When Super Mario Bros. was released in 1985, it took the two Italian plumbers to the Mushroom Kingdom, a place much different from their home in New York. This was not the brothers' first adventure. Mario (known as Jumpman before making a move to the States), started his heroic career fighting off a giant ape in the popular arcade, Donkey Kong. Then he joined his brother, Luigi, as they cleaned up the sewers of the Big Apple in Mario Bros.
Mario Bros. was not a big success, so Nintendo decided not only to move their mascot to home consoles, but to a magical kingdom where anything seemed possible.
The Mushroom Kingdom has served as the battleground for most of Mario’s adventures and over the years, players have spent countless hours trying to discover its secrets. Some of these secrets are the creation of clever developers while others are the result of game creators accidentally fudging up some code.
Here are 15 Secrets Hidden In The Mushroom Kingdom.
15 Unlimited Lives - Super Mario Bros.
One of the more well-known secrets in the series is also one of the trickiest to pull off. In World 3-1, while approaching the flagpole towards the end of the level, if you land just right on one of the Koopas coming down the stairs, you can use him like a trampoline and be on your way to immortality. Well, not quite immortality, but you’ll receive enough lives to guarantee even the worst Mario player can make it to the end.
The secret is to land repeatedly on the shell without hitting the ground. As you rack up points, you’ll eventually hit the threshold where you’ll begin to collect 1-ups with every successful bop on the head. From there, just sit back and hippity-hop till your heart’s content, or at least until you run out of time. But don’t worry, one life is a small price to pay for a possible 128 lives.
14 Luigi’s Diary - Paper Mario
Face it, Luigi has always been the underappreciated Mario Brother. You would think Mario would make some time for family, particularly the guy who has accompanied Mario on so many of his adventures. But it turns out that Luigi sometimes gets the cold shoulder from his own brother.
This continual lack of acknowledgment can begin to take its toll on a person. Unfortunately, the Mushroom Kingdom doesn’t seem like the kind of place that provides access to adequate counseling services. Holding in your emotions deep inside is never a good idea, so it’s no surprise that when Luigi needs an outlet for his pent up feelings, he turns to writing as a means of therapy.
If you enter the Mario Bros. house in Paper Mario you’ll see an odd tile in their bedroom. Ground pound the tile and you’ll find Luigi’s secret hideout, where he keeps a diary full of dark secrets.
13 Link and Samus Sleeping - Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Nintendo crossovers are pretty common in games like Mario Kart 8 and the Smash Bros. titles. It often makes you wonder exactly how connected are these worlds? It’s been long known that Cranky Kong was the original Donkey Kong, but does that mean Donkey Kong Island is across the pond from the Mushroom Kingdom?
Paper Mario is another game that plays with the idea that these worlds are closer than we might believe. In this Mario-themed RPG title, two of Nintendo’s most popular characters can be found crashing in the Mushroom Kingdom for a little bit of R & R.
The Legend of Zelda’s eternal hero, Link, is catching some Zs at the inn in Rose Town. But that’s not all. Nintendo’s most dangerous bounty hunter, Samus Aran, can also be found taking some well-needed rest before heading out amongst the stars to take on Mother Brain. Samus can be found in Mushroom Kingdom’s Castle.
12 Fat Penguin - Mario 64
On Cool, Cool Mountain in Mario 64, Mario must race a penguin down an icy slope in the level entitled “Big Penguin Race." Beating the penguin will award you a star and bring you one step closer to achieving that 120th star.
But if you found the penguin to be less than a match the first time around, there is a way to take him on again where he will provide you with a much “bigger” challenge this time around.
If you decide to go back to Big Penguin Race after beating the game, you’ll find your friend right where you left him, except this time he admits he’s been hitting the ol’ fish market a few too many times. But just because this penguin has packed on a few more pounds doesn’t necessarily mean he’s lacking athleticism. Race this portly penguin and he shows that he’s twice as fast as he was when you first took him on.
11 The Bricks Are People - Super Mario Bros.
Not everyone knows this, but the Mushroom Kingdom actually hides a dark secret hidden in its backstory. The play mechanics of most side-scrolling Mario titles are relatively the same. Jump through levels of the Mushroom Kingdom while smashing bricks and blocks along the way in hopes of gaining power-ups. But have you ever asked why the Mushroom Kingdom is packed full of random brick structures that seemingly have no practical reason for being there?
