In 1979, Nintendo, a Japanese company known for producing playing cards and distributing electronics, released an arcade game that they hoped would set the world on fire and make them a household name. That game was called Radar Scope, and it failed catastrophically.
It fell upon two unknown Nintendo employees, graphic artist Shigeru Miyamoto and maintenance engineer Gunpei Yokoi, to take the unused arcade cabinets for Radar Scope and make something with them. From the wreckage, they created Donkey Kong, a game about an evil ape who kidnapped a woman named Pauline only to be defeated by Jumpman, sometimes called “Mario” in the promotional material.
Mario would go on to star in his own series of games that persists to this day. From saving Princess Peach in Super Mario Bros. (1985), to saving Princess Peach in Super Mario 64 (1996), to saving Princess Peach in Mario Sunshine (2002)… the stories in each game follow a pretty predictable pattern, with the occasional sports or racing spin-off. Or maybe they aren’t so predictable? Maybe Princess Peach is really an evil dictator, ruling over the Mushroom Kingdom with an iron fist? Maybe Mario is the villain, Bowser’s the hero, and Luigi’s… dead?
It’s the dedicated Mario fans who have come up with some creative alternative stories for Mario. Numerous fan theories have emerged, which speculate on the universe, characters and stories in the Mario franchise. Enjoy some of the more bizarre ideas in this list of the 15 Craziest Fan Theories About Super Mario.
15. Wario is a crazy Mario fan
A theory posed by “RenaKunisaki” reads as follows: “Mario is a celebrity, and Wario is the stereotypical creepy overzealous not-quite-sane stalker fan.” Several pieces of evidence are mentioned to prove the theory. Mario is certainly a celebrity, as he has (seemingly) saved Princess Peach and the Mushroom Kingdom numerous times. Wario wears the same exact outfit as Mario, just with yellow and purple as the dominant colors vs. Mario’s red and blue. Who’s to say “Wario” is even his real name and not just a nickname he gave himself, inverting the “M” in Mario? In Japanese, Wario roughly translates to “bad Mario.”
In Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (1992), Wario lives in a giant castle on an island, which has a giant statue of Mario. It is revealed that Wario stole this castle from Mario, and he is the final boss in the game. He could have been trying to live Mario’s life because of his obsession with him, and built a statue for him. When Wario losses to Mario, he can’t accept his failure and jumps off the roof of the castle.
14. Princess Peach is Bowser Jr.’s mother
Bowser Jr., the son of Bowser, first appeared in the disguise of Shadow Mario at the beginning of Super Mario Sunshine. He frames Mario for spreading graffiti across the island, and kidnaps Princess Peach. Finally revealing his identity and claiming that Princess Peach is his mother, Bowser Jr. says the “evil” Mario is the one who kidnapped her. He attempts to bring her to Corona Mountain, where his father is relaxing. It could be that Bowser told his son a lie in order to convince him to kidnap the princess and pass his hatred for Mario onto the next generation. However, Peach never denies these allegations, and it is never even hinted at another person who could be Bowser Jr.’s mother.
There were also seven Koopalings in Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988) who were believed to be Bowser’s children. In an interview with Kotaku, Miyamoto commented, “Our current story is that the seven Koopalings are not Bowser’s children. Bowser’s only child is Bowser Jr., and we do not know who the mother is.” So even the creator doesn’t deny Princess Peach may be Bowser Jr.’s mother. Though that does make you wonder where the rest of the Koopa kids came from…
13. The games are Princess Peach’s propaganda
There are theories that Princess Peach is not as innocent and helpless as the games may portray her to be. Is Mario really saving Princess Peach in every game? One fan on Reddit posed this theory: “What if, Princess Peach is really just using the Mario Games (which are plays) as [propaganda] to lead you to believe that Bowser is the villain, when in reality Peach is an evil dictator who wants to oppress the people of the Mushroom Kingdom.” The fact that Princess Peach never seems to up the security in the Mushroom Kingdom furthers the idea that something insidious is going on.
