Mario. 
        This name has become synonymous with the video game medium, and its culture, as well. No other character has become as hallowed as the plumber. Video games, tv shows, and one...AWFUL movie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Mario_Bros._(film)) have all served to cement his legend, along with a colorful cast of Nintendo characters, most of which are seen in the short film above. 
        But one line from the short film caught my attention: "Luigi tells me that our leader is dead." Link says this while holding Mario's hat. Two things bug me about this line. First: goodness, that's violent. Who would want to kill Mario? Master Chief? Nathan Drake? Bill Gates? Come on, you can't tell me that they would, in cold blood, murder Mario, who never seems to frown or be in a bad mood, even when Peach is kidnapped over and over by Bowser. Geez, you'd think they'd have figured out she's a primary target by now.
        The second, and more important, reason that this line bugs me is more serious: even now, nearly thirty years after jumping through his first game (1985, he was actually called "Jumpman" at the time), Mario is still a formidable powerhouse in the industry. No matter how old the plumber gets, he never seems to grow a single gray hair or stumble in his attempts to entertain whatever generation of gamers comes next. Heck, he can even recycle old games and still bring joy to people around the world. The newest game, New Super Mario Bros. U, received unanimous critical acclaim and continued Mario's reign as the flagship franchise of Nintendo.
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The original Super Mario Bros. 1985
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New Super Mario Bros. U, 2012
        I was talking with a friend in my art class and she told me about how much she loved classic Nintendo 64 games, such as Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart, and Super Mario 64. It might just be me, but I'm seeing a trend there. Mario is in every single one of those! Not just that, but he's the poster boy for each one. The latter title is understandable. I mean, you name the game after him and tack on a 64 at the end, it would probably be good for sales if he was included in the content. But the former 2? 
        Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart proved something extraordinary to the entire world at the time. It proved that Mario could expand his horizons in a fun way, that would bring friends and family to enjoy time with the little plumber together. Mario doesn't always have to have major adventures battling Bowser all the time. He can compete in epic brawls, win (or lose) races, play baseball, basketball, olympic games, etc. No matter what he does, he is a juggernaut that can easily compete with the likes of Master Chief, Solid Snake, Cole MacGrath, Nathan Drake, and I can keep going. 
        So why is it that he can continue this run during a time where gamers are calling for character development, customizable stories, and always, ALWAYS, sick weapons? 
        Mario has a two things going for him that assist him in retaining his throne. The first is the most obvious: without Mario, video games would not exist. He started it all. Now, you can sit there and tell me about Pong in 1972 or Pac-Man in 1980, but had Mario not stepped in and stolen the hearts of gamers everywhere, games would have probably just remained in arcades, never being fully recognized as an expression of art. Gabe Newell, founder of Valve Corporation (Half-Life, Portal, Left 4 Dead), said in an interview that Super Mario 64 was his favorite game of all time. Going further, the developer said "I still have vivid memories of all the different levels...It convinced me that games were art." Nope, not Pong or Pac-Man. Super Mario convinced one of the best game developers of all time that an artistic value existed within video games. 
        The final thing is that Mario brings out the best in video games and vice versa. Video games are a great medium for socializing with friends, family and others. They bring people together in a way that books or movies can't. The ability to combine fun with visual entertainment and solid storytelling is unique to the medium. And no one provides us with that better than the Italian plumber. Every positive thing that has been said about video games, Mario exemplifies. The fact that problem solving in games can make people smarter; some of the best puzzles in the history of the industry exist within Super Mario Galaxy. Bringing people together? The Mario Party series has it all, but if that doesn't float your boat, you can try your hand at Mario Kart or Mario Super Sluggers. Moral lessons? You'll never see Mario working alone when trying to rescue Peach from Bowser. He's always got his friends with him, whether it be his brother Luigi, his buddy Toad, or his pet Yoshi; it doesn't make you any less of a hero when you work together.
        So, what's the point of all this? This is simply a tribute to a founding father of the industry. Mario shows no signs of slowing down, despite his age. The timeless nature of the series will forever be a symbol of pride for the gaming industry. As Luigi said in the video, "This is still our world." And no matter what excitement Halo, Mass Effect, Uncharted, or Infamous has in store for us next, we can always count on Mario jumping his way there.
 


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    Ben

    @BennyBoJames (Twitter, Xbox Live)