In an industry where extreme graphic violence, hyperrealistic graphics and gruff macho attitude has become the norm for Triple A gaming, Nintendo’s Mario games are still bastions of kid friendly innocence… or are they? Sure, the main series games are all rated E for Everyone and the spin-off games rarely go beyond an E10+ (some of the Super Smash Bros. games are exceptions, but even their T-rated violence is super cartoony), and it’s easy enough to play every Mario game without noticing or thinking too much about their darker aspects.
But what if you knew the truth about the Mushroom Kingdom? What if you found every scary, morbid, gross or blatantly sexual hidden secret you could find in the games? Would you think so innocently about Mario then? Some of these secrets were placed there with dark intent, while others are the product of bizarre accidents, glitches that end up reframing how people understand these characters in a whole new light. It’s time to gobble up that Mega Mushroom, put on your Tanooki Suit, and power up however best you can, because this list is about to take you on a journey through 15 of the darkest secrets of the Mushroom Kingdom.
15. THE BRICKS ARE DEAD TOADS
Everything about the Mushroom Kingdom gets darker when you read the instruction manual. The plot description for the original Super Mario Bros. reads, “One day the kingdom of the peaceful mushroom people was invaded by the Koopa, a tribe of turtles famous for their black magic. The quiet, peace-loving Mushroom People were turned into mere stones, bricks and even field horse-hair plants, and the Mushroom Kingdom fell into ruin.”
So, all those bricks Mario hits, breaks to gets coins and power-ups from? They’re the corpses of long-dead Toads. Most of the gameplay is essentially grave-robbing. And that’s just assuming the Toads are actually dead! If they’re somehow still alive and sentient in brick form, then Mario wracks up a higher body count of innocents than most Grand Theft Auto play-throughs.
14. MARIO BEATS YOSHI WHILE RIDING HIM
The limitations of 16-bit graphics require certain details to be left to the imagination. How people interpret these details can be sort of a Rorschach test. Case in point: when Yoshi sticks his tongue out in Super Mario World, it’s been a source of debate whether Mario is punching Yoshi in the back of the head or merely pointing Yoshi in the right direction. A 2017 interview on Nintendo’s official website with developers Takashi Tezuka and Shigefumi Hino revealed the awful truth.
Hino said, “The set up that I drew was that when Mario punches Yoshi in the head, the character’s tongue shoots out in surprise.” The sound effects were also meant to get across the impact of a punch, albeit in a cartoony way. Everyone he told this to was horrified, however, so he let others, including those drawing Nintendo’s promotional art, believe Mario was just pointing.
13. MARIO IS SEVERELY DEFORMED
The trailers for Super Mario Odyssey, the Nintendo Switch title releasing on October 27, 2017, have gotten people excited for the game, but have also struck a nerve with just how weird and vaguely unnerving some of the imagery is. The most controversial segments have been those set in New Donk City, a realistically designed New York-esque metropolis where all the citizens look like normally proportioned human beings… and then there’s Mario.
Mario’s short rounded cartoon features are so dramatically different from the citizens of New Donk City that some people were speculating they were different species. Director Kenta Motokura put that speculation to rest and told VICE that Mario is human, just deformed. When asked why Mario’s so different looking, he answered, “In the world, there are many different types of people, you know.”
12. THERE WAS ALMOST A “WALUPEACHI”
Mario’s disgusting doppelganger Wario stars in both the Wario Land series of platformers and the Wario Ware minigame collections. Luigi’s rotten counterpart Waluigi exists mainly as Wario’s sports partner, and has only really “starred” in the hearts and memes of players. But if there is to be true equality in the Mushroom Kingdom, shouldn’t Peach and possibly Daisy have “Wa-” versions of their own?
A “Wa-” version of Peach named “Walupeachi” was in fact proposed for the original build of Mario Tennis but rejected from the final release. Hiroyuki Takahashi told Nintendo Power, “We asked Nintendo about girlfriends for Wario and Waluigi, too, but Mr. Miyamoto said he didn’t even want to see their girlfriends.” However, voice actor Charles Matinet has said he doubts Wario and Waluigi are actually brothers, so since they aren’t one-to-one comparisons with their good counterparts, Walupeachi wouldn’t have to be Wario’s girlfriend either.
