The Super Mario Bros. Movie has hit theatres, bringing to life many years of bumping pipes, jumping on turtle shells, shooting fireballs, and sliding down flag poles. Like every adaptation out there, it promises plenty of references to the games, from beloved character appearances and familiar soundtracks to the notoriously difficult Rainbow Road race track.
Having revisited the nostalgia on the big screen, Geek Culture is here to present an Easter egg basket filled with game characters who are appearing in The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Keep your eyes peeled for them!
WARNING: Spoilers for The Super Mario Bros. Movie ahead! Proceed at your own risk!
Created by Shigeru Miyamoto, Mario (then Jumpman) first appeared in the game designer’s debut title, a 1981 arcade platformer called Donkey Kong. The beloved plumber was later renamed after Mario Segale, the real estate developer who rented his warehouse to Nintendo when the industry giant’s US office was interrupted. Fast forward to today, and the plumber has become one of the most iconic and popular mascots of the video game industry.
In The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Mario, voiced by Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World), lands in the Mushroom Kingdom and must embark on a journey to save his brother – red cap, mustache, and all.
Initially just a colour palette swap of Mario to rile up the competitiveness between two players, Luigi has grown a lot as a character since his creation in 1983. The younger twin brother has since starred as the main protagonist in games such as the Luigi’s Mansion series.
Charlie Day (Pacific Rim, Monsters University) will try his role as a scream queen, voicing Luigi as he tries to escape Bowser’s clutches or await rescue, whichever comes first.
Can you visualise a greyish-blue Boswer? That was King Koopa’s colouring on the Super Mario Bros. box art. Luckily, character designer Yoichi Kotabe took inspiration from a Chinese softshell turtle, giving us the beginning of today’s design before the character’s first in-game appearance in 1985.
All hail voice-acting royalty Jack Black (Kung Fu Panda, Jumanji: The Next Level), who will lead the Koopa Troop on a course to the Mushroom Kingdom.
4) Princess Peach
Ranked 15th in Forbes’s list of wealthiest fictional billionaires, Princess Peach has come a long way since her debut in 1985, the character only being playable in 1988.
This time, however, her royal highness isn’t the damsel in distress. Voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy (Queen’s Gambit, The New Mutants), Princess Peach will lead the charge as the heroine of her own tale, leading Luigi’s rescue and saving Mushroom Kingdom from Bowser’s devastation, marking a nice change in pace from the original games.
While the Toad species debuted in the original 1985 Super Mario Bros., the character himself only appeared in 1988’s Super Mario Bros. 2. Despite being a major side character, Toad scored a starring role in the 1994 Wario’s Woods.
There is no bigger guarantee that Toad will make audiences laugh themselves silly as he aids Mario in his rescue mission, than knowing he will be voiced by comedic powerhouse Keegan-Michael Key (Get Out, Key & Peele).
A thorn in Mario and Luigi’s side since infancy, Kamek first appeared in 1995’s Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, where he attacked the Stork carrying the twins to their parents. However, the Magikoopa is loyal to the Koopa family, even when Baby Bowser pounded him into a pancake.
Kamek, voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson (Teen Titans, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), is no less powerful in The Super Mario Bros. Movie as he easily renders the Penguins immobile for Bowser to take their kingdom.
7) Donkey Kong
The OG Mario antagonist, Donkey Kong, debuted alongside Mario in the 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong. He was Mario’s original love interest-napper, stealing away the plumber’s first love, Pauline.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie might be taking a leaf out of Donkey King Jr.’s playbook with the character, voiced by Seth Rogan (Shrek the Third, The Lion King), looking to be aiding Mario in his quest to save his brother – after pounding his face in. Fans will also be delighted to hear that the famous DK Rap from Donkey Kong 64 will make an appearance during the film.
8) Cranky Kong
If any character has a confusing debut date, it has to be Cranky Kong. There are theories that Cranky Kong first appeared as the original Donkey Kong in 1981, with the current Donkey Kong being his grandson. The other theory is that Cranky Kong is just Donkey Kong’s grandfather, debuting in the 1994 Donkey Kong Country.
Voiced by Fred Armisen (Wednesday, Zoolander 2), the character takes after his game appearance, and is the one Peach has to convince for an alliance in the movie. In line with his over-the-top demeanour, his character introduction scene is also executed with an exaggerated, stylish flair.
Koopas first appeared as Shellcreepers in the 1983 Mario Bros. before re-debuting under their current name in the 1985 Super Mario Bros. Koopas fall under the reign of Bowser, with the majority making up his Koopa Troop. However, there are a few that choose to aid Mario.
These anthropomorphic turtle-like creatures come in an array of colours – their shells, in the game, each offer a unique power – with each colour representing a sector of Bowser’s Koopa Troop. For example, the blue-shelled Koopas make up the air force while green-shelled Koopas are the members of the infantry.