The video games are never from Bowser’s point of view. Instead, the games frame Mario as the hero and Princess Peach as the helpless victim. The theory is Princess Peach either manipulates Mario into thinking she has really been kidnapped and needs to be saved, or her and Mario are working together to further perpetuate the idea that Peach is the kind ruler of the thriving Mushroom Kingdom and not a vicious dictator. Though we don’t know what it says about a ruler who appears to be incompetent because she seems to be getting kidnapped all the time.
12. Super Mario Bros. is another version of The Legend of Zelda
Mental Floss calls The Legend of Zelda the “anti-Mario” because where Super Mario Bros. was straightforward, Zelda was more about problem-solving. The two games were being worked on at the same time, but that doesn’t stop gamers from theorizing that the Mario universe is really just another version of The Legend of Zelda universe.
According to the theory, Super Mario Bros. is the retelling of The Legend of Zelda. The three main characters represent various characters from the series. Mario is Link, Princess Peach is Zelda, and Bowser is Gannon. The setting, the Mushroom Kingdom, is Hyrule. In the game The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (2000), players can unlock a mask of Mario. This would seem to indicate that this is a historical figure who was confused with Link. The eight worlds in Super Mario could be representative of the eight temples in The Legend of Zelda. They both have various themes that connect them, including a water world in Mario and a water temple in Zelda.
11. Yoshi is actually a Pokemon
Reddit user “lopezrican304” provides evidence that Mario’s dinosaur companion Yoshi is actually a Pokemon. He cites the fact that “Yoshi eggs and Pokemon eggs look the same, and both Yoshis and Pokemon obey the person they hatch with. Yoshis let their master ride them and control their [abilities] (eating enemies, flying, spitting fireballs, etc) and Pokemon battle for their trainer.”
This theory suggests Mario is a Pokemon trainer and the Mushroom Kingdom is a region like Kanto or Johto. He could be a fictional character in the Pokemon universe; in the early Pokemon games, the trainer has an NES. Later Pokemon games feature the SNES, the N64, the GameCube and the Wii U. The idea that every Mario game is available to play in the Pokemon universe seems much more plausible. Mario may be a fictional creation in the Pokemon world, with characters like Yoshi and Bowser representing the animals in their world.
10. Demons exist in the Super Mario world
In Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010), Mario meets a lot of people while traveling across various galaxies. But the most foreboding are the ones he doesn’t meet. While visiting Shiverburn Galaxy, the player can view a group of shadowy figures staring down at them from a high cliff. The game file calls these creatures “Hell Valley Sky Tree.” Another one of these creatures appears in World 4-4 of Super Mario 3D Land (2011), visible standing in the background behind the flagpole at the end of the level.
The fan theory speculates that these creatures are demons from another dimension who have invaded the world of Mario. Since the demon is closer in the later Mario game, players wonder if they’re coming to get us. Maybe they’ll be a future antagonist in a Mario game; but as of right now, they simply watch from a distance. Considering they inhabit a world with Shy Guys and Dry Bones, it’s really not that far-fetched of a concept.
9. Deaths in Luigi’s Mansion, the chronological end of the series
In Luigi’s Mansion (2001), Luigi enters the haunted abode he’ll be busting ghosts in for the rest of the game. When he crosses the threshold, a flash of lightening strikes. Shadows created from the flash appear to show Luigi hanging. This is considered, by some, to be a glitch. Others believe this hints at a dark secret in the game: Luigi commits suicide. To further prove this theory, fans suggest Luigi’s Mansion is the chronological end of the Mario series of games. This means games that came out afterwards featuring Luigi actually take place before Luigi’s Mansion because he is no longer among the living.
Other gamers take the theory a step further and suggest Bowser is also dead. When Luigi speaks to a fortune teller in the game, she makes it sound as if Bowser has been permanently defeated by Mario and is dead. The final boss of the game is King Boo, who claims he has trapped Mario because of his past troubles with him, despite this being King Boo’s first appearance. Redditer “Benvincible” theorizes two possible meanings of this: “1. King Boo is the ghost of Bowser, who constructed a mechanical version of himself for one last fight with Mario and Luigi from beyond the grave. 2. There never was really a Bowser at all, and it was always King Boo inside of a mechanized Bowser costume. King Boo invented the Bowser character and convinced the koopas that he was their king.”
