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Details In Mario Games You Only Notice As An Adult

The Super Mario world is bright, friendly, and funny. Its hero, a smiling, portly plumber, is friendly and non-threatening. It's got all the hallmarks of a classic fairy tale, including a beautiful princess, a magic castle, and a fire-breathing dragon. It's full of characters like a happy-go-lucky dinosaur, a child-like mushroom man, King Koopa's dopey kids, and whatever the heck Waluigi is. No wonder kids love it.


But as time went on and the sequels piled up, the Mushroom Kingdom also became reasonably complex, and there's a lot going on there that's going to fly over children's heads. Some of it's intentional. Other times, imagery and context come together to create an unfortunate subtext. It's all unfathomably weird, however, and might change your view on Mario and his pals—and not always for the better. You've been warned.

Mario and his friends do a lot of drugs

Let's get the easy one out of the way first: Mario's world is chock-full of drug imagery, and nobody seems more willing to indulge in a little bit of self-medication than Mario himself.

Obviously, we're not the first ones to make this observation (see, for example, almost any Mario parody video). Still, the prevalence of mind and body-altering substances in the Super Mario universe is one of the weirdest and funniest things about the Mario games, and tends to be one of the first things that adult Nintendo fans (i.e. anyone over the age of 12) notice.


It's not just the mushrooms, either, which have less to do with Alice in Wonderland, and more to do with mushrooms' prevalence in folklore—which only happens because of their psychedelic side effects. In Super Mario Bros. 2, Mario and his friends quaff potions that open doorways to other dimensions, but which only exist until the potion's high runs out. In Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, Yoshi journeys to a stage called "Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy." That's not quite accurate. If Yoshi touches Fuzzy, he gets high. We're assuming the same goes for Yoshi's passenger, Baby Mario, too. It's like they say, if you want to get them hooked, start 'em early.

The Koopalings are named after famous musicians

There aren't a lot of nine-year-olds who are well-versed in heavy metal, punk rock, and classical music, so we're guessing this one went over your head back in the late '80s, but you might've noticed since then that the Koopa Kids sport an array of familiar names. Very familiar.


As the story goes, a fan named Dayvv Brooks worked his way through the ranks at Nintendo and ended up working as a "product analyst" on Super Mario Bros. 3. One of Brooks' main responsibilities involved smoothing out Japanese-to-English translations, including the Koopalings' names. Brooks loved music, and turned to popular performers for inspiration. Ludwig von Koopa got his name because his hair resembled Ludwig von Beethoven's. Roy's sunglasses reminded Dayvv of rocker Roy Orbison. Iggy Koopa took his name from Iggy Pop, the "Godfather of Punk," while Wendy O. Koopa is named after raunchy and wild punk rocker Wendy O. Williams. Lemmy is, of course, named after Motörhead's frontman.

A few non-musicians got in on the act, too. Morton Downey Jr., the notorious, foul-mouthed talk show host who paved the way for Geraldo and Jerry Springer, inspired Morton Koopa Jr.'s name. And then, there's Larry. He's not named after anyone. "He just looked like a Larry," Brooks explains.


Princess Toadstool's reign has troubling imperialist overtones

The Mushroom Kingdom is a monarchy, and despite her title, Princess Peach is its queen. Outside of non-canon comic books and novels, Peach's father, the Mushroom King, only merits a brief mention in Super Mario Bros.' original manual (and even then, only in the English version). Even then, he's simply referred to as Peach's dad—it's not clear if he's still in the picture or not. Given that he doesn't show up in any of the Mario games, and that it's called "Peach's Castle" and not the king's, we're thinking he's probably gone for good.


Either way, nothing in Mario lore explains how a human family came to rule over the Toads, who are clearly a different—and, frankly, less sophisticated—race. It'll probably stay that way. See, humans don't seem to be native to the Mushroom Kingdom. The only other humans that show up in Mario's adventures are Mario, Luigi, Waluigi, Wario, Daisy, and Rosalina. We know that the first four are Italian, while Daisy comes from Sarasaland (Rosalina's place of origin isn't specified). As a result, the beginning of the Toadstool dynasty either involves a human barging in and conquering the Toads, or an elected leader deciding to abolish democracy in favor of a monarchy.

