The famous plumber now known as Mario first appeared in the 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong. The mustachioed mascot went by “Jump Man” back then, and while he was facing off against an animal, he was at least nominally the hero of the game. At least, that’s what everyone thought, but a recently uncovered Nintendo sticker from 1982 is making people re-examine Mario‘s role in the Donkey Kong arcade game.
Players have been battling one another since the cabinet first hit arcades several decades ago to get the world record in Donkey Kong, and the goal post moves almost every year as someone bests the previous record and the race starts over again. The game sees the player taking control of Mario as he climbs up girders while avoiding barrels thrown by the titular Donkey Kong in an attempt to rescue his love, Pauline.
That all sounds very heroic, and it was always assumed that Mario’s main goal was to rescue the damsel in distress, but according to the sticker from 1982, Mario’s actual mission was to “Nail Donkey Kong.” The text at the bottom of the vintage piece of merchandise tells players to try and do just that, all while a sneaky Mario is pictured holding a giant hammer. It turns out, years before the Mario Kart 8 meme of a cold-blooded Luigi staring down his victims made people question just how nice the Mario Bros. really are, Mario was already planting the seeds of doubt.
Another scary element of the old sticker is the look on Mario’s face. With arched eyebrows and a finger to his lip, it’s clear the plumber is up to no good. Of course, Mario does become the villain in the arcade game’s sequel known as Donkey Kong Jr, but it’s still an odd and disconcerting visual to see Nintendo’s normally cheerful mascot looking so mischievous.
In fact, Mario recently celebrated its 35th Anniversary, but in all those years, the plumber has never again looked as mean as he does on the retro sticker. The character’s design changed slightly throughout the years, and as the storylines shifted from Mario vs Donkey Kong to Mario vs Bowser, some elements of Mario’s personality softened, as well.
Still, even Donkey Kong pros like the controversial Billy Mitchell would likely be shocked to see Nintendo’s official portrayal of the plumber from back in the day. It just goes to show that a little image control can go a long way to alter the public’s perception of a celebrity, be they a movie star or a video game mascot.
Donkey Kong is available on Switch.
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Published at Mon, 12 Apr 2021 04:15:06 +0000