20 things we've always wondered about the Mario universe

Do power-ups hurt Mario?

Typically, transformations are painful experiences. When Bruce Banner transforms into the Incredible Hulk he screams in agony, when Wolverine's claws slide out between his knuckles it feels like knives slicing open his flesh, and werewolves sure do seem to be in a lot of pain when their bone structure changes to allow lycanthropy to take over. We have to imagine that Mario's constant biological changes have to be uncomfortable, or downright painful. Having your hands light on fire? Growing? Shrinking? Literally turning into a freaking ghost?! Do these power-ups hurt Mario? If not, why not?

What does Bowser really want with the princess?

By now, we've saved the Princess from King Koopa about, oh, a million times or so. And every time we do, we can't help but wonder: What the hell was he going to do with her, anyway? Bowser's motives are rarely clear. Does he want her to bake him a delicious cake? Does he intend to make her his bride in a forced marriage? Or is the cranky Koopa just bored out of his shell? The bigger point to take home, however, is that kidnapping is apparently not a huge deal in the Mushroom Kingdom.

Can Toads remove the mushrooms from their heads without dying?

All Toads are adorned with a white, red-dotted mushroom atop their heads. But are those mushrooms part of their domes, or are they just cute little fungus hats? The evidence points to the former, as we haven't really seen any Toads remove the mushrooms from their heads within a canon Mario game (it's been done on the TV series, but we all know that doesn't count). If that is the case, we wonder what would happen if Mario mistakenly bit into a Toad's cranium thinking it to be a Super Mushroom.

What is Wario's relationship to Mario, exactly?

Ever since his debut in 1992's Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, Wario has remained a perplexing antagonist. It's obvious he's evil, but what we don't really know much about his relationship to Mario. Is he Mario's malevolent, opposite twin? A long-lost cousin, perhaps? A scientific experiment gone horribly wrong? The only other alternative is that Wario is a creepy stalker who watched Mario from the shadows in order to emulate the righteous plumber's fashion sense and facial hair preferences. That's pretty messed up, even for the Mushroom Kingdom.

Do raccoons in the Mushroom Kingdom fly?

Since Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced flight to the series, Marios had numerous power-ups that allow him to take to the skies. But while theres some basic logic to explain flying with a magical cape or a winged hat, why does a raccoon tail grant Mario flight fly? Is it a kind of propeller mechanic, like Sonics pal Tails? Is it some obscure part of Japanese myth that were unaware of? Did Nintendo always mean to use flying squirrels instead, but not get around to it until New Super Mario Bros. U? Or is it just that all raccoons in the Mushroom Kingdom have the innate ability to fly?

Why haven't Mushroom Kingdom citizens filled in all those dangerous pits?

Planning on taking a nice stroll through the Mushroom Kingdom? You better put your jumpin' shoes on, then, because there are dangerous pits all over the place. Some seem bottomless; others are so deep that you'll likely break most bones in your body on impact. But despite these dangers, residents don't seem to mind their existence, which is odd considering A) how any pit could kill pretty much anyone, and B) there are so many gold coins just hanging out all over the place that could be used to pay for filling in said pits.

How is it that Mario can play tennis with a baby version of himself?

Now here's a mind boggling conundrum: During the Mushroom Kingdom's many fierce tennis tournaments, Mario can be matched up against Baby Mario, resulting in a bizarre paradoxical competition. But how? Does Baby Mario time travel to the future in order to take on his future self in a gentleman's game of tennis? Or does Mario summon the ghost of his childhood past in hopes of snagging an easy win?

What is Marios last name?

Mario's first name is Mario, and Luigi's first name is Luigi, but because of Mario's absurd popularity the duo goes by the team name "Super Mario Bros." This, alone, is sort of weird, but we'll let it slide--for now. What's more confusing is the duo's lack of a last name. Are there so few people in the Mushroom Kingdom that last names aren't even necessary? If so, why does Princess Peach Toadstool have a surname?

Are there good Goombas and Koopas, or are they all inherently evil?

Mario has stomped on the skulls of Goombas and Koopas time and time again, even when they don't do anything to deserve it. Seriously, they're just walking more often than not, which means one of two things: Either all Goombas and Koopas are born (genetically manufactured?) evil, or Mario's kind of a self-centered dick. Surely there must be some of them that don't agree with Bowser's bullying?

How do people drive on a rainbow in outer space?

This multi-tiered mystery is impossible on more than one front. Rainbows, as we know them, are formed by the reflection of light in water droplets in the Earth's atmosphere. They're basically illusions that just look really sweet. They can neither appear in outer space, nor do they ever have the physical properties of a solid. But Mario Kart's Rainbow Road defies all logic, as it's a rainbow in outer space that people can drive on. We can only assume rainbows are entirely different in the Mushroom Kingdom.