According to page four of the instruction manual for the original 1985 title, the story goes like this:
“One day the kingdom of the peaceful mushroom people was invaded by the Koopa, a tribe of turtles famous for their black magic. The quiet, peace-loving Mushroom People were turned into mere stones, bricks and even field horsehair plants, and the Mushroom Kingdom fell into ruin.”
So, does this mean every time you go searching for coins and mushrooms, you’re actually smashing an unlucky Toad to pieces?
10 Legend of Stafy - Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga
Stafy is not an incredibly popular character west of the Atlantic, but in Japan, Densetsu no Stafy is a hit platformer series starring an adorable little star who swims around the ocean. The game is actually developed by a company called Tose, that shares the rights to the character with Nintendo. Although the series is not well-known to Western gamers, the fifth game in the series did make its way across the hemisphere in 2009 and was entitled The Legendary Starfy.
You can get a glimpse of Stafy while playing through Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga. When visiting Yoshi Theater, you can see four posters are hanging on the wall. The first three are pretty recognizable to most Nintendo fans. Showing Kirby, Wario, and the titular brothers themselves envisioned as movie titles. But the fourth poster, entitled “The Legend of Starfy”, shows the five-pointed little guy in his own biopic.
9 Waluigi costume - Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Most of Nintendo’s characters are recognizable even to non-gamers. A lot of this has to do with the iconic costumes that define them. Link has his green tunic and pointy hat, Samus Aran has her Chozo Powersuit, and Mario must have an entire closet of red hats and overalls.
This doesn’t mean that Mario doesn’t like to change it up sometimes. Games like Doctor Mario have the plumber donning a lab coat. Also, don’t forget Mario’s night gig as a boxing referee.
In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, the W and L emblems change things up for Mario a bit. Equip the L emblem and Mario will mimic his brother by wearing his green color pattern. The W emblem changes Mario’s clothes so he looks like his nemesis, Wario. What you might not know is that if you equip both emblems at the same time, you’ll take on the pattern of Wario’s lanky brother, Waluigi.
8 Hidden Rupee - Super Mario Galaxy
The Mario franchise has always been Nintendo’s flagship series, but if you took a poll as to the second most popular, The Legend of Zelda would most likely take the silver.
Just as a Fire Flower is a symbol that is instantly recognizable to fans, something as seemingly minor as the Zelda games’ main source of credit, the Rupee, can cause players to get excited. Symbols like this are just aching to be made into an Easter egg.
One such instance can be found in Super Mario Galaxy. If you head over to the Rolling Gizmo Galaxy level, you can get a glimpse of a rupee floating amongst the clouds. At the beginning of the stage, resist the urge to jump on the plastic ball and walk your way towards the large wall, just before the blue-checkered floating island. If you hop on top of the wall and look down, you see a group of star pieces in the shape of the Hylian currency.
7 King’s Secret Message - Super Mario Bros.
Some of you may remember 1989’s The Wizard, a film starring Fred Savage and Christian Slater that secretly turned out to be an hour and forty minute commercial for Nintendo. In the final scene, Fred Savage’s character finally gets his brother to the Video Armageddon competition and audiences got one of their first glimpses of Super Mario Bros. 3. The film also gave away one of the game’s secrets, a warp whistle hiding in the Fortress in World 1.
But the movie didn’t give away all of the game’s secrets.
When you beat a world after finally conquering one of Bowser’s dysfunctional Koopa Kids, the King of that world will thank you for your troubles. But if you manage to get your hands on one of Mario’s rarer costumes like the Frog, Hammer Bros., or Tanooki and beat the airship, you’ll find that the King will get a bit confused and offer you a different congratulatory message.
6 Bob-Omb of Shame Ending - Mario Kart 64
There are winners and losers in life, and then there are the people in the middle. The ones who are good enough, but never quite great. The ones with a modicum of talent, but are always short of achieving the gold. Mario Kart 64 really tried to capture the absolute heartache that comes with having the taste of victory right at arm’s length only to have it torn from your grip as you watch on helplessly as your dreams taunt you from afar.
