Ever since his introduction to the world in Donkey Kong back in 1981, Mario (or "Jumpman" back then) has charmed generation after generation of gamers with his quirky attitude and his games' family-friendly appeal. To date, there are dozens of games donning the Super Mario namesake while the plumber and his friends have appeared in literally hundreds of games since the dawn of Nintendo. In fact, the Mario series holds a Guinness World Record for the most successful gaming franchise of all time, with over 240 million copies sold!
Unless you've been living under a rock, you know the story: Mario has to save his girlfriend Princess Peach from Bowser, King of the Koopa. Sometimes his brother Luigi, his friend Toad, and his dinosaur Yoshi tag along. Then there are the spinoff games that have Mario and company doing everything from playing tennis to racing karts to competing in the Olympic games!
Naturally, a character that appears in so many titles yet has so little backstory, is going to generate some wild fan theories. Though most of them are fairly innocent, some fans take things just a little too far and make up elaborately dark stories to go with the Mario Brothers.
We're here to share with you 15 Dark Super Mario Fan Theories That Will Ruin Your Childhood!
15 Mario = Psychopath
This is one of the more popular theories floating around in the Super Mario universe. It's no secret that Mario and Luigi straight-up smash Bowser's minions into the ground, presumably killing them. They stomp defenseless turtles out of their shells and then use their enemy's former home to murder all of their friends. But of course, these are the bad guys, so they deserve it. Right?
But it's not just the villains who feel the wrath of the plumbers' rampage. In the manual for the original Super Mario Bros. game, Nintendo claims that when Bowser kidnapped the Princess, he also used his magic to turn the citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom into various inanimate objects. That's right, every time you break a block, you're killing an innocent civilian. Every time you eat a mushroom, you're consuming the flesh of one of Toad's brethren. Shame on you!
14 Mario has been dead since 1982
Fans will recall that Mario first appeared as "Jumpman" in the Donkey Kong arcade game. In the second entry of the series, Donkey Kong Jr., Jumpman is the villain and the player takes control of Donkey Kong's son. At the end of the game Jumpman is knocked off of the scaffolding and plummets to his death.
This led fans to create a dark theory that Mario died in the events of this game, and everything we've seen since has been purgatory. Think about it: Mario's entire persona changed. He got a different girlfriend. He lives in a land of magic and talking mushrooms. The most telling sign, however, is the fact that Mario is forced to relive his worst nightmare (having his beautiful girlfriend kidnapped and fighting through a gauntlet to save her) every few years. Sounds like hell to us!
13 Waluigi is the hated third Mario brother
Waluigi is...Waluigi; the Luigi to Wario's Mario, the character first appeared in Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64. Waluigi is so goofy and downright bizarre that fans have developed some sort of weird love for him. Despite his growing popularity, the character has yet to appear in any of the main Mario games and is limited just to the spinoffs like Mario Kart and Mario Strikers.
One theory suggests that this is because Shigeru Miyamoto, the creative genius behind most of Nintendo's beloved characters, despised Waluigi. Miyamoto has teased adding a third brother to the franchise, though unenthusiastically.
Unlike Wario, Waluigi never seemed to fit as a "Mirror-verse" version of the Mario Brothers. Some have speculated that this is because he was originally intended to be Mario and Luigi's brother, but Miyamoto hated the idea so much that he made the character so grotesque that Nintendo wouldn't ever use him as a protagonist.
12 The entire series is the result of a Magic Mushroom-fueled rage
This one may be somewhat of a low-hanging fruit, but we're going there anyway! The entire power-up system of the Mario franchise is magic mushrooms. Now, in our world, the name "magic mushroom" has a completely different type of meaning. Mario is always hanging out in a colorful fantasy world inhabited by talking turtles and clouds, suns, and hills that have eyes. Is this because he's just hallucinating!?
This theory states that Mario is just a regular plumber who, after losing his girlfriend to a "bad boy" (Bowser), takes a bunch of magic mushrooms and goes into a fit of rage; he goes around stomping on small animals and destroying neighbor's property claiming that he has to save "the Princess." It even goes so far as to say that Bullet Bills are really just the bullets that the police are firing at him. Good lord...
