When it comes to the setting of the Mario series, and the storylines of the games, there has previously been a type of misconception made about what the series is like. Maybe it's the cheery looking graphics in many games, or the nostalgia filter making people only think of the NES game, but there has been a belief by many the series is somehow some utopic, peaceful series set in a perfect world and that every other video game series (or mainly, rip off mascot series like Sonic the freaking Hedgehog) are somehow 'cooler', or 'edgier' or 'darker' than the Mario series. Even the old Coin Heaven blog got in with the act with it's ranting article saying how the Mario series and primary colour palettes and what not means it looks kiddy or innocent or happy.
Hah! I don't think these fools have even played many of the Mario games
outside Mario Party and Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games! Yes,
Mario Party (especially 5 and onwards) have become saccarine coated to
the point of tastes like diabetes in some cases (Sweet Dream? Toy
Dream?), the crossover games are generally quite relaxed (but they're
based on real world sports events for the setting, there's not much you
can do without losing the Olympics license) and Mario Golf isn't exactly
going to be seen as dark or terrifying (but golf as a sport is a
relaxing affair in general and the game lives up to that). But look at
the RPGs! Look at Luigi's Mansion! Look at the story to some degree
even in the main series Mario games like Super Mario Galaxy! Those
aren't just sugar coated dream land settings of happiness and sweetness
and light, despite what some relatively uneducated non fans may say!
First up, the RPGs. It should be no surprise first of all that the
Mario RPG games, have generally tended towards being some of the most
dark and outright depressing affairs in the entire series. Not that
it's a bad thing in the slightest, but there's a definite trend towards
plain apocalypse settings in the Paper Mario and Mario and Luigi series,
and villains far beyond what most people would expect in a so called
'child friendly' series. True, the standard villains in the main series
aren't exactly a joke (or at least, they're less of a joke than more
that have undergone villain decay like King Dedede from the Kirby
series), but characters like Bowser and Wario are not particularly...
menacing in any form. The Paper Mario villains though... probably kick
dogs for a living, cross the moral event horizon in four minutes and if
not funny in the process, would be seen as complete monsters. Take
Dimentio for example... he's funny with his sayings and metaphors, but
if you take it a bit... more seriously, he's pretty much a creepy
psychopath in his personality. He may have wrote the Dark Prognosticus!
He may have wrote himself into the book so Count Bleck would hire him!
He killed Mario and friends in broad day light in the middle of a cut
scene, and basically manipulated everyone across the entire game. All
that... while remaining perfectly cheery with creepy circus music in the
Indeed, it's somewhat creepy how calmly this guy can literally plan to
kill off everyone. The other villains are much the same way. Fawful is
a flat out megalomaniac narcissist, wanting to control the world and
change everyone into what are basically clones of himself. The Shadow
Queen could destroy the world, or at least plunge it into a few thousand
years of darkness and ruin, the Shroobs want to invade and use the
souls of the Mushroom people for what's basically fuel for UFOs (there's
almost way too many possible comparisons with movies and depressing
real life events here) and Smithy is probably the least family friendly
villain in the series, at least in his speeches.
"Hurrumph! Better yet... Why don't YOU give me YOUR stars. Why, then I
could easily conquer this world! Then we could get rid of wishes, and
create a world filled with... WEAPONS!!"
You can almost see Fox News or some sensationalist tabloid panicking
over that statement, at least if they had ever paid much attention to
Super Mario RPG. One bet someone says it's corrupting the youth.
***, no mention of villains would go without Count Bleck, because he's
one of the most serious, yet possibly sympathetic villains in the
series. An all round nice person called Blumiere until he lost his
loved one due to his father using dark magic to send her to another
dimension, causing him to go insane, read the Dark Prognosticus and get
corrupted into an almost pure evil Nietzsche wannabe. ***, he
apparently killed his entire tribe and family in revenge after this, at
least if Mario Wiki is to be believed. But more importantly, he wanted
to destroy the entire multiverse and all of existance after losing his
sanity. He didn't even tell his followers this, saying he'd remake the
worlds after destroying them. Finally, this villain eventually knew
about Timpani, but even thought the entire idea of changing his mind was
useless, being completely fatalist and saying how he could only close
the Void if he perished.
Not that the villains were the only depressing thing about the games of
course. Mario and Luigi Partners in Time for instance was full to the
brim of sad moments and needless destruction. The whole scene in
Hollijolli Village was a pretty sad example of this, an entire town
getting obliterated by alien invaders (including the mayor, who looked
suspiciously like Santa Claus) because of... being in the middle of a
War of the Worlds type situation. The music playing does not help
things in the least:
The most depressing Christmas music ever? It makes the setting creepy as heck.
