courtesy Nintendo

A retro retrospective in 8-bit

A history of the oddities of everyone's favourite Italian-American

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Mario is older than you are, probably. He turned 25 last Monday, if you're willing to accept that the release of Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System is his birthday.

Large swaths of the video game press (i.e. blogs) are busy publishing fluff on this historic event and we're no different.

Rather than waste your time with facts and long sentences that say nothing, I'd like to take this occasion to point out a few of the oddities buried in Mario; there are more than you might expect.

His first videogame excursion was in 1981 when he was known only as Jumpman in the arcade game Donkey Kong. Given that the original 1985 Super Mario Bros. and it's incarnations on other platforms have sold over 40 million copies, you've probably played it. But you have probably never noticed that the clouds and the green bushes are pixel for pixel identical in all ways save for colour. Goombas and Shrooms share the same basic outlines too.

If you're really sly, you may have even picked up on Super Mario Bros. 3 being a stage show, opening with a rise of the curtains and ending with Mario exiting on stage right. Similarities to the stage don't end there -- the game bolts blocks to the backdrop and hangs platforms from backstage in a effort to create an atmosphere that was sadly lost on almost all who played it. But there are still odder things to know about Mario's world.

Nintendo seems to be unsure of the gender of one of the minor bosses after the release of a game. Birdo is what I believe to be the oddest thing in the Mario universe and her story is simple and short.

As claimed by page 27 of the Super Mario Bros. 2 instruction manual, Birdo "thinks he is a girl and likes to be called Birdetta." You'd think that that would make it pretty clear, but it hasn't.

In recent years Nintendo has tried to repackage Birdo as female and making her a love interest of Yoshi. Keep in mind that they're both egg-laying dinosaurs.

There are a number of proposed explanations for Birdo's history. Short of accepting the truth of Nintendo's inconsistency, the theory that leads to the fewest nerd interjections is one that claims that Brido is transsexual. Needless to say, this is not common for video game characters.

Nintendo was forced into the realization that even the basic premise upon which the games is based is downright laughable with the release of the Super Mario Bros. movie in 1993. Yoshi was portrayed as an actual dinosaur. It was awful. Plumbers don't crush turtles.