“Trust the fungus.”– Luigi Mario from Super Mario Bros.
It’s not a secret that the members of the Munch crew are big fans of many different types of games. And video games are no exception. Indeed, we love ending a night with a round of one of our many favorites to help us end on a high note after a particularly bad film or just simply to keep the party going. We knew that eventually we would end up here – watching Super Mario Bros. – as it is one of the most iconic video game adaptations of our time.
Rather than re-hash the insane plot and all the outrageous things that happen in this movie (you can look to the super fans over here if you want that content), we couldn’t help but become obsessed with this quote from Wikipedia when we were doing our initial research: “Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto commented that while he enjoyed the effort that was put into the film, he felt that the end result tried too hard to replicate the game series.” It was almost like Miyamoto was asking us to compare and rank the movie adaptations with their video game counterparts.
So we did…
In perhaps one of the more confounding inclusions of a Mario character in this film, Toad makes an appearance. Could we have gone the entire movie without ever recognizing that character is supposed to be Toad? Almost assuredly.
In a strange twist of events, Toad eventually de-evolves into what is known as Goomba in this movie. Not only does that transformation not track when compared to the game, but it’s also just weird! Goomba’s size and overall reptilian appearance could not be more different from the small, brown critter that marches around in the games. Our best guess is that maybe Goomba in the movie is somehow multiple Goomba stacked on top of each other inside his suit (a Goomba Tower, if you will), and that’s why his head is so small and his movements are so weird. This is definitely giving the movie way too much credit because this style of Goomba wasn’t even seen in a game until 2011 when he premiered in Super Mario 3D Land… Unless the game was inspired by the movie? No, no. That can’t be it. Can it?
8. Iggy and Spike
Presented as cousins of King Koopa hired to do his bidding throughout the movie, these characters are actually named after two completely different archetypes from the games. Iggy is one of the Koopalings or mini-bosses that you defeat in your quest to reach Bowser. Spike is just an adorable baddie you run into throughout various levels (and Mario Tennis). It doesn’t really make sense that they grouped them together, especially when there are so many other Koopalings to choose from (Lenny? Larry? Mortan?? Ludwig???). And especially since they are supposedly related to King Koopa. Honestly, it was right there. Besides their somewhat spiky hair and allegiance to Koopa (although even that eventually changes), these two characters don’t share many commonalities at all with their video game counterparts.
7. King Koopa
This is a tough one to judge because King Koopa goes through some changes throughout the film, and we have to judge the entire presentation of the character. Also, we’re just going to go ahead and assume that King Koopa is meant to be Bowser (whose full name happens to be King Bowser Koopa). The Koopa King is actually the name of Bowser’s kart in Mario Kart. And you definitely care about all of these naming semantics, right? Right?! Anyway, the similarities start with the fact that King Koopa in both the game and the movie is dedicated to controlling and conquering their respective lands (Mushroom Kingdom in the game, Dinohattan in the movie), and does so with a spiky fist. Might we also add that “Mushroom Kingdom” is a much better name for Dinohattan since it is literally covered in a fungus. Honestly, this movie writes itself. Anyway, both are also leaders who have taken their titles by force and maintain it with an army of minions who never seem to question their motives. Finally, both Bowser and King Koopa are known to kidnap and hunt plumbers who seek to foil their plans. But these few personality traits are really where the similarities stop. Even as King Koopa starts transitioning to a more reptilian appearance, he never really mimics the overall look of Bowser. How hard would it have been to give him red hair and a few spiky accessories?
Yes, we all know that Yoshi is canonically a dinosaur (or dragon if you want to get nit-picky), but to see him presented as a “realistic” Earth dinosaur is just… disturbing. But if you really consider it, we suppose Yoshi’s entire vibe is to be low-key disturbing. I mean let’s think about it for a second… We have a creature who hatches out of an egg, born with “shoes” already on its feet, and over the course of its life is destined to don a poorly fitting saddle (recent iterations show it more like a shell which doesn’t make a lot of sense). And then Yoshi becomes a literal jumping-off point for Mario only for Yoshi to fall off the world or get left behind. Maybe Yoshi should actually be number one on this list…
We can only assume that the movie chose to have Princess Daisy and not Princess Peach because Peach isn’t a believable human name. Although, there are fan theories abound that Daisy and Luigi in Nintendo games are actually each others’ love interests as they turn out to be in the movie. This is mostly driven by shaky evidence from the fact that Peach and Daisy are often paired up in games like Mario Tennis, suggesting they are the female corollaries to the Mario and Luigi match up. Feel free to make your own call on that one. That said, Daisy is ultimately a Princess, she is kidnapped by King Koopa, and he does try to seduce her – all of which are hallmarks of what we’re realizing now is a very creepy plot in most Mario games. For that, Daisy earns a top-five spot.
