Mario is the best-selling video game franchise of all time, with almost 600 million games sold (almost twice as many as the next franchise, Pokemon, with 340 million). It’s also the fourth-longest running game franchise, with Mario’s first appearance coming over 38 years ago, on July 9, 1981, in Donkey Kong.
In those 38 years, many fan theories have sprouted up—seemingly out of nowhere—and with the new digital age, they’ve just become more and more frequent. And weirder. But creator Shigeru Miyamoto has actually taken time to confirm and deny certain fan theories, while others he won’t even touch with a 10-foot pole.
Many of the theories try to paint Mario games as much darker, complicated worlds than they appear on the surface. Here we discuss 15 popular theories that seem so strange they shouldn’t be true, but many of them are.
15 Mario Is Just An Actor In A Stage Play
In 2015, this age-old conspiracy theory was actually confirmed by Mario creator, Shigeru Miyamoto. The theory goes like this: Super Mario Bros. 3 is a stage play, complete with a rising curtain at the beginning and shadows on the backdrop. In the stages, the blocks are bolted to the ground, platforms hang from unseen roofs, and the skyline is shadowed. At the end of each level, you exit stage right (end of the set). SMB3 never actually happened!
14 Princess Peach Is Bowser Jr.’s Mother
This tidbit lends itself to many more theories. Little Bowser Jr.’s maternity is a mystery, even though Peach seems like the most likely candidate. In Super Mario Sunshine, Bowser Jr. himself claims that his mother is Princess Peach—shocking the princess. Who would have told Junior this? It could’ve only been Bowser himself, who then claimed that the “evil” Mario stole Junior’s mother.
13 Mario Hits Bricks With His Fists, Not His Head
This was another fan theory that was confirmed by Miyamoto in the same video as the entry above. Contrary to popular belief, Mario does not break bricks with his head, and the misconception likely comes from the visual infidelity of 8-bit graphics from the NES era. When Mario breaks bricks, he punches them with his fist, and Miyamoto visualized how it happens.
12 The Third Brother
Many people believe that there is not only the third brother in the Mario games, but we already know who he is: Doctor Mario! The Reddit user who introduced this theory pointed out specifics from Super Smash Bros.: Dr. Mario is like Mario, but not exactly. His hair is a lighter color of auburn, he’s less athletic than Mario, and how could Mario be a plumber and a doctor at the same time, unless they were different people?
11 Underneath The Shy Guy Mask
There are many theories about what’s underneath the Shy Guys’ masks. One of the most popular is that there is nothing under the mask—the fact that the Shy Guy is able to change his mask with his facial expressions in Mario Strikers Charged seems to confirm this. Another is that they are deformed creatures under the mask, as evidenced in Mario Power Tennis, where if you beat the Shy Guy, he trips in front of Luigi and his mask falls off. Luigi sees the face and falls to the ground because he’s so shocked! In Luigi’s Mansion, the masks on the Shy Guy ghosts can be removed, and they have black faces with glowing eyes.
10 The Reason For Luigi’s Cowardice
Many theories believe that Luigi is inseparable from Mario because his red-wearing brother keeps his unending strength in check. This theory, though, explains why Luigi always plays second fiddle to Mario, and it’s a dark reason: because he suffers from PTSD. If you remember Yoshi’s Island, Baby Luigi was stolen, while Mario escaped and has to rescue his brother. Luigi spends the majority of the game trapped in a dungeon, as a baby, and who knows what horrors he was subjected to!
9 The Mario Universe Is Home To Demons
In Mario Galaxy II, there is a part where, if you turn your POV at precisely the right moment, you can catch a glimpse of mysterious, shadowy people in the distance. These figures on the horizon were first thought to be trees. You can’t access this area of the game, and someone examined the game data and found the texture for this level called “BeyondHellValley,” with the figures called "HellValleySkyTree." There is no “Hell Valley” in the game. One reasonable explanation is that these shadow demons are native residents of space watching Mario destroy their planet.
8 Wario Is A Mario Fanboy
Wario seems crazy, but he’s really just totally admires Mario. Rather than hating Mario, he utterly respects him, as this theory goes. Wario’s outfit is the superfan equivalent of Mario’s, with overalls, white gloves, a mustache, and a bit more paunch. In Super Mario Land 2, Wario lives in a castle with a statue of Mario in front. It’s revealed that this used to be Mario’s own castle, but why would Wario keep the statue there if it wasn’t out of admiration?
7 Peach The Dictator
Many of the Mario theories get pretty dark pretty quick, just like this one. Reddit users have pointed out that Princess Peach is the puppetmaster, and Mario is the puppet. We assume that Peach is telling us the truth of her kidnapping, but what if she uses the Mario games as propaganda, to make Bowser look like the villain? Gamers are never shown Bowser’s point of view, and therefore they aren’t given a complete picture of the Mushroom Kingdom.
6 Harvester Of Souls
Another pretty dark theory goes like this: The instruction manual for Super Mario Bros. 1 states that the inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom were turned into bricks. These are the same bricks Mario smashes on his journey—so why is he killing Mushroom residents? And if the bricks are their bodies, then the coins might be their souls, which Mario is harvesting for his own profit. This theory also plays into the “Mario is the villain” idea.
5 The Legend Of Peach
Another farfetched but possible theory is that the Mario games are really retellings of the Zelda games, but with a murkier story as time went by. The Zelda games follow the same template as Mario games, but with variations. As centuries passed, the story of Zelda was warped into what we know as Mario, with Link becoming Mario, Zelda becoming Peach, Ganon becoming Bowser, and Hyrule became the Mushroom Kingdom. Also, the eight worlds in Super Mario could represent the eight temples in The Legend of Zelda.
4 Princess Peach Was Only Taken Once
We already know that Super Mario Bros. 3 was a stage performance. This theory tries to explain why each game has the same exact plot, basically, but with embellishments—it’s because the original game was the only time Bowser took Peach “in real life.” A Reddit user explains that SMB 2 is a dream sequence, SMB 3 is a play (which we know is true), retelling the events of Super Mario Bros. 1.
3 Mario Only Went To The Mushroom Kingdom Once
The entry above leads to this final theory, that since Super Mario Bros. 1 was the only “real” game of the series, and all of the others were plays, reenactments, and dreams of Mario reliving his glory days, Mario only went to the Mushroom Kingdom once, to rescue Peach. This was all an attempt to spin grander tales and milk his fame—it’s been said Mario is super famous and everyone who meets him is star-struck—for all it’s worth.
2 Mario Is The Real Villain
That brings us to another common theory, that Bowser is not the bad guy here, but Mario actually is. After all, history is written by the winners, and we only ever see Mario’s perspective of things. He makes himself look like the hero, but really, he’s going around killing Bowser’s subjects and citizens, and if Peach really was Bowser Jr.’s mother, than Mario stole the little one’s mom, too, and left Bowser to raise him alone. Has Mario twisted everything to suit his own agenda? It’s possible.
1 Mario Is Named After A Real Person
Miyamoto confirmed this theory in a short Twitter video in 2018, right before the release of Super Mario Maker. Mario is named after Mario Segale, who was the landlord of Nintendo’s American branch in the early ‘80s. The story goes that when the American branch was coming up with the name for the character, who was then known as Jumpman, Mario Segale stormed in and demanded his money.
References: mashable.com, reddit.com, fantheories.fandom.com, aminoapps.com