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Ask GR Anything: How many games has Mario been in?

Ask GR Anything is a weekly Q&A column that answers questions submitted by readers (as well as questions we're particularly curious about ourselves). Got a burning question about games or the industry? Ask us in the comments below and you may just get it answered!

The biggest franchises in the video game world have become a ridiculous mess of installments. While film’s greatest franchises tend to keep it simple (e.g. there are three Godfather movies, that's it. No cameos, no spinoffs, no confusion), video game companies love to exploit the hell out of their franchises and characters. In some cases, as many as 30 years have gone by for these franchises, and their list of installments has twisted and expanded beyond reason. Even die-hard fans can have trouble keeping their favorite series straight.

Above: Even Mario has problems keeping track

So we decided to take a few of the most popular series in the gaming world, and break them down into a shape where they're a little bit easier to understand. We're not going to list every single game, since this page would be about three and a half miles long (and you'd be so bored by the middle of the first section that you wouldn't read it anyway). However, we hope this helps clear up some of the confusion.

A quick note, however: these counts include many games that were not released in North America. Why bother noting that? Because the Japanese cell phone industry has been raging for years, pumping out tons of new iterations. And also because there are quite a few titles that barely made it out Nintendo's front door, let alone across the Pacific Ocean.

Final Fantasy: This is easily one of the longest-running series in the history of video gaming. It's by far the lowest of this trio, but that could change someday, as Final Fantasy still has quite a bit of momentum, at least in terms of the volume of its releases. It's pretty clear that Square Enix's cash cow isn't even close to done producing revenue.

Above: Final Fantasy's huge character roster has lead to more than a few spinoffs, and has helped it proliferate

Final Fantasy also distinguishes itself in that most of these are official, full-fledged games. Whereas many Mega Man games are junky cell phone cash-ins, and many Mario games are cameos and promotional titles. That's not to say Final Fantasy doesn't have some stinkers, though. Final Fantasy VII Snowboarding, anyone?

They also have so many characters, and the series is referenced so many times that it's never entirely clear which games should be counted. Re-releases on new platforms (i.e. Final Fantasy Anthology on PSOne) were left out of our count, as were games with brief cameos (e.g. Cecil from Final Fantasy IV makes a cameo as an innkeeper in Secret of Evermore, but that doesn't count). We focused on games that either bear the Final Fantasy name, or feature familiar characters in prominent story roles. To wit: Dissidia, Kingdom Hearts, Theatrhythm, Tactics and Crystal Chronicles were included in our count, but brief cameos were not.

Final Count: 71

Mega Man: Mega Man's huge prominence in the Japanese cell-phone market buoyed his presence on this list, and lifted him up to new heights with 26 official and spinoff games. You haven't heard of most of these because mostly, they're not very good. He's got his own golf game and memorization games, for example.

Above: They may not always be good, but games like Mega Man Rush Marine have been coming out for decades on Japanese cell phones

The character has never really lost his allure for gamers, and he's constantly spawning side series like Battle Network, the X series, Star Force, etc. Note that he's not necessarily in all of those games, but to be fair to Final Fantasy, we included all of the games that bear his name and/or are based in the same universe. Mega Man's final count is a little bit unclear though because it sometimes blurs definitions. Some of his cell-phone adventures depend on what you consider a game, and many of his classic reboots introduce some new content, but probably not enough to be counted again.

Final Count: 100

Mario: It’s clear that nobody exploits a character quite like Nintendo does. The number of games featuring Mario hugely outpaces just about any other series in the industry. He's been the face of Nintendo for decades. He hasn’t slowed down since Nintendo realized how much the world loves him. He's still being thrown into any game that Nintendo can dream up, from Mario and Sonic in the Olympic Games to Mario is Missing to a gaggle of virtually unknown Game & Watch titles, like Donkey Kong Circus and Mario's Cement Factory.

Above: This is the Mario you know, but his other appearances might surprise you

He even had his own line of educational games, like Mario's Early Years: Fun with Numbers, Mario's Time Machine and the beautifully translated I am a Teacher: Super Mario Sweater. Only a few dozen of the final count feature Mario in the central role, which is on par with the other two games on this list. But Mario's strength has been in driving sales of other games merely by being remotely involved (e.g. his playable appearances in NBA Street Volume 3, SSX on Tour, and Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix).

Mario isn't going to be abdicating his throne anytime soon, either. He averaged five appearances per year in that past five years (which is similar to his pace over the past twenty years), with the standout year being 2007, when he was in nine different games.

Final Count: 188

Submit your own questions in the comments (or Tweet them to @sciencegroen) and we may tackle them in a future Ask GR Anything.

