Mario & Bowser: Maybe We’ve Been Lied To

Spoiler Warning: This post does contain some plot spoilers of Super Mario Odyssey… you have been warned! … it’s also pretty silly…

My brain began turning last week after I posted a pretty off-hand Tweet about Mario’s behaviour in ‘Super Mario Odyssey’. It was only after that I started to question what I’d been shown in game and how a few choice camera cuts could have been used to paint a very different picture of the whole series of events. The conundrum raised is, “Is he really the good-guy?… and by extension, is Bowser really so bad?

Firstly, what do we really know about Mario? At this point all we’re sure of is that he might once have been a plumber, but even Nintendo are backtracking on him having held down a stable job for any length of time. Aside from his karting career and competing with a certain blue hedgehog every few years at the Olympics, what does he really have going on other than periodically rescuing Peach? I’m not suggesting that he was never the ‘good guy’; In those early games everything’s clear cut: the enemies are out to get Mario, Bowser breathes fire, levels need completing. In Odyssey however there are many more hues in the spectrum; I’ve found myself cautiously approaching figures in the multitude of landscapes because there’s at least a 50% chance that they’re not out to hurt Mario and, even when they are, it often seems pretty coincidental. Take the caterpillars (Tropical Wigglers) on the forgotten isle, are they inherently bad, or are they just doing what they do? stretching and wiggling, and if so, should it really be assumed that they’re somehow out to ‘get’ Mario? If I danced around in front of a lion I don’t think anyone would blame the lion’s moral compass if I were bitten.

… maybe time has jaded Mario; the changing landscape of gaming has left him obsessed with the concept of ‘rescuing’ the princess disregarding all else. As Harvey Dent once said “Either you die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”….

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Look at that face… drunk with power… 

So are there other warning signs in Odyssey that raise questions about Mario’s behaviour, revealing shaky morals and unsavoury practices? First and foremost is his obsession with the power moons; the lengths he will go to for these items is often unsettling when examined in the cold light of day. We know from his time in New Donk City that the moons themselves are a valuable commodity, prised for their energy supplying capability and yet at no point does he attempt to purchase or legitimately trade for these rare artefacts. On the contrary, he seems content to trespass on private property and vandalise any combination of brick construction or ancient monuments to feed his power moon habit. At some point in each world Mario deceives some poor guardian of a locked door through the clever application of a disguise to gain entry of a restricted area… and steal every single coin or moon in there … This goes way beyond the petty pilfering that Link is responsible for in the Zelda series. I was shocked in one instance to see Mario deviously sneak into the back of a shop, the very shop that had helped him legitimately buy a spiffing new hat, and steal the power moon floating right behind the shop-assistant’s back.

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Poor little guy… used and left to dry out in the hot sun…

Of course, the most sinister of Mario’s recent behaviour is his ability to possess anything he wishes that hasn’t taken the forethought to wear a protective hat… I don’t think possessing another being’s body can ever be portrayed in a positive light… Once in control of them, Mario is free, not only use their abilities, but to push them beyond their physical capabilities before discarding their body. The octopi in the Seaside kingdom are often tragic victims of this; Mario takes them out of the sea, depletes their protective water bubble and leaves them withered and dry once he’s achieved his own agenda. He also likes to toy with the hearts of vulnerable ‘pink goombas’ often seen standing high on ledges. He possesses a potential mate and makes advances on the unsuspecting victim before a brief romantic liaison, all for the purpose of relieving them of a power moon; that’s a pretty low scheme even for a master con-artist.

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Right there, she could just jump off and float to the ground if she were really a captive… 

So whilst Mario is thieving, conning, and generally rampaging through worlds, what’s Bowser up to? In the opening scene we join the action with Bowser’s ship hovering above the princess’s castle; him and Mario locked in combat. Meanwhile Peach looks on, unrestrained, un-ruffled, and the player is expected to believe that she has been kidnapped. A quick look back into the pages of history would highlight that in SMB2 (Mario US) Peach is quite capable of using her distinctive pink dress to float gracefully to the ground, so why isn’t she taking the opportunity to hop off the ship and lock herself back in the castle? She’s also shown willingly holding a bunch of Piranha plants gifted to her by that hopeless romantic Bowser; is it that far fetched to imagine that she and Bowser are actually intended to be wed and it’s Mario who’s crashing the party? Is it possible that over the years Peach has learned to love Bowser’s strength and gentle nature? After all he is a massive dragon creature who just can’t bring himself to destroy that red-clad chap who once did some plumbing for him and is now besotted with his fiance.

… also, I’m not versed in the intricacies of mushroom kingdom law, but if it’s anything like the UK then both Bowser & Peach would need to be individually interviewed by the registrar and answer basic questions about their intended before a marriage license could be issued to ensure that the wedding is legitimate and neither party is being coerced…

So how is this situation resolved? How does the all powerful Bowser choose to rid their matrimonial vehicle of Mario? By throwing a hat… One more act of mercy from a being that could easily have unleashed fire and destruction in anger. Knocking Mario off the ship using a hat is arguably the least aggressive way Bowser could have chosen to resolve the situation given that Mario had already resorted to physical violence.

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They actually look really happy… 

Likewise, following the opening scene, Princess at his side, are Bowser’s actions really those of a tyrant? He proceeds through the world gathering the very best items for their dream wedding; he wants the best dress for his bride and the best food for the guests, and travels the globe to make that happen. Finally, when Mario catches up with the wedding party we find that he’s organised the wedding on the moon! That celestial body with all it’s associated romantic sentimentality is objectively one of the most thoughtful places any groom could take his bride for a truly unforgettable wedding… but, the unwelcome guest that he is, Mario bursts in through the doors to find a varied congregation (none of whom appear to be under duress) watching the happy moment unfold, right before he blunders forward and ruins the day…

The point is, don’t be fooled by some shrill Save-Me-Mario’s dubbed over the footage; that’s just pro-Mario propaganda and doesn’t tell the whole story…

The preceding article is a work of fiction and I am in no way questioning Mario’s virtuous nature… And that’s not just because I might find myself clad in a red cap and mustache strolling serenely off a cliff if I do…

8 thoughts on “Mario & Bowser: Maybe We’ve Been Lied To

  1. Interesting theory and one I have no problem agreeing with. Given Bowser’s background in other Mario games, such as Paper Mario and RPG, he’s really not that much of a bad guy. He’s actually pretty funny. Have you watched The Game Theory on YouTube? He did a theory about how Peach doesn’t mind being kidnapped and it made sense to me. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This gave me a good chuckle, especially the part about Peach not looking put out by the whole “kidnapping” thing. I can even imagine Mario putting on a terrible Mexican accent while wearing the sombrero outfit. Disgraceful.

    Liked by 1 person

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