The Super Mario series legacy has been built one game at time over three decades, but the success goes beyond the titles. Since being introduced in Donkey Kong in 1981, Mario has appeared in dozens--if not hundreds--of commercials that have helped make him the most famous plumber on Earth. And handful of those ads are still stuck in our collective memories, all these years later.
So I, with the help of the GamesRadar staff, pulled together the 10 most memorable Mario commercials of all time into one helpful list. You can see the whole staff discuss the adverts in the video below, but if youd rather take your time with this decalogue, then click through to see all the lovable propaganda, beginning with...
The Nintendo Cereal System invades breakfast
Im not sure what kids eat for breakfast today (MP3s?), but back in my youth, a character wasnt considered a star until they had their own cereal. The Ghostbusters, Mr. T, and C-3PO all had crunchy, sugary breakfast sweets, and Mario was no different. After appearing in a Donkey Kong-themed cereal, Mario and Link from The Legend of Zelda teamed up for the Nintendo Cereal System, a twin package of fruity goodness that spawned this very 80s commercial. As the advert suggests, the box contained two distinct cereals, perfect to be enjoyed by the average boy, girl, or nerd that are portrayed within.
Any impressionable child will love the idea of eating a distinctly 8-bit breakfast, but the catchy song makes it even harder for kids to turn down. And the naming hooks into the Nintendo Entertainment System, making kids think of the company first instead of the characters--smart marketing for the publisher. Its possible that naming helped indoctrinate a generation of Nintendo fanboys, but as someone who recalls eating this crappy cereal, I think that fruit-flavored mess probably did more harm than good.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 takes the whole family into space
This is the most recent commercial of the bunch, so it isnt surprising that its also the most visually impressive. It certainly looks expensive, showing off environments that outclass the game pretty thoroughly--not that Super Mario Galaxy 2 wasnt visually impressive at the time. The game came at the height of the Wiis sales dominance, so perhaps Nintendo had a little money to burn on this one.
And the positives go beyond classy visuals that are backed up by Galaxy 2s stellar soundtrack. The commercial takes the franchises planetoid concept and uses it to show families across multiple worlds getting excited for Marios galactic return. It has a similar feel to an ad youd see for Disney Land, which I doubt is a coincidence. Few commercials better capture the type of all-ages magic Nintendo hopes to spread with its games.
Paper Mario is taken literally
Paper Mario is one the final games to come to the N64, having arrived just months before the launch of the GameCube. So how do you sell a game for a system with rapidly aging graphics? By going as lo-fi as possible. Which is to say, replacing most of the game footage with cardboard and farm animals.
This very literal Paper Mario commercial sidesteps looking inferior to the brand-new PS2s visuals by taking the flat nature of the game seriously. Here Mario is a flimsy hero out to save an equally 2D Princess Peach from a dangerous shredder (a real one, not the Ninja Turtles villain). Its whimsical, esoteric, and eye-catching, with a memorably comedic tone that fit with the games decidedly goofy aesthetic.
Mario, where are you?!?
This is one of the oldest ads on the list, and its the best entry that technically doesnt even feature Mario. This one is so ancient that it comes from a time when Nintendo was still a third-party developer, putting its arcade hit Mario Bros. on the Atari 2600. But even at that early of a date, this tuneful commercial shows how complex Marios mythology had already become.
The 30-second advert has quick bits of gameplay, but it mainly employs a catchy song to list all the enemies in the game, along with how helpless Luigi is without Mario. The green hero had just made his debut in Mario Bros., and hes already frantically searching for Mario, a coward lost without his stronger sibling. Though its doubtful Nintendo still considers this canonical, this half-minute TV spot certainly fits with Weegees portrayal in games like Luigis Mansion and Paper Mario.
Game & Watch (a handheld home for Marios secrets)
Nintendo has a spotty record with home consoles of late, but its handheld dominance has been a constant for more than 30 years. While many may think its portable history began 25 years ago with the Game Boy, the LCD-powered Game & Watch was where it truly started. An early hit in Japan, Nintendo exported the simple machines to North America with memorable commercials like this one.
This ad is a monument to a very different era for Nintendo. Back then it made licensed games, working with brands like Popeye and Snoopy, both of which were popular in both Japan and the US. Whats even more remarkable is that this early version of Mario is animated as a part of the crowd instead of in his current place as Nintendos mascot. And the real shocker is that Marios bald underneath his hat, though many of his later games dont recognize that moment. Could he have the worlds greatest toupee?
