Mario made the jump to full 3D rendering with Super Mario 64. This entry into Mario's history didn't offer the same linear feel that previous installments had, but it did bring new graphics and a couple of new abilities for the pudgy plumber. For example, now Mario could do a triple jump attack and punch. These little additions to him rekindled the fires of adoration for Mario and crew. Again, the story involved Princess Toadstool, now called Princess Peach, being kidnapped by Bowser and Mario, once again, coming to her rescue. This would be the 64's only true Mario adventure, and it would be a while before Mario would return in his own adventure.
He did, however, pop up in a cameo role for his brother's first solo adventure called Luigi's Mansion for the GameCube. Then, shortly after being rescued by Luigi, Mario popped up in his own adventure titled Super Mario Sunshine. Arguably, the most thought out storyline in all of Mario's adventures, the story revolved around Mario being framed for a crime he didn't commit. Eventually, Princess Peach is kidnapped and it is up to Mario to not only clear his name, but to rescue his favorite damsel in distress. The twists and turns thrown at the player added a deeper sense of intrigue to the title. I can't give away the ending just in case you haven't played through it, but I can tell you that it is definitely worth the play-through.
Mario games haven't always been about saving the princess. In fact, Mario had several games that have further implemented his super stardom. Paper Mario has become as popular in gamers' hearts as the typical Mario adventure games. With its simplistic graphics and complex gameplay, this series has already sprouted a sequel for the Wii called Super Paper Mario. Other titles carrying the Mario crew have also found their way into the homes of gamers of all ages. Mario Kart, Mario Party, and the Mario sports games; heck, there is even a Dance Dance Revolution game centered around the Mario characters. Unfortunately, when you start to spread yourself too thin, you begin to slip in the guaranteed hit department, as was the growing case with a few of the sports related games. This is not to say those games were not genuinely entertaining; instead, a few of them felt rushed and, therefore, lost the interest of gamers rather quickly.
Mario and crew also had a few brief moments of success outside of video games, most notably, the Super Mario Bros. Super Show. The show mixed both live action and animation. To some, the animation was dated the first time it aired, but that didn't matter, it was Mario on the television in a way we had not seen him. To this day, any damage that the show might have caused with its inaccuracies and misrepresentations of the characters, the Super Mario Bros. movie surpasses the show tenfold. With Bob Hoskins and John Lequizamo as Mario and Luigi and Dennis Hopper as King Koopa, the movie didn't have a chance from the start.
Despite his misfortune outside of video games, Super Mario Galaxy is looming for sometime in 2007 and it should come as no surprise that Mario's star has never shined brighter. Already one of the most recognizable video game characters of all time, it is no wonder that everyone wants to be a plumber just like Mario. His history has been a long journey for any character to trek, and with no signs of ending his adventures anytime soon, we can expect Mario to continue to capture our imaginations, as well as our dollars, for many years to come. Who knows, maybe one day we might find out why his name is Mario Mario. Until then, dive into the Mushroom Kingdom, save the princess, and defeat Bowser once more, you'll be glad you did.
CCC Freelance Writer