Toad Town too, seeing a place in perfect order in the other two RPG
games (and the Paper Mario series) being in complete ruin, with alien
robots and monsters having taken over and the entire populace bar the
owners of a single shop having been abducted by aliens. Same kind of
music and feeling here:
The ending scenes even show it being blasted to pieces by the Shroobs
and the Toads running for their lives in every which direction.
Indeed, it seems this game has the least happy sounding music in the entire series, if the final boss music is to be believed:
Not however that the other Mario RPGs don't come close. Paper Mario The
Thousand Year Door for instance has a setting of a town controlled by
the mafia (yazuka in Japanese versions) and a street gang, with
corruption and crime at massive levels. It has a sailor (Bobbery)
driven temporarily to alcohol after losing his wife while at sea. It
has a conspiracy in a wrestling establishment involving missing persons
and conspiracies, and let's not even go into what the final boss scenes
are like, with the populace worried about whether there would even be a
future for them if Mario doesn't defeat the Shadow Queen.
It's also quite heart warming as well.
But let's not forget. It's not just the RPG games with their depressing
stories and 'deep' characters which make the Mario series far darker
than anything else, the main series has it in abundance. Luigi's
Mansion is a good example here. Sure, the ghosts look cartoony, but the
effects and general atmosphere doesn't (and the black out is plain
creepy). It's a creepy game, I've got to give it that, and keep in mind
the way many of the ghosts died and such alone is quite... different
from the Mario series norm, especially considering many of them are
seemingly human, or were until their untimely deaths. And Bogmire,
who's plain weird:
A product of the mansion's fear and despair. He's not sure who to fear or what to despair these days.
Not even counting the glitch which makes it seem as if Luigi's shadow has been hanged.
Super Mario Bros itself isn't completely immune to being a dark,
seriously series either, at least the first game. Note the bit about
the Mushroom People being turned into blocks, or mushrooms, or horsehair
plants. Note the latter are Fire Flowers, and it seems there's quite
some moral dissonance going on, with him Mario being a possible killer
(although Wario did the same in Wario Land 3).
Super Mario Bros 3 brings us the literal *** setting in Bowser's realm
of darkness, what with all the flames, skulls, ghostly apparitions of
Princess Peach and the general war like territory. Interesting point
you never consider here of course... was it like that before Bowser took
Super Mario 64 has the killer piano which hardly anyone expects the
first time around, the killer fish, the eel... Heck, many of the untold
mysteries such as that of the 'swimming beast in the lagoon' apparently
being a carnivore, or the portals going from levels to the courtyard or
mysterious passages which don't lead anywhere in levels.
Super Mario Sunshine has the possibly off Hotel Delfino and Manta Storm,
and Super Mario Galaxy is quite serious indeed. You've got Mario when
he's electrocuted and turned into a skeleton for a brief time, you've
got the war like settings of the Battlerock and Dreadnought Galaxies
with their electric fences, cannons and laser weapons, and to a degree,
even the Bonefin Galaxy with Kingfin as the boss is far creepier than
anything in a Sonic the Hedgehog game or what not.
Finally, to wrap it all up, note something I thought was quite
philosophically scary about the series. No permanent death. Things
like Mushrooms mean that morality and such like to an extent becomes
meaningless, and punishments become useless. Also note that unlike most
other series, the villains are not repentant. Sure, Bowser is seen as
harmless, but he's sure determined, and he won't change his mind. For a
so called 'realistic' or 'edgy' series, you can negotiate with the main
villain, or hope they'll change the mind or be persuaded through
peaceful means. For a Mario series villain, this is pretty much
hopeless, most of them are either insane, chose to be evil and boast
about it in the process, or are forces of darkness themselves. It's
either their opponent 'dies', or they 'die', no middle ground.
Similarly, the whole end of the multiverse scenario in Super Paper
Mario. This isn't just the end of the world and everyone dies, like the
events in various other apocalypse stories. This is as if the entirety
of existance didn't exist in the first place. There's no afterlife or
possibility here like in many series, the good won't be rewarded by the
standard infinite years of happiness and peace, because as you can tell
from the Overthere and Underwhere, the afterlife consists of a dimension
as well, and if Bleck's plan goes ahead, then it will too be wiped out
of existance. Mario is the only hope, not just for people to be saved,
but for there to be a reality in the first place. Makes religion,
theology or philosophy in the Mario universe kind of pointless in that
situation, what with the whole point that all that would be left of the
promised afterlife you worked so hard to enter would be a blank white
void, and since the world had 'never existed', there wouldn't even be a
trace left of your efforts. That scenario makes any end of the world
rubbish in some edgy 'adult' game look positively tame.
So yes, Mario ain't a happy go lucky utopia. Not in the slightest.
Waluigious: So yes, Mario ain't a happy go lucky utopia. Not in the slightest.
Editorials & Features from the Marioverse
Super Mario Series Darker Than It Looks
- Written by cheatmaster-30