8. Donkey Kong murdered the Mario Bros. father
It is believed that the monkey throwing barrels at “Jumpman” in Donkey Kong is actually Cranky Kong, Donkey Kong’s father (making Donkey Kong really Donkey Kong Jr.). This could also imply Jumpman is actually Mario and Luigi’s father. Their parents are never actually seen, after all, except for a not very clear look at two parents at the end of Yoshi’s Island. These two people could be Jumpman and Pauline.
The antagonist in Donkey Kong Junior (1982) is Jumpman, who captures Donkey Kong (really Cranky Kong). At the end of the game, Donkey Kong’s son rescues him. Redditer “JustEmbarassing” explains the ending in more detail: “Jumpman falls to the ground and lies down with a halo floating above his head. He’s dead. As the antagonist of the game, he has no extra lives. Because it’s impossible for this to be the Mario of games separate from the DK arcade games, he has never come back in a story that takes place after this. Even Donkey Kong 3, which takes place right after DKJ, doesn’t feature him.” So Donkey Kong Jr., now just known as Donkey Kong, murdered Jumpman, Mario and Luigi’s father.
7. Shy Guys are the result of experimental mutation
Shy Guys are one of the few Mario enemies that first appeared in a non-Mario game, Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic (1987), which was rebranded as Super Mario Bros. 2 (1988) in North America and Europe. They wear different colored robes (usually red) and a white mask on their face. Ever wonder why Shy Guys never take off their masks? Players have come up with their own theories about that, ranging from them secretly being part of an international mercenary-spy conglomerate to being enslaved Shaolin monks. One particularly pervasive theory suggests Shy Guys are experimental mutations, which is why they do not show their faces.
If you beat Mario Power Tennis (2004) with Shy Guy, the celebration cut scene shows him tripping in front of Luigi. His mask falls off, and while we don’t see his face, Luigi does. He is so shocked he falls to the ground. This suggests Shy Guy’s appearance is rather… off-putting. In Luigi’s Mansion, players do fight ghost Shy Guy’s. Their masks can be removed with Luigi’s vacuum, revealing a black face with glowing eyes. Luigi could be seeing a similar face staring back at him in this moment.
6. Mario is a Russian Communist
Mario, the savior of the Mushroom Kingdom, may actually be a Russian communist, and fans take a lot of time finding evidence supporting this theory. Game Theory even made a 12 minutes video presenting their case. The colors of the communist flag are red and black. Mario’s outfit in Super Mario Bros. mostly wears red, his fire flower outfit is predominantly red and white, and he eats red mushrooms. Mario’s hat and moustache are also noticeably similar to Joseph Stalin’s.
Mario’s actions further the idea that he is really a Russian communist. At the end of each level in Super Mario Bros., Mario lowers the current flag (which resembles a peace sign) and raises his own. The other flag above the castle bears a Communist star. He seems to be saving a princess, but he is really taking down Bowser and his capitalist government in the process. Game Theory also references Wario, the “anti-Mario,” as a “walking American stereotype” who butts heads with Mario.
5. Bowser isn’t really the bad guy; Mario is the villain
The Mario games are generally from Mario’s perspective, making it pretty easy for Mario to twist things around on Bowser. He could easily make Bowser look like the bad guy and himself the hero, but Mario may be the real bad guy here after all. Reddit user “Fathomx1” explains why Mario is evil: “Well it is obvious that Mario is a racist pro-human supremacist. In Super Mario Bros. 3 it’s clear that the Princess is married to Bowser, and that the humans have made a treaty with the reptile people to gain the ability to change themselves into animals as well (this magic was previously only accessible through use of magic suits). However, Mario cannot allow this as it would undermine the racial purity of humanity, and so he kills Bowsers children and changes the human rulers back by force.”
Bowser may be the real victim in all this, having Princess Peach and his throne stolen away from him by Mario. It has even been theorized he has had children with Peach, so Mario has deprived them of having a mother as well. Bowser’s actions are often demonized when they may not be so cut and dry. He captures Sprixie Princesses (fairies) in Super Mario 3D World and is branded a villain for it while Wii Daily points out that Link does the same thing and is not punished for it at all. Is this all just a twisted plan by a villainous Mario and Bowser’s bitter ex-flame, Peach?
