Seriously, Can Someone Tell Me A Single Personality Trait Mario Has?

I’ve been playing Mario Golf: Super Rush over the weekend, but I haven’t been playing as Mario because… well, who plays Mario sports games as Mario? I’d say maybe your gran does because he’s the only one she recognises, but I played Mario Golf with my family over the weekend and they consciously avoided Mario in favour of the more interesting characters like Boo, Rosalina, Donkey Kong, and Chargin’ Chuck. And yes, I’m going on the record to say that Chargin’ Chuck is a more interesting character than Mario, because the football star actually has a personality to speak of, unlike the moustachioed plumber.

When I suggested writing this article, two other editors at TheGamer were incensed by the mere suggestion – for the record, both later admitted they do not main Mario in the Mario sports games, because even the biggest Nintendo guys don’t bother using Mario when there are better characters to choose from. They tossed out a few potential personality traits Mario might have, none of which landed.

Bravery was one, in that Mario is brave and gets the job done, but he’s not really brave – he’s a lifeless video game avatar controlled by me, the omnipotent goddess twirling his puppet strings. Luigi is shown to be brave more often, in that in the regular games and in Luigi’s Mansion, Luigi is clearly shown to be afraid, almost cowardly with his shaking hands and jelly legs, but he never turns back or runs away from a challenge. Positive was another one, and I mean sure, he’s not a grumpy bastard. But he’s constantly in a state of pseudo-positivity where he has no thoughts beyond standing there and smiling – that’s not really a personality trait. Athletic was next, although that was quickly dismissed because a) being athletic is not a personality trait and b) no one has ever played as Mario in a Mario sports game to confirm this.

It was then suggested that because Mario sticks up for and befriends the Hat people of Super Mario Odyssey, he’s not a racist. It seems to me like he’s a Goomba genocider, but I’ll let Mario have this one. The most iconic video game character of all time, and the biggest aspect of his personality is that he’s not outwardly racist. How did we end up here?

I understand that his games are fun. I’ve been enjoying Mario Golf well enough, and I love the Mario sports games in general, as well as being a big fan of Odyssey, Super Mario World, and Super Mario Galaxy in particular. Paper Mario is also fantastic, and Mario actually has a sense of humour and wit to him there, as well as a naive charm the overly positive regular Mario lacks, but then again Paper Mario and actual Mario are two distinct characters.

Back when Mario first burst onto the scene, being ‘fun’ was enough. The level design of the Super Mario Bros. games helped shape the platforming genre into what it is today, and the move into 3D with Mario 64 was equally influential. Mario has been the star of some excellent games, and those provided the foundation for countless more brilliant games too. I’m not arguing against his place in video game history or that he doesn’t deserve his spot at the top of the gaming pantheon. What I’m saying is even in an industry loaded with boring white dudes, Mario might be the most boring of the lot.

Let’s compare him to some other mascots, yeah? Sonic may be too edgy or cringey to eclipse Mario, but you know exactly who Sonic is within moments of meeting him. Crash Bandicoot is chaotic and cartoonish, Spyro is cool and cocky, and Pikachu is cute and cuddly. Even if you don’t restrict yourself to words that begin with ‘C’, I defy the notion that anyone could summarise Mario so succinctly.

Even if we see Mario as an everyman, his basic plot is so boring and played out now. Oh, he saves the princess. Mint. He’s a working class plumber that spends his life repeatedly saving a millionaire princess who rarely returns any of his affections. Mario’s a grade-A sucker. In Odyssey, even Peach is bored of him showing up to save her and decides she’s going to adventure elsewhere on her own and leave him to toss his hat off alone.

No one bats an eye when Bowser turns up for the parties, a go-kart race, or a round of golf, mostly because we’re all just glad to have someone besides Mario to play as, but also because the storyline is so dull we never see Bowser as a villain anymore. Cloud and Sephiroth both being in Smash is a big deal, because it means two old foes with bad blood duking it out. Mario and Bowser playing the back nine seems normal, because we all know the next Mario game is going to be Bowser kidnapping Peach, Mario saving her, credits roll. Mario has made huge contributions to gaming, but none of that comes from his personality.

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