11. SUPER MARIO 64’s UNKILLABLE KILLER PIANO
Some seemingly minor-looking video game enemies are best left alone. Every Legend of Zelda fan knows it is best not to mess with any Cuccos. The Mad Piano in the Big Boo’s Haunt level of Super Mario 64 makes for an unusually scary and frustratingly undefeatable enemy. The Nintendo Power game guide claimed it was possible to defeat it, but nobody in the two decades since the game’s release has found a way. The guide lied.
The Mad Piano looks like a normal piano from a distance — until you get up close and it starts chomping with its teeth! The only way to keep it from devouring you is to run far away. All it guards is a single red coin, so you only need to face it if you’re a completionist, looking for a challenge or seeking serious nightmare fuel.
If you look in first person mode toward the cliffs in Super Mario Galaxy 2‘s Shiverburn Galaxy, you will find yourself facing three ominous figures in the distance seemingly staring at you with long hollow eyes. There’s no explanation why they’re there and you can’t interact with them in any way. Looking into the source code just makes them scarier: the figures’ file name is “HellValleySkyTree” and the texture file for the sky behind them is labeled “BeyondHellValley.”
These figures have continued to appear in Mario platformers with still no clarification on what they even are. You can find them at the end of the ghost house levels of Super Mario 3D Land and through a Clear Pipe Canon in the last main level of Super Mario 3D World. Finding these guys is like Where’s Waldo?, only terrifying!
9. DAISY’S THIRD EYE
Who is Daisy? There’s the simple answer and the complicated answer. The simple answer is that she was the princess Mario rescued in the GameBoy title Super Mario Land and has since become a mainstay of the Mario sports and party games. She’s presented with a more tomboyish attitude than Peach and has been teased as a possible love interest for Luigi. An unrecognizable version of Daisy was in the 1993 live-action movie.
The complicated answer? Daisy is TERRIFYING. For one thing, her constant repetition of her only line in Mario Kart: Double Dash (“Hi, I’m Daisy!”) has driven many a gamer to madness. For another thing, zooming in on her trophy in Super Smash Bros. Melee reveals she has an EYEBALL underneath her hair! Why is it there? Is it a glitch? Why is it shaped differently from her other eyes? What other disturbing secrets is she hiding?
8. MINUS WORLD
In a game as centered around exploration and discovery as Super Mario Bros., uncovering a secret world would seem to be a cause for excitement. Unfortunately, actually playing through the “Minus World,” an endless unbeatable water level accessible through a backwards jump in World 1-2, is an exercise in frustration. This wasn’t a secret hidden for the adventurous player’s enjoyment. The Minus World exists entirely as a glitch.
The Minus World isn’t the only glitch level hidden within the game. The Japanese release has other Minus World levels, all weirdly miscolored. Up to 256 additional levels made out of broken game data can be unlocked on the original NES cartridge through use of the Game Genie or switching cartridges between Super Mario Bros. and Tennis.
7. MARIO MEETS THE SHINING?
In Stephen King’s The Shining, Dick Hallorann notices an apparition as the Overlook Hotel catches fire. The apparition “assumed the shape of a huge, obscene manta, and then the wind seemed to catch it, to tear it and shred it like old dark paper. It fragmented, was caught in a whirling eddy of smoke, and a moment later it was gone as if it had never been.”
Now look at Phantomanta in Super Mario Sunshine. It also appears outside a hotel, it’s described by the hotel owner as “paper thin,” and Mario defeats it by breaking it into pieces that puff into smoke. This is either a clever reference that’ll go completely over the heads of the game’s supposed target audience, or grounds for elaborate fan theories about how Super Mario Sunshine and The Shining are part of a shared universe.
6. TOADSWORTH VEHEMENTLY DENIES INCEST
The Mario RPG titles in the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series place a greater emphasis on clever writing than the other Mario games, and with that comes more opportunities for sexual innuendo. Partners in Time, the second game in the Mario & Luigi series, took advantage of the opportunity to make jokes about… incest between Mario and Luigi!?!