4. Dr. Mario is the third Mario brother… or their father
Mario is known for his work as a plumber and the savior of the Mushroom Kingdom. So when did he find the time to become a doctor? Well, according to Reddit user “mswanco,” he didn’t. The user states that Dr. Mario is actually the third Mario brother, and talks about his appearance in the fighting game Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001): “He has a similar moveset to Mario and Luigi, and while Luigi is a lighter and floatier comparison to Mario, DM is a heavier, harder hitting alternative. Doctor Mario’s hair is also lighter than Mario’s, taking an almost blonder or more auburn tint to the plumber’s dark brown hair. Mario also seems to be more athletic than DM as he is faster and can wall jump, whereas the doctor can not.”
Others speculate that since Dr. Mario is slower and has lighter hair (which could be due to greying from old age), he could be the Mario Brothers’ father. This did lead commenters to bring up the other theory that Jumpman is the Mario Brother’s father. User Kamizar suggests Dr. Mario is the Mario Brother’s biological (“real”) father and Jumpman is their “surrogate father.”
3. Coins in Super Mario are Souls
Compounding the theory that Mario is really the bad guy, he’s apparently also responsible for taking the souls of innocent toads. Reddit user “SamuelEarl66” shares the following tidbit into this dark theory: “If you are a theory lover like me you should already know of the countless mushroom kingdom residents Mario murdered during the first game. For those that don’t know, the instruction manual for SMB1 states the the inhabitants of the mushroom kingdom were turned into bricks (yes, the exact same ones which Mario smashed on his journey). If the bricks are mushroom kingdom residents then how are there coins inside them? What if Mario was actually harvesting the souls of innocent toads???”
There is even more evidence suggesting coins are souls. When Yoshi eats anything, the player gets a coin. This suggests enemies can become coins after they die, which could represent their soul. Then there are coins within the boos in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. So the next time you collect a coin, think about where it may have come from.
2. Mario keeps Luigi under control
In the video game Super Paper Mario (2007), Luigi is supposedly the reincarnation of Count Bleck’s Great Grandfather. This makes him the perfect host for the Chaos Heart, which is able to destroy every world in existence. He stays by Mario’s side because he know if he loses control, Mario can take him down.
Redditer “LordOrgasm” talks about Luigi’s fear of losing control of his power: “In Mario and Luigi: Partners in time , we can see he has a huge heart that cares for others due to the Aurora Block, a block that grows proportional a person’s heart, growing large enough to crush Luigi. From the hint of the Aurora block, I believe that Luigi’s only fear is that he may go too far one day and hurt people on accident due to his powers running rampant.” But why would Luigi be afraid of ghosts in Luigi’s Mansion if he was capable of such destruction? The Redditer explains this in his post, stating “A common trait we see is his extreme fear of ghosts. The reason behind that is because ghosts have been known to have the ability to possess living beings… if one possessed him, the damage could be catastrophic.”
1. The Super Mario universe is all a stage play
One of the oldest fan theories that people believed was that the stories being told in Super Mario are all stage plays. Mario, Luigi and the rest of the characters are all simply actors playing roles in a show. The idea may have originated with Super Mario Bros. 2, where the character select screen is set up like a stage; this was only cemented in Super Mario Bros. 3. The game is set-up like a stage play: a curtain rises at the beginning, platforms hang from the ceiling, blocks are bolted into the wall, and the ending of a stage set looks like the end of a set.
A camera crew also appears in several Mario games; for instance, the Lakitu cameraman who follows Mario around in Super Mario 64. Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine call each of their levels “episodes.” What’s more, characters in Mario games often switch sides. According to a comment made by Redditor “WhoDoIThinkIAm” regarding another theory, “In most iterations outside of the adventure titles, characters that would normally be enemies are indifferent to each other or allies. Mario Kart, Mario Tennis, Super Paper Mario (Bowser works with the brothers and Peach), etc. I doubt their alliances would switch that much. It’s easier to believe they are just filling roles in each game, reading their given scripts.”
This theory was actually confirmed by creator Sigeru Miyamoto when he was answering questions close to the release of Super Mario Maker (2015). He talks about how Super Mario Bros. 3, in particular, was always thought of as a stage play.