The Many Jobs of Mario (2019)
Now in his thirties, and still exhibiting no signs of a mid-life crisis, it’s not beyond the remit of a talented man like Mario to have had many different job titles and roles behind him. Actually, you’d have to say that some of Mario’s travails throughout his glittering life are so wild and out there, that him entering a go-kart tournament against his eternal enemy Bowser is now entirely normal. A man so travelled and so adept surely can’t escape the romantic attention of the Princess much longer, can he? All the same, given the rate he goes through jobs, you’d think Mario would be able to afford better clothes than his patchy dungarees.
Whatever about his romantic exploits, I feel it’s high-time we took a look at the career highlights of gamin’s ubiquitous hero. Here, we take a look at nine of Mario’s most unusual or interesting roles in his 30+ years of extravagant gaming pursuits, in no particular order. These forego the more obvious ones, like go-karter and basketballa’ and party-having person, in favour of some of the stranger stuff. Here we go!
1. Villain (Donkey Kong Jr.)
If the fairly forgettable adventures of Donkey Kong’s spawn taught us one thing, it’s that even a man as seemingly pure-hearted as Mario can fall prey to what some in a galaxy far, far away might call the Dark Side. Having grown weary of Donkey Kong’s abusive treatment in the arcade game of the same name (the out-of-control, noisy springs presumably being the final straw), Mario decides to exact revenge by taking DK prisoner.
Mario performs his wicked duties with aplomb – he even has a technologically devious evil lair, seemingly built for the sole purpose of keeping a dumb animal locked up in a cage and repelling an even dumber animal’s rescue attempts. When our new hero eventually catches up with Mario, the evil plumber will quickly fob Donkey Kong Jr. off and wheel the cage elsewhere in a dastardly and fiendish getaway. Textbook villainy, you’d have to say.
2. Boxing Referee & Deadbeat Father (Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!)
Being an Italian stereotype himself, it made sense for Mario to turn to the most ridiculously racist boxing federation he could find as a way of supplementing his income. In such a difficult game, you’d think the sight of a friendly face like Mario would offer some respite. But nothing of the sort – Mario’s ability to count to 10 in a fair way for both boxers seems to be, shall we say, influenced by external factors. Possibly brown envelopes, or possibly because Little Mac’s opponents tower over him by several metres. Tell me, would you give prime Mike Tyson a fast 10 count…?!
Time and time again, you’ll find Mario dithers on a torturous count of 9 as you’re just about to beat Mr. Sandman. His eternal bias against Little Mac was soon noticed, and he was replaced by a non-descript man in the Wii’s excellent Punch-Out title. Actually, Mario’s treacherous ways seemed to rock the sport so much that the Super Nintendo’s Super Punch-Out didn’t even feature a referee. He may not be an outright villain in this game, but you’ll curse Mario as he almost gleefully announces your twentieth TKO from Soda Popinski.
3. Umpire (Tennis)
Before embarking on his own career out on the court, taking on the heavyweights of tennis like Birdo and Boo, Mario took up a seat on the neutral side of the net. And an incredibly high chair it was too, as recognized by the Guinness Book of Records (possibly). He then acted as the umpire for desperately pixellated human opponents in what you’d have to call a fairly moribund tennis game at best.
Well, at least Mario proved less of a cheating swine with this change of sport from boxing to tennis – although speculation on the back pages of the Mushroom Guardian at that time suggested that Mario, following a deep fight-fixing scandal in the much-anticipated WVBA title bout between Mike Tyson and Mr. Dream, was forced to leave his post as boxing referee. Under armed protection, he would then go under the radar for a number of years, before it was safe for him to resurface in a sport as far removed from boxing as it’s possible to be. Whether that’s true or not, at least Mario’s judgment is strong and true enough this time to remove the need for Hawkeye and all of that ilk. Or is it?
4. Doctor (Dr. Mario)
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could misdiagnose patients we hated but not get lagged for malpractice?” a game-loving doctor probably didn’t say. Enter Dr. Mario, a quality (although not top quality) puzzler game for the NES that’s seen a fair few re-releases since. Somehow having managed to attain a medical qualification, Mario begins general practice by tossing colour-coded pills into a bottle to eliminate viruses, seemingly undeterred by the fact that this probably endangers lives. Yes, I do find it a little difficult to believe that any illness can be cured that way. But then again, what would I know? I’m not a high-flying medico. It’s worse than that though – is Mario directly responsible for the ticking timebomb that is over-prescription of antibiotics to patients? Has Dr. Mario been inflicting state-sponsored biological warfare on us all? Has he taken cues from Harold Shipman? That’s even more villainous than keeping a monkey in a cage, you’d have to say.
Mario’s proficiency at the medical profession (or perhaps more accurately, the harming people profession) has even led to him getting some time in the sun in Super Smash Brothers. Still, props to Mario all round for being a dab hand at such a difficult profession, although I prefer Nurse Peach. If nothing else, the tunes that accompany his shoddy practice in the Dr. Mario games are pretty banging. Which begs the question – Fever? Or Chill?