Yes, or to be more precise, they took on the suspiciously specific denial of such a horror. In the tutorial when Toadsworth teaches the brothers how to do the “Bros. Ball” move, he repeats that the move’s close physical contact “requires a bit of an open mind” but is “not a bit odd.” To top it off, Toadsworth specifically tells the characters and the players to “keep the jokes to themselves.” Um, wow.
5. DONKEY KONG “RODE” HIMSELF
Sometimes video game glitches are hilarious… and a little bit disturbing. When playing as Donkey Kong in the “Jungle Hijinxs” level of Donkey Kong Country, riding on a barrel and dismounting onto Rambi the Rhino in the right location will transform Rambi into a metallic silver clone of Donkey Kong himself. Donkey Kong can ride on his clone for a limited time before it transforms back to Rambi.
The animation of the riding Donkey Kong rocking his body back and forth while sitting on his silver clone’s lower back is incredibly suggestive. That’s certainly one way to pleasure yourself. While Diddy Kong can also create a silver clone using this glitch, his animations thankfully aren’t suggestive because even a glitching game dares not tarnish Diddy’s innocence.
4. LUIGI COMMITTED SUICIDE?
Luigi’s Mansion has its fans but no one would call this ghost-hunting game particularly terrifying. No one, that is, except those who’ve discovered its big Sixth Sense twist! Yes, Luigi has been a ghost all along! Spoooooooooooooky! How did people figure this out? Because during a flash of lightning while Luigi’s on the phone in the attic, Luigi’s shadow appears elevated off the ground, seemingly hanging from a noose. Luigi was hanged, possibly in a suicide. Press F to pay respects.
Now, was this intentional? Probably not, considering this is still an E-rated Nintendo game. There are reasons to believe it’s just a lighting glitch. There are also some fans who theorize it’s a remnant from an older, darker build of the game. But whatever reason the hanging Luigi shadow is there, once you see it, you can’t unsee it… or stop thinking about it.
3. THE MOVIE PREDICTED 9/11
The 1993 live action Super Mario Bros. movie is already incongruously dour. What should have been a whimsical adventure movie was instead a tonally confused trudge through a Blade Runner-esque dystopia. The movie was already freaky when it came out (the Goombas are beyond terrifying), but it became a whole lot more uncomfortable after September 11, 2001.
Most of the movie takes place in Dinohattan, a parallel universe version of Manhattan where humans evolved from dinosaurs. King Koopa has two giant towers in the middle of the city, one of which is under construction. In the climax of the film, when Mario and Luigi merge the two universes, the World Trade Center is replaced by the incomplete Koopa Towers. The special effect looks an awful lot like the Towers are collapsing, which now brings back painful memories.
2. “PROOF OF BIRDO’S FEMININITY”
It’s well known that Birdo is Nintendo’s first transgender character, a fact that is neither dark nor secret. What has been kept secret from American audiences, however, is the Wii game Captain Rainbow, which contains some content on the raunchier and somewhat disturbing side. The game is about a superhero living on an island with a bunch of C-list Nintendo characters, among them Mario 2 boss, Birdo.
In the game, Birdo gets arrested for using the women’s restroom. Rather than call the Mushroom Kingdom equivalent of the ACLU about discrimination, Captain Rainbow instead helps free Birdo by going on a fetch quest for “proof of her femininity.” The proof he finds is visually censored and… vibrates. Yes, Nintendo of Japan published a game that forces you to think about an egg-spitting dinosaur’s sex toy collection.
1. BOWSER BANGED PEACH
Peach gets kidnapped by Bowser so frequently and easily that many people joke that she actually prefers his company over Mario’s. A cutscene in Super Mario Sunshine provides evidence, in the most disturbing way possible for an E-rated game. In fact, this might not be a joke but actual canon. Bowser Jr. calls Peach his “Mama.” Peach acts slightly surprised, but after he says, “Poppa told me all about it,” her only response is, “So you’re Bowser’s son?”
She did not deny having a child with Bowser. Her only source of confusion seemed to be that she didn’t remember this particular child, as if she had so many children with Bowser that she forgot what this one looked like. And remember, Bowser has at least eight children and seemingly no wife. Are all of the Koopalings Peach’s offspring? Just how many times have Peach and Bowser gotten biz-ayy!?!
Do you know any other dark secrets about the Mushroom Kingdom? Share them in the comments!
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