Mario: The Ultimate Pop-culture Icon?

Maybe it’s just because I’m spending a lot of time on the Internet these days, or maybe it’s a generational thing, but there seems to be an awful lot of Mario around lately. My personal video game nadir may have been reached around 1995 , but that still gave me plenty of time to develop a strong appreciation for Mario, especially the brilliant Mario 3 (and, many years later, Mario 64 via emulator).

If I’m anything like the average internet user (and I suspect I may be, despite living in a bandwidth-disadvantaged country), the online proliferation of all things Mario makes sense. I have a strong sense of Mario as a pop-culture icon as much as an object of nostalgia, and, as a pop-culture icon, Mario checks several of the Internet’s favourite boxes. Geeky but not cheesy? Check. Retro but not outdated? Check? 8-bit? Check. Italian (America is currently obsessed with so-called “Guido” culture, thanks to an MTV reality show called Jersy Shore)? Check.

Also the Internet, as we all know,  is a series of tubes and Mario and tubes go together like two things that go together particularly well.

The Huffington Post have got a cool slideshow of Mario-inspired stuff from around the web. I like the graffiti of Mario popping out of a pipe, but my favourite piece of Mario-ness is the Mario-themed cake posted on EpicWinFTW.

For bonus points, check out the excellent documentary The King of Kong which  chronicles unemployed teacher Steve Wiebe’s quest to beat the world record Donkey Kong score, which, incidentally, was the first game to feature the character that became Mario. The film features a cast of characters so apt that it’s hard to believe they weren’t made up and is far more affecting than any film about a 29-year-old video game has any right to be.

Also, check out an article I did about Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto over at Geekery.


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