split image of Super Mario Bros and Mario Kart 8

First appearing as the protagonist in the 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong, Mario was originally called “Jumpman”.

He was soon renamed after Nintendo of America's landlord, Mario Segale, and starred alongside his twin brother Luigi in Mario Bros. (1983), which was followed up by Super Mario Bros. in 1985, beginning the enormously successful Super Mario series.

In the four decades since, Mario has become the best-selling videogame character of all time. The multitude of games he’s appeared in have sold a combined total of over 800 million units to date, far exceeding franchises such as Pokémon, Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, which have all sold between 400-500 million units each.

The original Super Mario Bros., released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, sold just over 40 million copies. It held a record as the best-selling Mario videogame for 36 years until it was overtaken by Mario Kart 8, which has sold over 69 million copies.

The first officially licensed sequel to Super Mario Bros., titled Super Mario Bros. Special, surprisingly was not released on a Nintendo console. Developed by Hudson Soft, it was released in the spring of 1986 on the NEC-PC8801 and Sharp X1 series of Japanese PCs, a few months before Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels. It holds a Guinness World Records title as the first Super Mario videogame released for a non-Nintendo system.

The rarest Super Mario videogame was released in 1991. Nintendo toured US college campuses with the game Nintendo Campus Challenge, which consisted of three minigames: collecting 25 coins in Super Mario Bros. 3; a version of Pin Bot; and puzzle game Dr. Mario.

After this national tournament ended, all of the cartridges were destroyed except one – it was kept by a Nintendo employee and eventually bought by a videogame collector at a 2006 New York garage sale. In 2009, the game was bought for $14,000 by another collector, who resold it in the same year on eBay for $20,100.

After 15 years of 2D side-scrolling games, the first Mario videogame in 3D was released. Made available at the 1996 launch of the Nintendo 64 console, Super Mario 64 was seen as a groundbreaking leap forward in videogames. In addition to being the first 3D Mario game, it was also the first major instance of freely explorable open worlds in videogames.

In 2010, Japan’s Mitsugu Kikai was awarded the record for the largest collection of Super Mario memorabilia with 5,441 different items

Super Mario 64 also holds the distinction of having the most difficult coin to collect in a Mario game. Nicknamed “The Impossible Coin”, gamers discovered its existence in 2002.

Located beneath the ground in the Tiny-Huge Island course, the seemingly unobtainable coin was considered to be a programmer oversight. However, in 2014 it was collected by Scott Buchanan aka "pannenkoek2012" using tool assistance. He explained: "When you exit water from the side, there's a single frame when Mario is able to jump. I take advantage of this by jumping and kicking in order to move myself towards the coin and collect it."

Nintendo took over a decade to return the mainline Mario games to their 2D roots, doing so in 2006 with New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS. With just over 30 million copies sold, it became the best-selling non-bundled Mario videogame. It has only been outsold by the original Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart Wii, and Mario Kart 8, which have all been bundled with their respective consoles.

The next mainline entry in the series was Super Mario Galaxy (2007) on the Wii, which became the most critically acclaimed Mario videogame ever with a Metacritic score of 97. This score was later equalled by Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010) and Super Mario Odyssey (2017).

Interestingly, Super Mario Odyssey was the first time that Mario’s bare chest was revealed. The game includes a custom costume that puts Mario in just his boxer shorts, which led speedrunners to compete for the record for the fastest time to make Mario topless in Super Mario Odyssey, more commonly known as the “Nipple%” run. According to Speedrun.com, Italy’s “Tyron18” is the fastest to have done it with a time of 7 minutes 23.667 seconds.

The most recent mainline Mario game is Super Mario Bros. Wonder, released in 2023 for the Nintendo Switch. No one currently holds the Guinness World Records title for the fastest time to collect 10 wonder seeds in Super Mario Bros. Wonder – could you be the first?

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