It gets worse, too, because while humans aren't Mushroom Kingdom natives, goombas, koopas, and other enemies clearly are. So, we've got a princess who rules over an different race, and wages war against the country's other indigenous people. No wonder Nintendo isn't interested in giving us that backstory. No matter what the truth is, it's not going to look good for the beloved Princess.


Yoshi's biology doesn't make any sense

Generally, Yoshi is considered male. He's generally considered a guy, and Nintendo tends to use masculine pronouns when referring to him. And yet, he lays eggs. That's not normal. While male members of certain species start to lay eggs after being exposed to chemicals and other pollutants, that's a man-made occurrence, not a natural one. Even for animals that reproduce via "male pregnancy," a female lays the eggs first. The guy just carries them around.


Yoshi doesn't have that excuse, and even other video game characters seem confused about how Yoshi's reproductive system works. That's just the beginning. Yoshi seems to care so little about his unborn offspring that he's happy to chuck his unborn babies at enemies, coins, and blocks, cracking them before they get a chance to hatch. Sometimes, when he lays an egg, there's not even a baby Yoshi inside. Collect enough berries in Super Mario World, and Yoshi's next egg will contain a Super Mushroom power-up.

That's weird, but not as strange as the fact that Yoshi emerges from the shell wearing boots. When the baby Yoshi grows into an adult—usually because Mario force-feeds him bad guys—he sprouts a saddle, which just happens to be the perfect size for adventuring plumbers. It's almost like Yoshi was born and bred for the sole purpose of carrying Mario from place to place. But that's crazy... right?


And how do Koopas reproduce, anyway?

While we're on the subject of breeding, we need to take a few minutes aside to address Bowser's offspring. King Koopa has eight children. The seven Koopalings, Bowser's "offspring," debuted as bosses in Super Mario Bros. 3, while Bowser Jr. revealed himself to the world in Super Mario Sunshine (while Yoshi's Island Baby Bowser looks like Bowser Jr., that's actually Bowser Sr. as a baby). And yet there's never been a Queen Koopa, and the only female Bowser seems to have eyes for is Princess Peach.


So where did these kids come from, exactly? In 2012, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto helped resolve the mystery—or, at least, negate it—by retconning the Koopaling's heritage and officially removing them from Bowser's family tree. But that still leaves Junior. In Super Mario Sunshine, Bowser Jr. claims Peach is his mother, but that's revealed to be a lie fed to the youngster by his nefarious father. Even Miyamoto doesn't have an answer. When it comes to Bowser Jr.'s ancestry, Miyamoto simply says, "Bowser's only child is Bowser Jr., and we do not know who the mother is." Most likely, we never will.

Mario doesn't hit blocks with his head, except when he does

Look at Super Mario's jump animation. Look very, very closely. It's hard to see—and, as a kid, it's the sort of thing that's easy to overlook—but when he jumps, Mario pumps his fist into the air. He's not doing that for style. He's doing that because, if there's a block overhead, he's going to hit it, and it's better to smack the thing with his fist than risk getting a concussion. There's no ambiguity here. If you study the original sprite, you'll notice that Mario's fist is actually raised above his head. That's what hits the block, not Mario's noggin.


Naturally, there are exceptions. If you crouch and jump at the same time, Mario's too busy holding his hat on his head to put up a protective fist. In Super Mario World, if you jump while riding Yoshi, Mario keeps a firm grip on the dinosaur's back and uses his head to bash whatever's above him.

Another animation-related myth is harder to disprove. Does Mario really punch Yoshi in the back of the head when Mario wants his dinosaur pal to eat something? The experts say no, but the truth is—well, it's complicated.

Super Mario is super rich

Warp whistles are hard to come by—in the entire Mario canon, there's only been three of them. Fire Flowers, Super Mushrooms, Tanooki Leaves, and Cape Feathers might be more common, but they're still comparatively rare. Gold coins, however? The Mushroom Kingdom is lousy with 'em. Mario can't go more than a few steps without running into a gold piece the size of his head, and naturally, he picks up every single one he can find.