Let’s be clear – the Luigi adaptation is still hot garbage, but because his movie form actually matches his game form, he gets a free pass ahead of all the garbage adaptations we’ve reviewed already. We also considered moving him up a little higher just solely on the inspired casting and delivery of the role by John Leguizamo. But the Luigi we have grown to love is not really one to steal the limelight from his big brother Mario so the adaptation of Luigi in Super Mario Bros. leaves something to be desired. He also doesn’t have a mustache!
Of the Mario brothers, Mario sticks truer to the source material than most elements in this film. Is he a plumber? Check. Does he have a mustache? Check. Does he wear a red cap at some point in the movie? Check. That honestly is enough to already get him up to #3 on this list, we really don’t think we need to say anything more about it.
2. Boss fight Bridge Battle
Okay, props to the movie here: this was actually really clever. In the original Super Mario Bros, castle boss fights with Bowser were always held on bridges, and the only way to beat Bowser was to destroy the bridge. This setup has been reused in many of the 2D Mario games, including the recent New Super Mario Bros U (still love that title), and the bridge battle is even a placeable element in Super Mario Maker. By pitting Mario against King Koopa on a bridge, they kept true to this tradition and even managed to involve our #1 pick…
We would argue this is the only place where the movie improved upon the game. They made the Bob-omb smaller (smaller is cuter, as we all know), changed the way it walked to resemble a wind up toy, and gave it the ability to walk on walls (totally normal). Also Bob-omb destroys the bridge, ultimately saving the day and making them not the hero the movie deserved, but the one it needed to wrap up a mess of a climax.
André: Mama mia! I enjoy a video game adaptation as much as the next guy, which is to say, I accept in advance that it is going to be a bad movie and go in hoping that the number of references I understand will be worth it, and that we’ll be dealing with a “so-bad-it’s-good” scenario. Super Mario Bros. barely skates by on both accounts. There are a sufficient number of references to keep a stream of dopamine firing in my brain as I pat myself on the back for recognizing the references, even if each one is more buckwild than the last. It was definitely bad, but not bad enough to make me laugh out loud and want to rewatch moments to see “did they really do that?” I don’t see myself watching this again, and given the effort required to find it online, I wouldn’t recommend you go out of your way to watch this one either.
Leanna: As Bowser would say, “Huh? What just happened? So many losers, but no one lost?! Hmmm…” Trust me, he says that in Mario Party 5. I would sooner play 50 rounds of Mario Party 5 again than watch this movie again. It was such a strange experience, and just not quite bad enough to make it worth it.
Ben: 30%. I tried to get on board with what this movie was putting down, I really did. But every time there was a moment where I could see myself beginning to root for the movie it would take another turn, make another choice that wasn’t satisfying or engaging. This film is broken. And no pair of plumbers are going to be able to fix it up. The one good thing I can say about the film is that the creative team that put together the city and had a vision for what it looked like are all incredibly talented. Props to all of them and the incredibly hard work they must have put in. They are why this film is a worthwhile cultural touchstone.
We took this whole comparison idea one step further and used it for our food as well. We translated common Super Mario images like stars, mushrooms, and firepower and used them to make a rather eclectic yet tasty meal.
We also went on a bit of a journey creating a core set piece to pull this all together: pipes. It involved a lengthy aging process which included both vinegar and potato chips, but we have to say that we think once we put it all together, our adaptations are better than the movie. We wonder what Miyamoto would think.
The Fire Flower
Shake all ingredients with ice, and strain into a coupe glass. Top with an edible flower.