Mario has a very defined look: brown shoes, blue overalls, red shirt, a matching red hat with an "M" over the bill and white gloves. It's a look seen in dozens of games and a third-world economy's worth of merchandise. But even with such an established character, at the heart of Mario's history and appeal is his parade of different outfits. Here you'll find a history of Mario's costumes, from well-known to obscure, as we see what a fashion idol he really is.
This outfit was probably the first time many players saw Mario change clothes, as the Fire Flower would be found fairly early in World 1-1 of the first Super Mario Bros. It set a precedent for many power-ups to follow, because Mario's combustibles came with a costume change, an easy way for the player to know they had the useful balls of turtle killing.
The original version of the fire outfit is white overalls with a white hat and a red shirt, probably due to his hat color matching his overalls instead of his shirt in the early days. However, since Mario World, the overalls are red, with a white shirt matching the white hat. Mario doesn't always have access to fire power, but when he does it's basically the same, even in 2007's Super Mario Galaxy.
Above: One of these things is not like the other...
The odd one out in the blazing history is Mario 3. Though the power worked the same, Mario instead became covered in an orange glow. It’s a strange change that hasn't been seen since and was probably more a technical decision.
Above: This is early concept art on top with art from New Super Mario Bros to show how unchanged the look is
With Mario 2 being such a departure, it wasn't until Super Mario 3 that attire based power-ups made a huge return. The best example is the Raccoon outfit, as featured on the most well-known box art ever. Like a sorority girl on Halloween, Mario wore the ears and tail of an animal, not to get hit on by frat guys, but to fly, a game-changing addition to the Mario universe.
The weird thing is, despite it being one of the most iconic Mario looks around, the Raccoon has never come back. Not even in spin-off games, which is a real waste.
The first cousin of the Raccoon power-up is the Tanooki suit. Mario went all out furry this time, in his most cuddly and aww-inspiring costume yet.
Though the effects of this hard to find power-up are similar to the Raccoon leaf, Mario has the added bonus of turning into a statue. At this point he's invulnerable to enemies who, as you see from the art above, are too stupid to realize it's still Mario. So really the Tanooki suit is two outfits in one. Try that one on for size, reader.
Another uncommon power-up of Mario 3 was the frog suit. And as cool as it looks, it's half useful/half pathetic. Wear it in water and you've got a huge amount of control over the mustachioed one, way more than his normal attempts to stay afloat. But get him out of the water and he's pitiful.
The only other thing we have to add about this costume is that it was featured in the only Mario comic book we had as a kid. It was a really strange plot where Mario got heartburn from a big meatball, put on the Frog Suit to swim, and then a giant fish fell in love with him.
This was probably the coolest addition to his wardrobe out of all the power-ups in 3, and maybe ever. This let Mario become his enemy, and his most badass enemy at that. Who doesn't want to throw hammers all the time? It was also incredibly rare to get this power, and, sadly, it never seemed as cool once we got it.
Though this barely counts as an outfit, we'd be remiss not mentioning Kuribo’s Shoe, a power-up only available in one stage. Just the idea of Mario jumping around inside a giant wind-up shoe makes us giddy. Adding that the shoe is able to walk over insta-death spikes makes this peculiar bodywear invaluable.
Super Mario 3 and the follow-up Super Mario World are night and day when it comes to costume based power-ups, mostly thanks to the advent of Yoshi. Even its sole new costume was slight compared to its predecessors. We aren't knocking the cape - it's a cool power with a more interesting flight mechanic than the tail, but it just looks like Mario grabbed a yellow table cloth and tied it around his neck.
But unlike other, better clothes in Mario 3, the cape has made appearances in other titles. Be it as the Super Baby Mario power in Yoshi's Island:
to Mario's reflect ability in the Smash Bros series:
Hell, it even appeared on Macaroni:
Just like the cape, this is barely an outfit. But we can't be too mad, because a couple of wings on his hat is probably all the N64 could pull off graphically in this launch game. We aren't even including the other power-ups, because they are even lamer; seriously, little is more dated than mid-nineties liquid metal. Mario 64 was an innovator and inspiration in so many areas, but not in fashion. However, it did have the first time you could platform with the little guy sans hat, which is something.
Follow us to the next page, as we take you to the modern age and see Mario's more experimental side in the spin-offs.