Today is March 10, aka Mar10 Day, the birthday of Mario’s first mustache. It’s an annual day of celebration of all things Mario, and something we take incredibly seriously here at Paste. When we pay tribute to Mario, we really mean it, and so instead of cranking out another list of his best games or stages or outfits we’re going to focus on something serious: death. It’s a constant in our world and also in Mario’s, with the little guy meeting his grisly end countless times over the last four decades. In honor of all of his sacrifice, here are 15 times when we totally thought Mario was done for.
The first time we ever played a Mario game was in a Zayre in Hartford. It seemed like a pleasant little jaunt until the Mud Man first appeared. How could Mario compete against a man-sized ball of mud with a beak and bad guy eyes? Clearly Mario was done for.
There’s no way Mario, a normal, everyday, hard-working joe, could get down from such great heights without either assistance or risking grievous bodily harm—up to and including death. By all rights the game should have ended right here, with Mario impossibly stuck up on high.
It’s like he was trying to break his neck, or, at best, give himself a concussion. Bricks are for building and/or throwing, not for jumping headfirst into at full speed. That brain damage is probably why Mario keeps seeing walking mud balls and giant turtles.
A mushroom this large would clearly pulverize a man of Mario’s modest size into dust—and if he somehow tried to eat his way through it it would most likely poison him. You shouldn’t eat random mushrooms, especially ones that are bigger than you, especially ones that pop up out of a brick.
I don’t know what’s worse: hitting a brick with your head, or hitting a brick with your head with enough force to make it erupt into smaller pieces. Either way Mario’s done ‘em both—and both times somehow survived.
Okay, this has to be the worst form of brick-related head trauma Mario endures. Not only does the brick not break, but it bounces down back upon Mario’s head a bit, and then pays Mario for his trouble. A curious, if courteous, brick.
Mario shouldn’t eat mysterious mushrooms, but he especially shouldn’t eat mysterious green mushrooms. As we all know, green is the poison color, and this mushroom clearly has evil in its heart for Mario.
Mario is a man, and holes kill men. Up to this point there was no indication that Mario was capable of transcending the challenges and complications posed by holes, so it was common sense to think this hole would kill Mario.
Mud Men can’t fly. They’re ground guys. They’re of the dirt and the mud. How’d they get up so high? Who is helping them? Clearly they didn’t climb upon those bricks themselves. They’ve had help. Who is helping the Mud Men try to kill Mario?
Mario doesn’t take Charon’s ferry to the land of the dead: he takes a sewage pipe. Mario’s first plummet into the Underworld should have been fatal—how could this humble plumber survive such a deep fall into darkness? Somehow he survives, and actually makes a few cents during his Stygian stay. Did he steal these coins from the mouths of the freshly dead? Mario’s never said.
Turtles are a symbol of wisdom and experience. Not in Mario’s world: this giant turtle is a harbinger of death—of Mario’s death. Imagine a human-sized turtle shuffling its way towards you; you’d probably be frozen in fright. Mario is no different.
Somehow violence doesn’t resolve the giant turtle problem: it merely turns the turtle in a far faster projectile, one that can rebound off almost any surface and change direction on a dime. The giant turtle is a formidable foe, and its rubber-like shell is its secret weapon. How does Mario stand a chance?
Standing high atop this weird world’s version of Mt. Everest, Mario had no hope of survival. His only option was to return from whence he came, which was no option at all, since he’s incapable of moving any further left than the screen lets him. Mario was fated to live the rest of his short life on this barren, blasted cliff, gazing down upon the ground that would immediately end him if he tried to jump. Future climbers of this peak would no doubt see his preserved corpse as a warning of what can go wrong when one does not treat the mountain with the proper respect.
No, that fate wouldn’t do for Mario. Instead of waiting for death to free him from that mountain, he instead leapt off its crest and into the arms of oblivion. The goal was to clearly impale himself upon a flagpole below, accepting an immediate fatal blow and avoiding the pain and misery of shattering his body upon the cold, hard ground. I don’t think any one of us could blame him for this decision. Given the circumstances, it actually stands as a testament to Mario’s bravery and indomitable spirit.
There’s no way that’s healthy. Mario must have gotten severe skin damage from this prolonged slide, on top of whatever kind of internal injuries he no doubt incurred when he hit the flagpole with that running leap. His ribs shattered, his organs turned to jelly, his skin inflicted with the most heinous case of flagpole burn ever seen, Mario almost definitely did not survive this fateful slide straight into the waiting embrace of the Reaper himself.
Happy Mar10 Day, old friend; it’s sad to see you go, again and again.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, music, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.