Mario Got Milk
Most of the ads on this list showcase a specific game or console, so this one cant help but be memorable by virtue of what its selling. Like many celebrities in the 1990s, Mario got into the Got Milk? craze that was inescapable back then in the US. And when Mario joined in on the advertising fad for dairy products, the result wasnt entirely favorable for the plumber.
First off, the kids in the commercial look pretty bored with Super Mario 64, which is likely meant to imply how boring life is without milk. But it isnt doing the N64 any favors. Also, the CGI in the ad is dated now, but looks way better than Super Mario 64, overpromising Nintendos marquee title. And lastly, it shows Mario grows from drinking milk, which is ridiculous. Everyone knows that only Mega Mushrooms have that effect!
Super Mario Land 2 says "Obey Wario"
This was an incredibly strong debut for Marios darker half. After Super Mario Land became one of the highest-selling games of all time, Nintendos mascot moved on to his first portable sequel by adding a new nemesis to his expansive rogues gallery. The fresh bad guys name was Wario, and unlike the more destructive Bowser, the yellow-hatted villain had the insidious plan to go after the hearts and minds of Marios fanbase in his commercial debut.
The majority of the commercial is a close-up of Warios impressively animated head, hypnotizing players with his plot to destroy Mario. The execution partially helps cover for the Game Boys less than flashy visuals, but it also made the twisted character a star--despite not being in the title, Warios name is said almost as many times as Marios in the ad. Its not surprising that the character went on to star in his own series of games not long after.
Super Mario All-Stars Japanese premier
There are so many oddball Japanese ads for Mario games that they could some day fill their own feature, but for the moment Im going to focus on this impressive commercial. Before Nintendo made rereleasing old games a weekly occurrence, getting every Super Mario Bros. game in one package was a major event. This ad for Super Mario All-Stars treats it as the milestone you expect, making the release a gala that everyone in The Mushroom Kingdom had to attend.
The animation holds up today, and the brief moments give each of the characters a chance to show their personalities. Peach appears up in an alluring dress, Bowser wears sunglasses while walking the red carpet with his kids, and Birdo and Wart are there as a couple. Its a classy ad thats so enjoyable even a brief mention of the horrendous live action film cant do any lasting damage to this bit of Japanese promotional material.
Super Smash Bros. are "Happy Together"
Within GamesRadars US office, this is the commercial that the staff remembered most fondly. And its likely endearing to huge swaths of the hardcore Smash Bros. community, too. This ad smartly traded on the cutesy image Nintendo had cultivated over the years, showing the mean streak that was lurking underneath Mario and companys smiling faces.
Set to the 1967 pop song Happy Together by The Turtles, this ad captures the concept of Smash Bros. perfectly. Lovable Nintendo characters are finally ready to beat the crap out of each other, and youre invited to join in. It was a thrill to see Mario punch Donkey Kong in the stomach, and for fans tired of the omnipresent Pokemon craze, it was satisfying to watch Pikachu get tossed in the air. For a certain generation of gamer, the song is synonymous with Smash Bros., so much so that I hope Nintendo has room in the budget to use the song in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS.
The Super Mario Bros. 3 chant
So whats the most memorable Mario commercial of all time? Well, I suppose it depends on when (and where) you grew up, but this one certainly is unforgettable to my generation. As NES owners across North America waited for Super Mario Bros. 3 to finally come out, it felt like everyone on the continent was waiting for game, which is exactly what this ad depicted.
The chanting is a simple way of illustrating the characters massive popularity in the USA, and the gravitas only increases as spacey sounds replace the chanting and massive game boxes fill the air. This marketed Mario as something bigger than a mere game, with no NES footage necessary to sell fans on Super Mario Bros. 3. Mario was so big that just his name and face were enough to sell millions of cartridges.
After these messages...
So those are the ones we on staff remember, but I, for one, want to know all of your favorite Mario ads from years past! Share all of them in the comments below. (And watch this Japanese oddity if the above image confuses you.)
And if you're looking for more Mario, check out GamesRadar's lists of obscure Mario trivia and the 25 things we love about Super Mario Bros. 3 25 years later.