10 merciless Mario re-imaginings

With that in mind, it’s hardly surprising that so many fans have felt compelled to fill in the blanks with their own works of fiction – and that some of those works have gone to some pretty dark places. Most of you have probably already seen Handre de Jager’sunspeakably manly Mario fanart, or the countless one-off parodies across the web that paint Mario in a nasty light, or his enemies in a sympathetic one. For the purposes of this article, however, we wanted to find fan projects that dove to the heart of the Mario universe and remade it around the dark, slimy things they found there – or, failing that, that at least put a uniquely sadistic slant on the whole thing.

Mario Brothers

It’s possible you’ve already seen Alexander “Alxlen” Leon’sepic, five-part take on Mario, simply titled Mario Brothers. After all, it’s been on free-form Flash portal Newgroundssince mid-2003. If you haven’t, though, you’re missing out on a surprisingly well-directed (and almost relentlessly grim) version of Super Mario Bros., told entirely with sprites from the first and second games. A little slow in places, it’s nonetheless captivating, giving us a tragic version of Mario, fearless Toads, swarming Koopas and a murderous version of Bowser.

It’s probably best to start at the beginningof Alxlen’s sad tale. However, few things in the series are quite as memorable or as stirring as the explosive siege that makes up its entire second episode, which uses the (somewhat clichéd) Requiem for a Dream theme music to grand effect:

Another Castle

A world-weary webcomic focused mainly on Luigi, Another Castlestars versions of the brothers (and their princesses) who’ve escaped into the real world and left the Mushroom Kingdom behind. However, while Luigi and Daisy have clearly adapted to everyday life, Mario and Peach weren’t so fortunate, and now spend their days hiding from debt collectors and being delusional.

“The melancholic mood is just sorta where my head was at,” said its author, MC Griffin, who’s since created a color versionand a second chapter, and is planning a third with Yoshi. “It's inspired by all those unspoken things that go on between people. You know, you ever get that vibe when you walk into a room full of folks and feel like you're missing some inside joke, but nobody's saying a word? Always seemed like it was that way in Mario.”

“What if Luigi saves the princess?” he added. “Why does he always get paired up with Daisy despite never saving her in any game? Seems like Mario kind of lends itself to strange stories when you start reading between the lines and asking questions of things.”

Mario: Game Over

As you may be starting to realize after that last entry, bringing Mario into the real world seems to be the surest way to bring him down (but in a funny way). Try to think of realistic equivalents for Mario and what he does, and you’ll end up with an infantile drug addict who deals with problems by getting huge and beating the shit out of them. That seems to have been the guiding idea behind Mario: Game Over (by Brooklyn comedy troupe POYKPAC), which shows Mario in a brief, disastrous downward spiral after saving the Mushroom Kingdom and coming home.

It Sucks to be Weegie!

Prolific web cartoonist Kevin Bolk’s It Sucks to be Weegie!isn’t merciless in the “drugs and death lol” sense. In fact, at first blush it actually looks quite lighthearted. Keep reading, however, and you’ll see that there’s a subtle cruelty to it. Luigi was never the bravest or most beloved character in the Mario mythos, but here he suffers under a Charlie Brown-like burden of loserdom, continually failing at absolutely everything and earning nothing but spite for his efforts.

Citing the Super Mario Adventures comics (by Charlie Nozawa) that appeared in early ‘90s Nintendo Power as a huge influence, Bolk says that his real aim isn’t to dump on Luigi, but “to build sympathy for my favorite under-appreciated second fiddle of the video game world.”

“It's all a very carefully crafted public relations campaign,” Bolk said.

Mario (SXSW bumper)

The Mario-as-delusional-addict school of thought reaches its apex in Joe Nicolosi’s Mario, a comically dark psychodrama about drugs, rejection, obsession, kart-racing and hipsters. Shot as an indie-flavored bumper (a short that plays before films) for the SXSW 2011 Film Festival, its version of Mario is a blue-collar stalker who wants to beat down Peach’s new boyfriend and win her back.

It’s a shame we’ll probably never see a full-length version. This is already loads better than the 1993 movie.

Mikel Reparaz
After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.