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Mario Brothers
Mario and Luigi, the plucky Italian plumbers, are by far the most important fantasy heroes to emerge from VIDEO GAMES. The popularity of their games almost single-handedly established Nintendo as the dominant force in the industry and helped to make video game units a standard feature of the American household. While Mario Brothers games have been increasingly imaginative, visually stimulating, and technically challenging, there is another reason for their success: unlike earlier arcade and home video games, largely iterative exercises in destroying enemies or consuming prizes, Mario games always had a definite narrative structure that accords with this volume's model of FANTASY. In the beginning, as described in the "Story" section of the instruction booklet and/or in an animated prologue to the game, WRONGNESS has entered a fantasy realm, as evil forces invade the land and kidnap its beautiful princess. Mario or Luigi then makes his way through wondrous landscapes afflicted by a THINNING, blighted by malignant enemies, threatening traps, and imprisoned creatures, as he frequently dies and returns to life while gradually learning how to overcome these obstacles (as described in Gary Westfahl's "Zen and the Art of Mario Maintenance" in Immortal Engines, edited by Westfahl, George Slusser, and Eric S. Rabkin [1996]). There is a climactic battle or CONFLICT between Mario and the leader of the invaders, usually a monstrous DRAGON named either Bowser or King Koopa, and after he is defeated there is a final moment of HEALING, as Mario is kissed by the rescued princess, the denizens of the land stage a celebration, and/or Mario gets a well-earned rest. To be sure, these games still largely involve repetitive activity, but by providing this sort of framework and a sense of closure, they become a much more satisfying experience, close to that of reading a fantasy.

Mario first appeared in the arcade game Donkey Kong (1981), where his simple tasks were to climb rickety ladders, leap on precarious platforms, and eventually rescue a fair maiden from the clutches of a giant gorilla. Super Mario Brothers (1985), for Nintendo units, was the first game to involve journeys through fantasy worlds filled with malevolent MUSHROOMS, hammer-throwing turtles, anthropomorphic bullets, "piranha plants," and flame-throwing dragons, a pattern generally followed in the successor games Super Mario Brothers 2 (1988) and Super Mario Brothers 3 (1990); similar Game Boy games were Super Mario Land (1989) and Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins (1992). The first Super Nintendo game, Super Mario World (1991), brought a quantum leap in visual quality and sophistication and introduced the key characters of the friendly, omnivorous dragons, the Yoshis; Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (1995) is an interesting "prequel" to the other games, describing how the Yoshis once helped baby Mario. Some games have featured former foes of Mario now cast as heroes: Donkey Kong (Donkey Kong Country [1994], Donkey Kong Land [1995]), and Donkey Kong Country II [1995]) and Mario's evil twin Wario (Super Mario Land 3: Warioland [1993]). Mario, Luigi, and friends have also been used—or misused—in radically different sorts of games, like educational games (Mario Is Missing [1992] and Mario's Time Machine [1992]), a racing game (Mariokart [1992]), puzzle games (Doctor Mario [1989]) and a make-your-own-art game (Mariopaint [1993]).

Despite their enormous popularity in video games, Mario and Luigi have not fared well in other media. A syndicated cartoon series, Super Mario Brothers (1991-1993), all too transparently functioned as an ADVERTISEMENT for the games, as Mario and his friends experience adventures contrived to display various characters from and features of his games; and the live-action movie Super Mario Brothers (1993), despite some high-powered talent, was a surprisingly leaden, unfocused affair, suggesting that Mario's fantasy world may be too playful and outrageously fantastic to successfully translate to more traditional genres of fantasy.

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