By our standards, that means he's got a lot of money. In fact, the fine folks over at Movoto estimate that every single coin Mario collects is worth around $508,000. Multiply that by one hundred—which is how many coins Mario needs to score an extra life—and you're talking about a multi-millionaire.

Movoto reached its conclusion by arguing that Bob Hoskins, who plays Mario in the Super Mario Bros. movie, is five-foot-six, while coins in Super Mario Bros. 3 stand roughly as tall as small, or regular, Mario. From there, Movoto determined the size and density of each coin, and then used current gold rates to calculate the coins' value. That rate changes over time, of course, and Mario's height remains an unsolved mystery (multiple "life size" statues put Mario at either 5'1" or a little under five feet tall, while some sources claim that he's closer to 5'11"). Still, as a rough guide, Movoto's estimate works pretty well.


Of course, those are Earth numbers. Given that coins are everywhere in the Mushroom Kingdom, gold probably doesn't have the same value there. Without an official exchange rate, it's hard to say—but the dude does own his own castle. He's got to be pretty well off.

Gender is very fluid in the Mushroom Kingdom

Recreational drug use isn't the only area in which the Mushroom Kingdom is remarkably progressive. The Mario games remain pretty open about gender identities, too. Birdo, the bow-wearing, jewelry-sporting, egg-shooting villain (and, later, a fixture of various Mario-themed sports titles), is widely regarded as the first transgender video game character, thanks to a line in the Super Mario Bros. 2 manual stating that Birdo "thinks he is a girl."


That's just the tip of the iceberg. In 2014, Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker producer Koichi Hayashida confirmed that Toads aren't male or female, and if they're wearing gendered-specific clothing, that's simply because they dress how they want to dress. Vivian, one of Mario's teammates in Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, is canonically transgender, at least in the original Japanese edition.

Even Mario's main characters get in on the gender-bending action. In Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, an evil witch named Cackletta possesses Bowser, transforming him into Bowletta—basically, Bowser with boobs. In order to beat Cackletta and restore Bowser to normal, Luigi dresses like Princess Peach. It's a convincing disguise, too. Bowletta and her henchman totally buy the ruse, until Luigi accidentally uncovers his mouth, revealing his glorious mustache and ending the charade.


Boos used to be alive (and are probably former humans)

For the most part, the Super Mario series keeps things light. When darkness creeps in, that makes things feel very, very dark. Rosalina's backstory starts as a fairy tale and quickly descends into a tragedy. Meanwhile, all those spirits that populate the Mushroom Kingdom's haunted houses? Yeah, those are dead people.


Dead humans, even. Paper Mario's resident tour guide, Goombario, says that a ghost character named Igor "probably was a merchant before he became a Boo," confirming that Boos had previous lives among the living. Meanwhile, we know what happens to other Super Mario creatures when they die. Koopas turn into Dry Bones. Buzzy Beetles turn into Bony Beetles. Shy Guys become Yoshi's Island's Boo Guys, while Goombas return as undead Terekuribōs (Japanese for "boo goomba") in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. Toads haunt the living as ghosts, but as seen in Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, those ghosts still resemble Toads.

That accounts for most of the common creatures that roam Mario's world. Besides humans, what else could the Boos possibly be? We're still searching for a good answer.


Mario either shaves, waxes, or is hairless

According to Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo's famous plumber is only 24 or 25 years old. That's fairly young, especially for a guy who's been on so many adventures. Still, it's old enough for Mario to hit some important milestones—including puberty. You'd expect him to be a fairly hairy guy, too, given the size of his illustrious mustache and his Italian heritage.


And yet Super Mario Odyssey features Mario wearing nothing but a pair of trunks, and he's completely hairless from the neck down (at least, as far as we can see — Mario still keeps his unmentionables covered, and if he's manscaping down there, we don't really need to know about it). Arm pits, chest, legs, and arms: all hairless. That's normal for, say, a bodybuilder or a professional wrestler. For an adventuring plumber, it's a little odd.

Maybe Mario just has freak genetics. Maybe Peach prefers it that way. Or maybe—just maybe—Mario shaves himself bald for his own personal pleasure. After all, it's Mario's body. Who are we to judge what he decides to do with it?