Super Mario Bros 3. Never Happened, and Other TheoriesBy Jared Newman
Over at Albotas, my buddy Brownkidd picked up on the revelation that Super Mario Bros. 3 never happened. Obviously it’s a video game, but as the illustration above suggests, it’s deeper than that. The whole game was a show, its characters the actors. No one was ever in peril and Bowser never really kidnapped Princess with his band of Koopalings. Now, this is not a new story; the image above has popped up on Digg a couple of times before, but I can’t figure out the origin. In any case, this theory deserves a little reflection, as it isn’t the only time when Mario was merely playing the part.
First, Mario dreamed up the events of Super Mario Bros 2. (at least in the American version), and the game concludes with the final scene of Subcon as a thought cloud above Mario’s sleeping head.
But it was really Super Mario 64 that ran with the theme. You’ll recall that the entire game is filmed from the perspective of Lakitu, who is first shown flying onto the scene with a video camera. During the game, Lakitu mostly stays out of the way, except when you stand in front of a mirror in the castle, and he’s standing behind Mario, filming.
I’d argue that this is a film, not a documentary. That’s partly due to little flourishes in the game, such as the use of circular fade in/fade out effects, and how Lakitu enemies are not hostile to the Lakitu manning the camera. Most importantly, at the end of the film — er, game — Lakitu signs off with a shot of Mario, Princess and Toadstools, waving to the camera in a final theatric moment. If this was cinéma vérité, they wouldn’t be posing for the camera. You could counter-argue that Bowser isn’t waving with the rest of the cast, but I think that would ruin the subtlety. Nintendo’s not trying to beat us over the head with this idea.
Why are SMB3 and Mario 64 treated this way? Emotional impact. Shigeru Miyamoto is tugging on our heartstrings, reminding us of the shared experience of film and theater. This also ties each game up in a nice bow, providing the closure we need when the adventure ends.
Why this approach was abandoned in future games is beyond me, but the announcement of Super Mario Galaxy 2 — the first direct sequel to a Mario game since the original series — makes me think Nintendo is no longer interested in tying Mario games up into their own separate packages. It’s also indicative of a company that, despite its innovation with the Wii, has lost the magic that made those early Mario games so special.