Mario, star of the Super Mario franchise, is a plumber, fantastic jumper, and, quite possibly, gaming's most recognizable mascot. Aside from other classic mascots from past eras, like the recently resurfaced Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and the somehow-above-water Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario transcends generations and remains the symbol of an industry. The mustached character is Nintendo's most iconic character.
So, maybe it's time for Mario to retire on a high note.
Mario: A Timeless Icon
Mario made his debut in 1981's 2D platforming arcade game Donkey Kong, where he had to save a damsel in distress from an ominous-looking gorilla. The hero would later appear in Donkey Kong Junior and would start to become iconic in 1985's 2D platformer Super Mario Bros. for the NES.
Mario would go on to star in plenty of other side-scrolling platformers of his own, including Super Mario Land for Game Boy, Super Mario Bros. 3 for NES, Super Mario World for the SNES and many more. Then, following the success of Mario's first 3D effort in Super Mario 64, he would go on to star in games with similar 3D mechanics in Super Mario Sunshine, the Super Mario Galaxy games, Super Mario 3D World and Super Mario Odyssey.
The games remain undoubtedly popular. Mario seems to be a timeless icon. However, it's time for another one of Nintendo's icons to get the "video game icon" treatment or, perhaps, for a brand-new Nintendo-developed video game character to become the gaming industry's symbol.
Who Could Replace Mario?
Luigi seems to be a prime contender for the role of "video game icon." Having existed almost as long as Mario, Luigi has no doubt developed a personality of his own. The first Luigi's Mansion game definitely helped to start building his personality. Nintendo defined him in the Gamecube launch title as a nervous wreck, but one who would ultimately trudge through the worst and most terrifying challenges to save his fearless brother.
Unfortunately, Mario often overshadows his brother. But one might argue that the Luigi's Mansion games, the next of which is one of the biggest must-play sequels of the year, have been more character-building than any Super Mario game thus far.
Or perhaps Nintendo could look to more villain-centered games for inspiration. Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story was one of the most well-received games of the beloved franchise. That game showed Bowser's unique personality. Additionally, his role in Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars proved that he could be far more than a two-dimensional villain.
Nintendo could also take inspiration from one gaming's most controversial characters: Waluigi. Thus far, Waluigi has played supporting roles in numerous Nintendo titles, including Mario's sport and racing endeavors, as well as the Super Smash Bros. series. Luigi, Yoshi, Peach, Donkey Kong, Wario, and even Toad have all gotten their own games. What's hasn't Waluigi had his time to shine?
Mario has been gaming's mascot for a very long time, and rightfully so. Every core Mario game is expertly made and all of them are fun, to at least some degree. However, Mario is overdue to relinquish his icon status. Whether it's Donkey Kong, Bowser, Waluigi, or someone else, gamers need a new character to step into the shoes an overweight plumber who insists on hitting brick blocks with his head.