For most, Mario is the hero of the Mushroom Kingdom. After all, he saves the princess from the grasps of a dastardly villain. But did you ever stop to think that perhaps Mario is really the villain of the story?
Beneath the facade of cheerful family fun, Mario shows his burgeoning psychopathic behaviour. One need not look far, after all, he shows his true colours against the harmless octopus Gooper Blooper. Encountered in Super Mario Sunshine, Gooper Blooper resembles the Lion and the Mouse fable. A cork is stuck in Gooper’s mouth causing him agony, and what does Mario do instead of helping Gooper out of this tight situation? He dismembers this poor, hurt creature, one limb at a time. Despite the obvious suffering Gooper goes through, Mario carries on gleefully, until Gooper can’t resist anymore and dies an agonizing death. Mario collects his coins as a reward for being a good Samaritan.
13 The Face Of Sheer Terror
When people think of scary video game characters, few obvious choices come to mind–the blood-soaked Pyramid Head, the psychic child-impersonator Alma, or even the deranged sociopath Trevor Philips. But few characters come close to the scare factor that is Phanto.
Making his debut in Super Mario 2, Phanto has one of those faces you see once and suddenly, it populates your nightmares. Just look at him. That creepy smile. Its hollow, empty eyes. Its floating head with a lack of body. But what’s really frightening about Phanto is how terrifying he becomes once you pick up his beloved key. He will literally stalk you through a level just to get that key back. No remorse and no ulterior motive. It's a lifeless killing machine built for one thing–tormenting your nightmares.
12 Death By Sun
There’s a famous scene in King of the Hill when the Hill family visits Phoenix, Arizona and Bobby Hill comments on the audacious heat that is Phoenix in the summer. Well, the Angry Sun from Super Mario 3 is the digital reincarnation of that Phoenix heat.
While the Angry Sun is neither scary nor creepy, it is rather persistent. Appearing in the desert level of Super Mario 3, the Angry Sun will swoop down at the most inopportune time to try and kill you with third-degree sunburn. And perhaps that is what makes the Angry Sun scary. He exists for no other reason than to torment you as you traverse through the level. Sure, you can kill the Angry Sun, but he quickly comes back with a vengeance. The Angry Sun stands as a monument to man’s arrogance.
11 Trouble In Paradise
Everyone loves the art style of Super Mario 2: Yoshi’s Island. But beyond the vibrant colours of this unassuming island lies as a dark secret. Seriously though, who neglects a baby on an island filled with prehistoric creatures that survive by swallowing other creatures whole? It's a game about a dinosaur that travels with a baby. A baby that has to constantly be saved from being knocked off the dinosaur or else the other monsters on the island will snatch the baby away.
Do you know what happens when Baby Mario is neglected and is not retrieved? The Toadies carry Baby Mario away against a black background while snickering at you. But what really takes the cake is when Kamek grows Baby Bowser into a behemoth that Yoshi has to fight. But the only way that Yoshi can defeat Baby Bowser is by throwing eggs at him... Yoshi eggs.
10 Super Mario Kaiju
If Giga Baby Bowser wasn’t scary enough, then perhaps adult Giga Bowser will keep you up at night. While this entry doesn’t fall into the realm of Super Mario games, it does occur within a franchise that uses the likeness of Mario and co. Giga Bowser is a hidden boss that can only be unlocked if you beat Super Smash Bros. Melee Adventure Mode in less than 18 minutes. Successfully beating Adventure Mode in under 18 minutes drops a Bowser trophy onto that stage. And like Frankenstein’s monster, this science experiment gone wrong comes alive when it's struck by lightning.
If the original Bowser was scary, then Giga Bowser is a complete demon. In fact, he’s so demonic-looking that Giga Bowser would feel at home in any Kaiju film. It's a shame Mario doesn’t a have Jaeger he can pilot.
9 Super Paper Mario And Its Dark Past
If you thought Super Paper Mario was a quirky inclusion to the Mario library, with its 2D and 3D platforming style and playful artwork, then you haven’t dug deep enough into its dark history. Namely, that of Count Bleck.
The main antagonist of Super Paper Mario has a backstory that’s reminiscent of the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. A member of the Tribe of Darkness, Count Bleck, or Blumiere as he was known at the time, fell in love with a human girl, Timpani. Ignoring his father’s warnings about humanity, Blumiere continued to visit Timpani and soon fell in love. Right as they were planning to wed, Timpani vanished, due to the intervention of Blumiere’s father. Inconsolable, Blumiere became Count Bleck, vowing to destroy everything that took his beloved Timpani away from him.
8 The Many Deaths Of Mario
For a humble plumber, Mario sure enjoyed getting himself in some sticky situations. More often than not, Mario found himself in difficult situations where the end result usually meant he died. After all, jumping doesn’t always resolve life’s problems and this is proven in Mario’s case.
With over 50 games under his belt, it would come as no surprise that there would be numerous ways for Mario to die. But while most deaths just depict Mario displaying a “whoopsie daisy” look at his misfortune, there are those that stick with you long after you’ve slid down the last flag pole. In Super Mario 64, Mario drowning underwater is a vivid display of the plumber slowly dying as water fills his lungs. He chokes and grasps at his throat as he fights for air, before going limp.
