When you think about video games, one of the first characters that comes to mind is Mario—the chubby little Italian plumber hero who always saves his damsel in distress.But what about Mario made his brand such a powerhouse that people connect with so deeply?
Jeff Ryan has the answer in his book “Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America
,” which looks deep into Mario’s story:
He doesn’t have a personality
Mario is different from all the other stereotypical video game protagonists. “A Mario game lets you pretend to be a middle-aged chubster hopping onto a turtle shell. Huh? No superheroes? No soldiers? No wizards? What sort of cut-rate wish fulfillment is this?” writes Ryan.
But it’s that personality—or lack of one—that’s fundamentally important.
We are all Mario.
“Mario’s bland persona is part of his appeal: he’s a one-size-fits-all hero,” writes Ryan. “Mario has the freedom to have no personality at all … When Mario opens his mouth he’s a specific person. Mute, he’s our eternal alter ego.”
He looks simple
Ryan likens Mario to the simplest of cartoon characters, referencing cartoon academic Scott McCloud’s theory of “simplistic empathy.” Essentially, the more basic a drawing is, the more human and relatable it is.
“We feel for good old Charlie Brown’s heartbreak more than Funky Winkerbean’s, because Charlie Brown is simpler. We feel more with Mario than with a more realistically proportioned hero like Master Chief [from Halo] or Lara Croft [from Tomb Raider],” explains Ryan in his book.
His story is always the same
Mario is stuck in a perpetual loop: he has to rescue the princess from the bad guy. And whatever he does, there’s no consequence in the next game, so there are no issues with consistency. It’s the fact that Mario doesn’t have a complicated story to stifle him that helps make him so easy to connect with.
“We are [Mario]: his frustration at missing a jump is our own, his joy in grabbing a coin is ours as well,” writes Ryan. “That’s why his (or any other game character’s) story-mandated in-game conflict seldom ring true emotionally for us: they’re breathers, a halftime show.”
Marketers dream of creating a brand like Mario. He has everything: widespread recognition, a positive reputation, and most of all, a devoted fan following that identifies with the character and what he represents.
NOW WATCH: Ideas videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.