20 things we've always wondered about the Mario universe

What in the (Super Mario) world?

Video games often require players to suspend disbelief, and we're usually more than willing to do so. It doesn't matter why the bad guys are bad, so long as that means we get to take them down with some awesome moves and have fun doing it. But after said bad guys have been put down and justice has been done, we sometimes start to think about all the weird, unexplained things that happened along the way.

Take Mario and the Mushroom Kingdom, for instance. We've explored that world dozens of times through dozens of games--yet each time we do, new questions arise. Who is Mario, really? Where'd he come from? All of these things slip from the mind once you start trouncing Koopas. But we still have so many questions, and so few answers.

How did humans end up in the Mushroom Kingdom...?

The Mushroom Kingdom is a magical place filled with smiling hills and living mushroom people. At what point--and, more importantly, how--did humans show up? Mario, Luigi, and the rest of the homo sapiens that inhabit that wondrous universe are way out of place. Did they warp there from another dimension? Are they all synched to a futuristic VR machine, dreaming up an imaginary world? Or, perhaps, they're the ghosts of the dead, wandering a Mushroomafied purgatory? Maybe we'll one day know.

...and why is a human in charge?

We find it odd that the people of the Mushroom Kingdom would follow a princess of an entirely different species to run the economy and draft new social policies. That'd be like electing a dolphin as Supreme Leader of the World. On a very basic level, it's unlikely that Princess Peach fully understands the necessities of those she governs. Sure, Mushroom Retainers can communicate those needs to her, but there's no guarantee those requests would translate into action. The whole setup just doesn't make any sense.

What is Mario's natural height?

Size certainly isn't everything, but we can't help but wonder: How tall is Mario, really? Does a Super Mushroom make him grow from his native size? Or does he shrink when he takes damage, relying on the mobile fungus to regain lost inches? His stature is pretty similar in comparison to Goombas, Koopas, power-ups, and coins, so there's really no way to infer the exact degree of his height.

Are Super Mushrooms actually alive?

Well, are they? The fact that Super Mushrooms have eyes and can move suggests that they are, indeed, living organisms. But by what method do they perform locomotion? Maybe they have tiny little feet on the underside of their stems, or some sort of internal magnetism that has an opposite polarity of that of the Mushroom Kingdom's surface, allowing them to effortlessly glide across the ground. Regardless, they're not terribly intelligent. How many times have we seen one move right into the gaping jaws of a bottomless pit--or worse, right into the gaping jowls of Mario's mustached mouth?

What's the deal with Yoshi?

Yoshi is pretty odd when you think about it. Hes referred to as a male, but can lay eggs. Hes treated like a friend and equal on the golf course, but Mario and his close friends ride around on him from time to time. He can eat Koopa shells and spit out fire. And he(?) is sometimes born as a baby, other times he hatches out of eggs fully formed with shoes on. How could evolution lead to such an odd creature?

How much is a coin worth in terms of United States dollars?

This is a complex question for which there are many theories, and this video goes to great lengths detailing the science behind a few of them. One such theory suggests that, because coins infinitely respawn, they have very little economic value, as the continual minting of new currency ultimately leads to hyperinflation. But coins are also used as legal tender in the Mushroom Kingdom, and garnering 100 of the things always buys a new life. If that is the basis by which we judge their value in USD then 100 gold coins from Mario's universe are worth a combined total of $7.9 million based on the Environmental Protection Agency's 2009 assessment of the "value of a statistical life." That means each coin is worth $79,000 (circa 2009).

Why do coins keep showing up everywhere?

If coins do have any value, then why the heck do the denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom leave the things all over the place? Sometimes they're just floating in the air (how, by magic?), and other times they're embedded within brick cubes. Is there an occupation in the Mushroom Kingdom that involves the strategic placement of gold coins? Or maybe it's a popular belief that those who are well off should share with folks who are less fortunate, thus explaining the abundance of recklessly abandoned coins ? In Mario's world, money doesn't grow on trees--it just sits there for reasons unknown.

Is the use of Fire Flowers and the like considered taboo, or is that a common thing people do?

Fire Flowers, Super Mushrooms, P-Wings--Mario consumes these power-ups and many more without remorse. But we rarely see anyone else in the Mushroom Kingdom (Luigi aside) take up arms. Why is that? Are power-ups that world's version of guns? If so, do residents fear Mario due to his tendency to wield them so nonchalantly, or do they excuse his vast arsenal as as a necessary consequence of his heroic deeds?

Do power-ups cause chemical alterations within the body, or are they magical?

Speaking of power-ups, how do they work? When Mario touches a Fire Flower, does he gain the ability to launch fireballs from his fingertips via some kind of magic? Or does he have to consume it entirely and undergo a chemical reaction that grants him special powers? We'd love to know the science behind how these items actually work.

Ryan Taljonick

Ryan was once the Executive Editor of GamesRadar, before moving into the world of games development. He worked as a Brand Manager at EA, and then at Bethesda Softworks, before moving to 2K. He briefly went back to EA and is now the Director of Global Marketing Strategy at 2K.