7 Murder At Rogueport
Only available in the Japanese version of Paper Mario, this disturbing moment was so dark that it got removed in the North American release of Paper Mario.
If you do have access to the Japanese version, head into the back alleys of Rogueport’s central plaza, right behind Podley’s juice bar, and locate the messy shed. Head in and you will find a Toad-shaped chalk outline amidst the mess and chaos of the shed along with a puddle of unidentifiable red fluid. While it is not explicitly said, this scene implies a gruesome murder took place here. While these details were removed from subsequent international releases of the game, it makes one wonder. What monster killed Toad, and more importantly, when did the Mushroom Kingdom get a police force?
6 This Ain’t No Game
One of the earliest video game-to-movie adaptations, Super Mario Bros. was released in 1993 with the tagline, “This Ain’t No Game.” It obviously ain’t no movie either. A weirdly adult film for a family-centric franchise, the Super Mario Bros. movie felt more like it would have fit in the Mad Max kingdom rather than the Mushroom Kingdom.
Set in a drab, parallel New York City, Super Mario Bros. was a movie with sexual innuendos and numerous drug references. The citizen of New York were dinosaurs who had evolved into strange humanoids. But what really makes the movie stand out is Dennis Hopper’s portrayal of the villainous King Koopa. Instead of a fire-breathing spiked-shell turtle, King Koopa became a dinosaur man with an eight-inch tongue. Despite nods to some of the games’ most memorable features like the sewers and characters, this was a bastardisation of an iconic creation.
5 A Love Affair For The Ages
This is one of those moments in video game history that is hard to explain. But perhaps, it does answer one of the greatest unanswered questions in the Mario universe–who is the mother of Bowser’s children? Because for all we know, we’ve never seen a Queen Koopa or have even discovered a hint of one.
Well, Super Mario Sunshine reveals the truth we’ve all been waiting for. In an attempt to free Princess Peach from her captor, once again, Bowser Jr. jumps out of nowhere and proclaims to Mario, “leave my momma alone you bad man, I won’t let you take Momma Peach away!” Cue the shock, revulsion, and inconceivable responses. And what’s worse is that Princess Peach doesn’t deny this allegation but rather, seemingly accepts it with a slight moment of confusion. Perhaps this explains why the princess is always in another castle...
4 Don’t Go Into The Woods
While most of the mini-games in the Mario Party franchise are inoffensive and fun to play, from time to time, a mini-game will pop up that will leave you with a spine-tingling feeling. Eyebrawl is just that mini-game.
A dueling mini-game appearing in Mario Party 8, the players must run towards the dark forest before being stopped by the alien creatures Mr. I and Big Mr. I. Appear at the edge of a dark forest the players have to swiftly move in circles around both “I’s” until they become dizzy and explode in a cloud of smoke. This must be repeated over and over again until the player with the most eyes popped wins. But winning just provides more nightmare fuel. After Mr. I is defeated and the winning player does its celebratory pose, several tiny Mr. I’s pops out of nowhere surrounding the losing player in its death gaze.
3 The Deaths Of The Mushroom People
If the question of whether or not Mario was the hero or villain of his games remained unanswered, then this little excerpt from the original Super Mario Bros. NES instruction manual should resolve this little dilemma.
An excerpt from the original NES manual reads, “The quiet, peace loving Mushroom People were turned into mere stones, bricks, and even field horse-hair plants, and the Mushroom Kingdom fell into ruin.” It seems then at one point, these bricks were the inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom. And as Mario’s psychotic nature reveals itself, in his greed and lust for power, Mario has been mindlessly destroying these innocent people, all for a mere coin. How Toad chooses to remain Mario’s friend despite the genocide that’s happening to his people by this mass murderer is baffling.
2 The Hills Have Eyes
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a magical place. It’s colourful, mystical and seemingly innocent enough. That is until you venture into the Shiverburn Galaxy.
While nothing appears out of the ordinary, when you switch to your first-person view, you’ll see unexplainable shadowy figures standing on the cliffs at the edge of the galaxy. Throughout the level, they’re always there, watching, waiting. You can never get close to them to discover who they are and their existence is never mentioned in the game. Of course, fans of the game took to the Internet to have this phenomenon explained. Forums on the Internet went ablaze about these creatures, and it wasn’t until someone hacked the game files that they discovered the creatures are called, “Hell Valley Sky Trees.” Though they look nothing like trees...
1 Step Into Minus World
Minus World, or World Negative One, is an unbeatable glitch level found in the original Super Mario Bros. game. A hidden level only accessible through a glitch in the Warp Zone at the end of Level 1-2. If you exploit the bug that allows Mario to pass through the bricks and enter the Warp Zone, Mario ends up in an area that leads to the Minus World.
In the game, Minus World shows up as World -1. That’s because the pipe doesn’t have a pre-assigned world to it, like World 1-1 or World 4-2. When you do end up in the Minus World, and if you’re playing the American release of Super Mario Bros. Mario just ends up in an underwater level that repeats itself on an endless loop. What’s scary about Minus World is that the developers didn’t put it there. It's a collection of raw data that has manifested itself into a playable, yet unbeatable level.