27 comments

  • Cyberninja - March 21, 2012 4:34 p.m.

    so if mega has been in exactly 100 games that must mean that capcom is saving his 101st apperance for something really special
  • sandraudiga - March 21, 2012 5:45 p.m.

    What typically determines the longevity of a console generation?
  • Cyberninja - March 22, 2012 3:44 a.m.

    The technology used and the developers will to innovate
  • Andrew Groen - March 22, 2012 7:36 p.m.

    That could be a tough one to answer. I think it's different each time. My guess would simply be that hardware manufacturers (MS, Sony, Nintendo) are trying to get the edge on each other. So they can't afford to let a competitor come out with a new and better machine. I wish we could just stay with the 360/PS3 for another few years. I'm not too interested in spending hundreds of dollars for more powerful consoles. Except WiiU. I'm curious to see what they can do with that.
  • Andrew Groen - March 22, 2012 7:34 p.m.

    Haha I wouldn't count on it. My best guess is that the 101st game will be something along the lines of a "Let's Go Mega Man Everybody Golf Teach Play!" on the Japanese cell market.
  • R_U_Guys_From_British - March 21, 2012 5:39 p.m.

    Nice read
  • Fuzunga - March 21, 2012 7:11 p.m.

    Good 'ol Mario Teachers Typing.
  • ThatGamerDude - March 21, 2012 7:23 p.m.

    Does the GR office have a fully-stocked, underground bunker in case of a nuclear explosion?
  • Andrew Groen - March 22, 2012 7:33 p.m.

    We don't, unfortunately. But we're right on the beach so we'll just sail away on the GR yacht while all the suckers are stuck trying to escape on overcrowded freeways.
  • ThatGamerDude - March 23, 2012 3:37 p.m.

    Those mutated sharks are going to be a problem then...
  • shawksta - March 21, 2012 7:29 p.m.

    What so,how shall i say, "Magic" about Mario is that unlike others, Mario can be put in literally anything you want him to and he'll fit right in. Dancing? DDRMM, Fighting? Smash Bros, Educational learner? Early Years,Typing(BEST.MUSICAL MAKER.EVER)ect.., Shooter? Yoshi's Safari, RPG? Paper Mario,M&L,SMRPG, and many more. What keeps mario from being a, how shall i say, "Whore" is the fact that Mario still has time to give us Hardcore games, whether it be his platforming goodness, RPG awesomeness, or even a Mature Story(Super Paper Mario, no exceptions), he'll do it to remind us why he's famous. Capcom, you guys really need to do something special for Megaman. Ah Battle network, great memories, i only played only 3 numbers so it doesnt seems rehashy, I never did try Star force, maybe i should try.
  • forestfire55 - March 21, 2012 7:35 p.m.

    I was still wondering (stop me if you don't care) about the "firsts of gaming", the first fps, first 3d game, etc... I've asked this before, i guess i cant get the hint...
  • FaceEater - March 22, 2012 4:33 a.m.

    Google may be able to answer those simple questions.
  • forestfire55 - March 22, 2012 5:41 p.m.

    Well for one, i would like to see the gr twist everybody loves, and two, tootle can answer every single one of these questions...
  • Andrew Groen - March 22, 2012 7:30 p.m.

    Sorry, man. I've seen you ask this a couple times before. I really appreciate your patience. I'll get to this someday, I promise. Let me know if there are any firsts you specifically want to know about besides the one you already listed.
  • forestfire55 - March 22, 2012 7:39 p.m.

    Thanks for hearing me out, i was thinking also first rpg, first driving game, first game on a disk, first fighting game, first game to be put on the metrics, first handheld, first game with voice actors, first horor game, first sports game, first movie game, first game over 40 dollars, first hack and slash, first fighting game, and many more, but most importantly, i want to know all the gr's first games, first game you rated, first game you talked about, and even first game you played, i can go on and on.
  • Net_Bastard - March 21, 2012 10:40 p.m.

    Where did the "Press Start" screen originate? Why don't PC games have it when console games do? I've been wondering this question for a few days now and I'd love an answer.
  • IceBlueKirby - March 21, 2012 11:03 p.m.

    A) PCs don't have a "start" button, and B) 9 times out of 10 the "press start" screen is just the title screen of a given game, which almost every game, PC or not, has. As for where it originated, GR can have that one, because I don't know.
  • kain_kusanagi - March 22, 2012 12:31 a.m.

    My guess would be the "Press Start" screen evolved from the "Insert Coin" screen from coin-op arcade games. PC games the same kind of thing but they usually have mouse buttons with a few options like "New Game" and "Load Save".
  • Andrew Groen - March 22, 2012 7:29 p.m.

    This is a good one. I'll be doing this pretty soon, I think. I actually have heard the answer, and it's simple but not what you'd expect.

Showing 1-20 of 27 comments

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