11 Shy Guys give Mario PTSD
Super Mario Bros. 2 always feels like the Red-headed stepchild of the series. After the release of the "real" sequel in Japan, Nintendo feared that American gamers wouldn't be able to handle the difficulty level and instead repackaged a game called Doki Doki Panic by swapping out the sprites of the main characters with those of Mario and friends. It also featured new villains, such as the Shy Guy.
In the end, we see the events of this game are all just a dream by Mario. However, this theory claims that the baddies weren't as random as they appeared... In Yoshi's Island, a baby Mario is exposed to lots of Shy Guys. What if they only appear in his dream because he has PTSD from his traumatic childhood encounter with them?
10 Mario is just a distorted retelling of The Legend of Zelda
This fan theory builds upon a popular theory that the events of the the Legend of Zelda games only happened once, and that each entry in the series prior to the original was just a retelling by a different culture. It makes sense, the Zelda timeline is ridiculously confusing, and the art and gameplay styles are rarely consistent with previous entries.
Some speculate that the Super Mario Bros. games are just retellings of the original Legend of Zelda. Ganon, a giant pig creature, was changed into a giant fire-breathing turtle, the 8 temples Link had to navigate were turned into 8 worlds each with their own "dungeon" at the end. Princess Zelda became Princess Peach. This would also explain why similar characters seem to exist in the worlds of both franchises...
9 Peach is the mother of Bowser Jr.
Fans of the Mario series are somewhat perplexed as to where Bowser Jr. came from. Super Mario Bros. 3 was the first to introduce Bowser's children, the Koopa Kids. However, in 2002's Super Mario Sunshine, the infantile Bowser Jr. came out of nowhere. In the years since he has taken on more of a main character role, often as a mini-boss before you get to his father. Jr. looks nothing like his Koopa siblings, implying that they had a different mother.
You see where this is going. Peach seems to get kidnapped quite often. Is this because she actually wants to spend time with Bowser, a boyfriend who would never be approved by her parents? Furthermore, Bowser Jr. keeps calling Peach his mommy and claims that Mario is mean for wanting to take her away from him; maybe he's just an innocent toddler telling the truth of the situation?
8 Super Mario Bros. 3 is a Wario origin story
Super Mario Bros. 3 is the entry in the series that completely revolutionized the gameplay of the franchise; it was the one that introduced power-up mushrooms other than just the regular super mushroom, it gave us the Koopa Kids, and it gave us many of the major enemies that are still a staple of the series today.
But was this game really just an origin story for his arch-nemesis, Wario? Mario's sprite in this game is much different than the rest of the series: he has black overalls instead of the traditional blue. Also, his mustache looks much more... pointy than normal. Not to mention, Mario and Luigi look identical!
This theory claims that you are really playing as Wario, a struggling stage actor who is doing a performance of the events of the first Super Mario Bros. game.
7 Mario is a revolutionary who wants to bring down King Koopa and steal his future Queen
Despite its status as a pop culture icon, the Mario games don't really have a very complex story. It's just a standard "hero goes to rescue the princess" story; it's always been the gameplay, humor, and charm that enticed audiences rather than any sort of revolutionary story. Though the game's story might not be revolutionary, perhaps Mario himself is.
Unless you read the manuals, each game starts about the same: Mario is with Peach, and she gets captured by Bowser. This theory claims that Mario is a revolutionary who is obsessed with bringing down the regime of King Koopa. He even goes as far as to kill Bowser's minions in cold blood! He's not the hero. He's the real kidnapper, and the cut scenes of each game show Bowser rescuing his future queen from the violent freedom fighter.
6 Mario and his friends are just actors in a play
We kind of touched on this one with the Wario entry earlier. This fan theory proclaims that the events of all of the main Super Mario games never happened at all! Rather, Mario and company are just a group of actors who constantly hang out with each other outside of work. Why else would seemingly mortal enemies like Wario, Mario, and Bowser go to parties together or play tennis with each other?