Largely minor characters, these adorable flightless birds made their debut in the 1996 Super Mario 64. Penguins are often placed to aid or hinder Mario in his quests.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie gives these characters a much more fiery role, starting with a battle between them and Bowser. Unfortunately, the battle doesn’t end in their favour as they are soon locked up in Bowser’s dungeon, with the Penguin King (Khary Payton) offering advice to a frightened Luigi.
11) Dry Bones
These skeletal versions of Koopas first debuted in the 1988 Super Mario Bros. 3 and proved to be quite an annoyance to defeat, having the ability to revive despite collapsing. The 2006 New Super Mario Bros. also introduced players to Dry Bones version of Bowser, who didn’t make it to the movie. With a sequel expected in the pipeline, however, the menacing figure might very well appear on the silver screen some day.
The Dry Bones in The Super Mario Bros. Movie have a slightly more eerie design than their game counterparts, possessing bright red eyes instead of the usual yellow. The gloomy, haunted premises of a mansion (yes, that’s a Luigi’s Mansion reference) certainly adds to the unease, as Luigi is chased right into the building, where another surprise awaits.
Goombas were created in 1985 to be ‘starter baddies’ after game testers complained that Koopas were too tricky introductory antagonists. Designed to be beaten with a single stomp, it is safe to say there were no more complaints after that.
These little creatures are seen in the trailer as part of Bowser’s army, though fans should not hold their breaths for any displays of warrior prowess.
13) Bullet Bills
These anthropomorphic bullet-like projectiles first appeared in the 1985 Super Mario Bros., acting as common enemies often shot from Turtle Cannons. As the franchise expanded, many variants, such as Missile Bills and Bullet Biffs, also started to appear.
While often shot by antagonists at Mario, the Bullet Bills in the movie were first introduced as part of a training exercise by Princess Peach for the plumber, before becoming a real threat in the final showdown between Bowser and Mario and gang. It doesn’t matter in any case – Bullet Bills hit hard, and they sure did on both accounts.
14) Blue Luma
First appearing in the 2007 Super Mario Galaxy, Lumas have the appearance of chonkier Power stars and come in various colours, including blue, green, red, and black. However, don’t let their adorable appearance fool you, as they can transform from minor planetoids to entire galaxies.
The Blue Luma in the big screen adaptation has been captured by Bowser, and it’s one fatalistic little thing. From talking about embracing the ‘sweet release of death’ to the cheerful declaration of “fresh meat for the grinder’, the character’s morbid, grown-up humour is bound to tickle a few funny bones.
15) Shy Guys
These odd little guys debuted in the 1988 Super Mario Bros. 2, acting as minor – though common – antagonists to Mario and party. They are easily defeated by having an object thrown at them or by being the object thrown.
Shy Guys don’t get much screen time in The Super Mario Bros. Movie, making their first appearance in the mansion that Luigi ends up in after being chased by the Dry Bones. Subsequently, they can be seen lingering in a few other scenes, such as when Bowser threatens Luigi to give Mario up by pulling out the hairs of his moustache.
16) King Bob-omb
The lord of the Bob-ombs gets some screen time here, only to end it off with a boom – quite literally. In the face-off against Bowser, Princess Peach lights King Bob-omb up using flames from a Fire Flower, resulting in a grand, large-scale explosion. It’s not the best way to go out, especially given its status as the first boss in Super Mario 64 and its remake, but it sure is spectacular.
The character would later become a recurring boss in subsequent titles, specifically spin-off titles such as Mario Party 9 and Mario & Luigi Paper Jam. Not once will he be less annoying, so his defeat is always a sweet victory for the player.
17) Foreman Spike
One of the lesser-known Mario villains, Foreman Spike made his debut in 1985’s Wrecking Crew as the foreman of the demolition site where Mario and Luigi work. In the movie adaptation, the character mocks them for being failures, and ridicules their efforts at promoting their plumbing business with a Mario Rap commercial.
Seems like nothing about the man has changed, from his attitude to the bearded, suspenders-wearing look.
Bonus #1: Yoshi
Well, not exactly. The ever-adorable Yoshi doesn’t appear at all in The Super Mario Bros. Movie, but his species does – and not for long, too. Several Yoshis of different colours are shown in a brief, few-second frame, and it later becomes clear that the scene is meant to be a setup for a Yoshi tease in the post-credit moment, where a very familiar egg shows up on the silver screen. Wahoo!
Bonus #2: Cheep Cheep, Blooper, Piranha Plant, And More
While the likes of Cheep Cheep, Blooper, and Piranha Plants are more monsters than characters, all of them are worth a mention here, simply because they have become part of the Super Mario identity, and captured the spirit of the games well. Other notable creatures include Hammer Bro, Lakitu, and Swoops.
At 92 minutes long, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a fast, entertaining, and colourful adventure for both fans of the game and children. A homage to the video game series, it comes chock full of references at almost every turn, even if some are more niche than the others.
The world of Super Mario leaves much to be explored, and should there be a sequel and more, hopefully more characters can make it to the silver screen. Yoshi is already a guarantee at this point, but can we perhaps also have King Boo and Rosalina? Oh, throw Wario and Waluigi into the formula equation, please.