5. Time Traveller (Mario’s Time Machine)
If you haven’t heard about Mario’s Time Machine, you needn’t worry – you’re missing little more than an educational game, and one about certain banal sections of history at that. This was in the days before Wikipedia, of course, although why you’d have bought this game anyway in favour of, I don’t know, a history book, is beyond me. Bowser is somehow still the villain even if Mario spends most of the game conversing with Isaac Newton and the lads in charge of the Declaration of Independence. Unrelated fact about the game – in the MS-DOS version of the Mario’s Time Machine Deluxe, which surely nobody’s ever played, Bowser’s mother makes an appearance as a librarian.
But even Mrs. Bowser couldn’t save this game from being a right lump of dump. It says something when the mediocre surfing parts on the SNES port and the running around like a headless chicken in the hub world are the best bits of the game. And do you know what happens if you suffer through the whole game, all tedious three hours of it? Unless you did everything exactly right, you get told that you did it in the wrong order and you get the bad ending. So you’ve suffered their shockingly limited game, and the developers thank you with a kick in the teeth. That’s history for you.
6. Wrestler (Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door)
Mario’s adventures in paper constantly see him fold into whatever’s necessary to get past the latest cardboard obstacle or enemy. One of the most memorable portions of the Paper Mario series of games comes in the GameCube’s Thousand Year Door when Mario and his partners find themselves having to rise through the ranks of the murky Glitz Pit in order to secure the next Crystal Star.
Given the terrific ring-name “The Great Gonzales”, Mario proves as adept at battling through ranked fighters as he does at just about everything else. Fight your way up to the mighty Rawk Hawk, but watch out for the cheating pack of Goombas that try to surprise you! It’s all part of getting up the greasy pole and earning the grudging respect of his peers. At the end of it, you can guaran-damn-tee that the fans will be screaming your name. And all throughout, the Great Gonzales stays face instead of turning heel. And never once does he break kayfabe, ever the pro that he is. Simply magical.
7. John Rambo (Yoshi’s Safari)
I suppose, when you think about it, Mario planting his size-12s through little creatures’ heads is pretty savage stuff. All the same, it doesn’t make Mario’s modus operandi in the Super Scope-powered Yoshi’s Safari any less frightful: Mario is given a high-powered rocket launcher that looks suspiciously like a Super Scope, and he has to blow away as many of Bowser’s forces as possible.
The fact that mowing down all of these enemies garners coins for Mario seems to suggest that he’s taken up the mantle as a run-of-the-mill mercenary, but the fact that he does it all for good (“good” as mandated by the Mushroom Kingdom hegemony, of course) makes him far more like Sylvester Stallone’s ridiculously efficient action-hero.
But the strangest part of this whole surreal caper is that the person who gives Mario the deathbringer of a weapon he wields is… the Princess herself. Wouldn’t it be a fair bit of a scandal if it turned out that one of the UK Royal Family’s Princesses was secretly an arms dealer?
8. Demolition Man (Wrecking Crew)
And funnily enough, we keep up the odd Sylvester Stallone theme here with the otherwise highly forgettable Wrecking Crew, originally of the NES. Perhaps to keep the taxmen off his back for taking on so many jobs around the late 1980s, Mario has elected to dye his hair and trademark moustache a pale shade of blue. He’s also ditched his usual ‘M’ Cap and gone for the hard-hat, before taking to the demolition zone with Luigi in order to blow shi- stuff up for no real reason.
Mario keeps with him his hammer (the one he used to literally hammer through fire en route to giving Donkey Kong a royal whupping). However, just as it did in the epic clash against the big ape, the hammer weighs Mario down so much so that he cannot jump at any point in the game. So that’s a Mario game without the ability to jump, isn’t that fabulous? No wonder Mario took a dump on Spike the foreman’s desk, spat in his face and growled “Meeting adjourned” before storming off for pastures new.
9. Hustler (Mario’s FUNdamentals)
If you were somehow desperate or in any way maligned enough to only be able to play Mario on your PC, then chances were you picked up this “game”. It’s another game ‘aimed at young children’, as if that were somehow an excuse to strip it of any and all fun. Is Super Mario World not ‘aimed at young children’ either? Mario’s FUNdamentals was your typical dire collection of board games that you could play with Mario or Bowser or Luigi, you know, if you hated your family or something. But it’s in the Go Fish game where Mario suddenly becomes some sort of card shark.
Since Mario is your only opponent in this particular game, there’s no real difficulty level. So you’d think then that maybe you could end up exploiting his AI or something, but no – he will pick exactly the cards he needs right out of your hand and lies blatantly about cards he secretly does have. For a game that bases much on honesty, Go Fish isn’t really the type of game that urchins like Mario could ever enjoy. “It’s time to go feeshing again!” Interestingly, not counting pinball tables, the eternally wonderful voice of Charles Martinet as Mario was first heard in this game. Which means, by extension, that Mario as he was voiced made his video game bow on MS-DOS of all things. By this stage though, Nintendo have probably long since retconned Mario’s first words to “It’-a-me, Mario!” Well, you can scarcely blame them. Doesn’t that sound so much better and more homely?
16 August 2019