If you managed to place 4th overall you are “awarded” a secret ending with an explosive finale. As your racer looks on as the circuit victors are celebrated with a Star Wars-like ceremony, you get to watch your racer look on in defeat as the rest are awarded the Mushroom Kingdom’s highest racing honor. As if this wasn’t bad enough, eventually your racer decides to ride off into that lonely horizon of failure only to meet a Bob-Omb who simply can’t stand the idea of one more loser populating the world.
5 Zelda Chime - Super Mario 3D Land
Just as Nintendo’s costumes and symbols are instantly recognizable to fans, there's also the company’s stable of sounds that have made a huge impression on our childhoods. This is not always a good thin, however. Some of you out there probably even have that one friend who thought it would be original to add Mario coin sound as their text alert. Some of you are that friend. Sure, it’s all nostalgic fun at first, but after the 10,000th time, the fond memories begin to take a toll on your psyche.
In World 5-2 in Super Mario 3D Land, you can hear a common Legend of Zelda jingle by performing an all too familiar task. In the level which looks very much like a run-of-the-mill Zelda labyrinth from the series top-view days, Mario will come across a room with four torches and a locked gate. As Fire Mario, light all four torches and the gate will open, but not before playing the discovery chime every Legend of Zelda fan has heard more than once.
4 Zelda Easter Egg Returns - Super Mario 3D World
The Legend of Zelda references don’t stop with Super Mario 3D Land.
In the Wii U sequel, Super Mario 3D World, there is another Zelda Easter egg to discover, and this time they really decided to make it a fitting homage to the popular Nintendo series.
You can find the secret in Star World-1 level entitled “Rainbow Run”. About halfway through the stage, you’ll come to a giant door with two lanterns on either side of it. If you’re familiar with the secret in Mario 3D Land (or really any Zelda game for that matter) you probably know exactly what to do here. Simply light the torches with your fire power (there’s a hidden Fire Flower right next to the door) and the door will open to a cloud that fire you high in the sky.
You’ll land on a giant platform which is actually an 8-bit sprite of Link from The Legend of Zelda. If you manage to complete the level, you’ll not only get a star but also get to hear a Zelda overworld remix!
3 Totaka’s Song - Mario Kart 8
Totaka’s song has become one of the most elusive secrets for die-hard Nintendo fans. The song was composed by Kazumi Totaka and is a running theme in some of your favorite Nintendo games, although you might not have even known it was there. The song is probably most recognizable as one of the requests you can ask K.K. Slider to play in the Animal Crossing series. But you might be surprised to know the song has appeared in a number Nintendo games over the years. The song is often difficult to find, requiring players to meet odd conditions just to hear the jingle. Some examples of where you can find the song are in Mario Paint, Luigi’s Mansion, and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.
Totaka’s song can also be found in Mario Kart 8. It’s a little difficult to make out unless you turn the background music to off, but one of the Yoshis on the sidelines can be heard humming it.
2 The Minus World - Super Mario Bros.
The Minus World might arguably be the most popular glitch in all of video games. The level could be reached from World 1-2. By smashing a few bricks toward the end, you could actually get Mario to phase through the pipe that leads to the end of the level. Behind the pipe were warps that normally led to later levels, but if you entered one through this method, you’d reach an entirely different area.
Players who managed to make it here were rewarded with a watery purgatory from which there was no escape. This aquatic limbo has no end, you simply swim until you run out of lives or do the smart thing and say, “Well, this is what this is like,” and reset the game.
The glitch is still fondly looked back upon, even by Nintendo. In Super Paper Mario, The Underwhere is lovingly referred to as World -1 by its inhabitants.
1 Tiny-Huge Island’s 192nd Coin - Super Mario 64
As popular as the Minus World is, this next secret has recently become one of the biggest discoveries to ever be found in a Mario game. What makes this secret so amazing is that it actually took 18 years to finally be solved.
In 2002, a Gamefaqs user accidently discovered that there was an unreachable coin in the level entitled Tiny-Huge Island. For years, die-hard Mario completists tried desperately to collect it. It wasn’t until 2014 until someone on Youtube finally showed a way to reach the coin, but it took a bit of cheating to discover its whereabouts. By using a program that allowed him to jump at just the right time, he details how he finally managed to obtain the coin, 18 years after Super Mario 64 was released in 1996.
Surely now that the coin has been discovered, players can finally move on to a more modern Mario title. People are saying good things about Super Mario Sunshine.
Do you have any Mushroom Kingdom secrets to contribute? Drop them in the comments!