Welcome back to Warped Pipes, the series where I sort through the Super Mario video game franchise in order to create a timeline of events. Today marks an especially important entry as I’ll be looking into what is, arguably, the most influential game in the long-running series. If you are new to Warped Pipes, I suggest you start by reading my summary of the events so far before proceeding. Done? Good. Let’s talk about...
Super Mario Bros. sees our favorite plumber brothers travel to the magical Mushroom Kingdom and go on a grand adventure to save its fungal inhabitants. Super Mario Bros. is a triumph that marked a turning point in the video game series and, similarly, will have a major effect on this project.
Before we get much further, let’s talk about the many versions of Super Mario Bros. and how they will fit into the canon. At the end of the game, the player is given the option to take on a second quest. This is really just a harder version of the same game with some changes in enemy types and traps. Essentially, I’ll just be considering this to be the same series of events only slightly more exaggerated.
The main re-releases of this game are Super Mario Bros. Deluxe for the Gameboy Color, the version of the game found in Super Mario All-Stars for the SNES, and VS. Super Mario Bros. for arcades. All of these versions make tweaks to the gameplay and graphics of Super Mario Bros. but largely leave the original game and its story intact. Therefore, these games can be considered the same entry for our purposes.
While all of these games can be considered slightly different retellings of the same events, the Game & Watch Super Mario Bros. presents a different enough scenario that it will need to be considered as a separate entry.
All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. is a strange limited-release version of the game that replaces the Mushroom Retainers and other characters with Japanese celebrities as well as mixing up levels and gameplay elements. It will be considered strictly non-canon.
Let’s start by reading the scenario given in the manual. I’ll specifically use the Deluxe version manual, which expands slightly upon the original’s story:
Once upon a time, the peaceful Mushroom Kingdom was invaded by the Koopa, a tribe of turtles famous for their dark magic. These terrible terrapins transformed the peace loving Mushroom People into stones, bricks, and ironically, mushrooms, then set their own evil king on the throne. In the wake of the ghastly coup d’etat, the beautiful Mushroom Kingdom fell into ruin and despair.
It is said that only the daughter of the Mushroom King, Princess Toadstool, can break the evil spell and return the inhabitants of Mushroom kingdom to their normal selves. But the King of the Koopas, knowing of this prophecy, kidnapped the lovely Princess and hid her away in one of his castles.
Word of the terrible plight of the Mushroom People quickly spread throughout the land, eventually reaching the ears of a humble plumber. The simple, yet valiant Mario vowed to rescue the Princess and free her subjects from King Koopa’s tyrannous reign. But can Mario really overcome the many obstacles facing him and become a true hero?
Strangely, the manual leaves out Luigi, who is just as present for these events as Mario.
The plumbers travel across the Mushroom Kingdom battling the Koopa army, which consists of the turtle-like Koopa themselves as well as the traitorous mushroom-like Goombas and other strange creatures. The brothers trek across the cobblestone streets of the kingdom, swim through its waterways, crawl through its underground passages, and even float through a strange heavenly realm in the sky filled with coins.
One of the first things that the brothers encounter is the magical Super Mushroom, which causes them to grow larger and more powerful. This is the source of the game’s title and how we go from characters who look like this:
To characters who look like this:
The brothers also encounter the Fire Flower, a powerful herb that allows them to throw fireballs, and the Starman, which grants temporary invulnerability.
With help from these magical items, Mario and Luigi reclaim the kingdom’s eight castles which had been overrun by the Koopas and their king who appears to be a much larger Koopa with a spiked shell. Through their magic, the Koopas have turned these castles into dangerous twisting labyrinths filled with lava and non-Euclidean geometry that loops back in upon itself.
Within the first seven of these castles, the brothers encounter doppelgangers of Bowser, King of the Koopas. In fact, these impostors are nothing more than low-level grunts, transformed into Bowser’s intimidating shape by the use of dark magic. After defeating each impostor, the brothers find that it was guarding a Mushroom Retainer. The manual tells us that these Mushroom Retainers are:
Seven mushrooms who originally served in the court of Princess Toadstool but are now under the spell of the evil King Koopa.
Killing the fake King Koopas seems to break the spell and the Retainers tell the brothers that the Princess is, in fact, in another castle.
In the eighth and final castle, our plumber heroes finally encounter the real King of the Koopas who defends himself with thrown hammers and fire breath. However, the brothers dispatch him just like the impostors before. In the conclusion, the kidnapped Princess thanks her saviors and, presumably, restores the Mushroom Kingdom to its former glory.
Almost certainly, this game follows from the events of Mario Bros., where we see the brothers encounter an enemy force invading the underground passages they are working on fixing. These underground passages and pipes seem to connect the Mushroom Kingdom to the brothers’ home city. This vast pipe system also litters the streets of the kingdom and allows for easy travel between its provinces.
Unfortunately, this intricate system of travel allowed the Koopa to easily carry out their coup d’etat and simultaneously claim all eight provinces of the kingdom in one fell swoop.
I believe that the brothers continued to investigate the source of the sewer invasion and ultimately emerged in the Mushroom Kingdom to find it overrun by the Koopa forces.
It’s unclear exactly what inspired the plumbers to take on the herculean task of saving the kingdom but, based on the previous games I have analyzed, it seems to me that Mario is a man looking for both purpose and redemption at this moment. I think it is fair to say that he found what he needed here. Luigi’s motivations are even less clear and may be more about his loyalty to his brother.
The rest of the story is pretty well laid out by the manual and what is seen in the game itself and requires little interpretation on my part.
Super Mario Bros. takes us to an entirely new and fantastical setting where it does a tremendous amount of world building. Here are some things we learn about the Mushroom Kingdom:
- It appears to be ruled by humans despite its citizens being entirely Mushroom People.
- One faction of Mushroom People, known as Goombas, betrayed the royal family and sided with the Koopa, whether out of malice or just self-preservation.
- Magic is common-place in the Mushroom Kingdom and seems to be used in place of the technology and industry seen elsewhere in this world, although some technological advances like pipes, cannons, and pulley systems are still present.
- The Mushroom Kingdom is an incredibly rich nation filled to the brim with coins, including many in underground vaults.
- The Mushroom Kingdom seems to operate under a feudal system and is split into 8 provinces or “worlds”. Super Mario Bros. Deluxe provides a world map that lets us see the geography of the kingdom. I’ve stitched the different sections of this map together below to give a full view of the kingdom.
As you can see above, the kingdom seems to consist of an island chain connected to a larger seaside landmass. It appears to have a temperate climate and features lowlands, high bluffs, and coastal regions.
Super Mario Bros. occurs following Mario Bros., which puts it at the end of our current timeline. This also starts a new era in the timeline that I will be calling the Koopa Wars.
Super Mario Bros. also functions as an important reference point going forward since it is the first time the brothers take on their “super” forms. Any game where the brothers have this new appearance must take place after this point in the timeline.
In the next article, things will start to get exceedingly weird in Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels.
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