Super Mario Bros. 3 gives us the most evidence for this theory. The game starts and ends with a stage curtain going up and down, and the end of very level sees Mario or Luigi walking "offstage" into a black background. Not to mention, the platforms in the background all appear to be screwed into the sky and the game has a general "cutout" aesthetic to it's levels.
5 Mario's brain is messed up from all his mushroom usage
Unlike so many of the other theories on this list, this one posits that the events of all the Mario games really happened. However, not necessarily in the same way the famed plumber actually experienced them. In the newest entry, Super Mario Odyssey, players are taken to New Donk City, a metropolitan area that has realistic-looking people and is run by Mario's former love, Pauline.
Fans were quick to point out that Mario's cartoonish design stuck out like a sore thumb around these more realistic human characters. But this theory claims that the hero himself actually looks just like the citizens of New Donk City. However, years of living in the Mushroom Kingdom (and mushroom usage) has messed with his brain so that he sees himself and his brother as over the top cartoons characters.
4 Luigi is dead
Poor Luigi. He's always playing second fiddle to his more popular brother. A popular internet Creepypasta claims that there was originally a level in Super Mario World that had Luigi going mad, trying to kill his brother, and then dying. Fans began to believe this even more when the next two games, Mario 64 and Mario Sunshine, came out without the character present.
Then came Luigi's Mansion, a game in which you play as Luigi wandering the halls of a haunted mansion looking for his brother. During one particular segment of the game, you go to the house's attic. A bolt of lightning flashes outside, and players can briefly see the shadow of Luigi hanging from the ceiling. Yikes. Did Luigi commit suicide during the SNES days and been stuck as a ghost until the galaxy was reborn in Super Mario Galaxy?
3 Princess Peach is a Genius Puppet Master
It seems like Princess Peach can't even go out on a walk in her garden without being kidnapped by Bowser and his goons, forcing Mario to come to her rescue. But wait... why does Bowser want to keep kidnapping her again? He already owns large portions of his own kingdom, and we are never really told what his end game is.
Is this because Princess Peach is really just a master of propaganda? Super Mario Bros. 3, Mario Party 2, the Mario Kart games, and Super Mario 64 all take place on a stage or are being recorded by a film crew. Likewise, later games in the franchise show Peach as somewhat prissy and stuck up, getting angry at Mario for seemingly trivial things. She seems like the person who would put on the face of innocents and then turn around and harshly slander her political opponents (aka King Koopa).
2 Mario is the only thing standing between Luigi and total world domination
In-universe, Luigi is considered somewhat of a joke. He's goofy and incompetent, yet always gets invited to Mario's adventures and recreational activities. Aside from Luigi's Mansion, Nintendo doesn't even trust the character enough to be a protagonist! But if Luigi is so terrible, why does Mario keep him around? Some may say it's brotherly love, but this theory takes it deeper...
Luigi is an unstoppable force of power, and Mario only keeps him around so he can act as a fail safe in case his brother gets out of control. In many of the Mario games we see hints at Luigi's true power; in the Paper Mario franchise we hear about (but don't see) his path of destruction as he goes on a side quest. He's also the only one who is strong enough to open a door into the Dream World in Superstar Saga.
1 Cranky Kong killed Mario and Luigi's Father
As confusing as it may be, the Donkey Kong we know from the Super Nintendo on is not the original Donkey Kong. In fact, the original character is long gone by the events of Donkey Kong Country. However, the elderly Cranky Kong has been confirmed to be the hero of Donkey Kong Jr. This means that he's the one who "killed" Jumpman at the end of the game.
This theory claims that Jumpman is not Mario, but rather his and Luigi's father. This would explain why he has a different girlfriend and name than our favorite plumber; Pauline is Mario's mother, not his ex-girlfriend. This would also give Mario a good reason to be the current Donkey Kong's rival. Wouldn't you hate the grandson of the man who killed your father?
Did these Super Mario theories ruin your childhood? Let us know in the comments!