For a generation of Americans, Super Mario Bros. is a special video game. It was designed for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and released in the middle of the 1980s, and it signaled a new phase in video games. Prior to that there had been, in the United States, the Atari 2600 and the Magnavox Odyssey 2 battling head-to-head; then the Mattel Intellivision which was a step forward; then the Colecovision and the Atari 5200. The next advancement included the early Sega systems, but it was dominated by the NES, and the NES was defined by Super Mario Bros.
Its popularity is undeniable. What is not explained, however, is the desire for people to see it displayed live.
Pac-man was popular, as was Centipede, and Dragon’s Lair, and Space Invaders, and Q-bert. While most of those games were adapted for cartoons, comics and books, there has been no clamor for live adaptations. Not so with Super Mario Bros. Unfortunately, there really isn’t very much story to the original game. Mario and Luigi run or swim through a scrolling landscape, going to castle after castle and fighting turtle-ish boss monster after turtle-ish boss monster until they finally rescue the princess.
From that threadbare “story”, a television show was spawned. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show was produced in 1989, starring Lou Albano, a wrestler whose fame had been significantly heightened by appearing in Cyndi Lauper videos. It featured a mix of live-action and animated stories inspired by the characters from Super Mario Bros. (and, by that time, Super Mario Bros. 2)
That lasted 65 episodes. That would seem to be all of the live-action Super Mario Bros. anyone could possibly handle. But, somehow, it wasn’t.
In 1993, a studio decided that a feature-length movie was needed. This time, it starred Bob Hoskins, a respected veteran actor who had skillfully handled strange material as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The person playing Mario’s brother Luigi was, of course, the similarly-aged veteran actor of Italian descent John Leguizamo.
For those who are curious and have the desire to kill two hours of their life, the movie:
All of this may leave people wondering if, in fact, it is possible to do a good live action video game, if the game was from the era before plots and stories were standard. I maintain it absolutely is, but the efforts should probably be scaled to what was actually playable. To that end, I present the third, final, and most faithful clip of live action Super Mario Bros… the Gordon College talent show.
Question of the night: what’s your favorite adaptation of game (board game, RPG, video game or other) into live-action?