The movie Super Mario Bros. is the latest adaptation of Nintendo’s venerable plumber, with the recent trailer helping to show just how faithful the animated film will be to the games. An interesting aspect here is that Mario is indeed an alien in the Mushroom Kingdom, which makes the story analogous to the isekai anime. Ironically, this isn’t a first for the franchise.
the original mario The movie was an outright isekai anime OVA, ripping the plumber out of his world into Princess Toadstool’s. The same could even be argued for the infamous live-action Super Mario Bros. movie, which sent Mario to another world of sorts. Here’s how one of the most classic video game characters of all time continues to tell his story via the most ubiquitous anime genre of the modern era.
Mario’s First Two Movies Were Isekai – And One Was Even An Anime
One of the first mario the adaptations were the anime OVA Super Mario Bros. : The grand mission to save Princess Peach!. It was one of the first anime adaptations of a video game in general, though its plot would completely break the fourth wall when it comes to the medium. It opens with Mario apparently playing his own game on the Famicom (the Japanese equivalent of the Nintendo Entertainment System) before encountering Princess Peach Toadstool. Mario and his brother Luigi later end up going through a pipe, ending up in the Mushroom Kingdom in what becomes an adventure to save the princess.
The idea of being sucked into another world is the very definition of isekai, especially these days. Most modern isekai anime, manga, and light novels even feature a similar concept of characters being introduced to video game worlds, though JRPGs are more common than platformers. Of course, this anime was not the only one mario upcoming movie, with much more maligned live action Super Mario Bros. come out a few years later.
This film notably saw Mario and Luigi crossing from their native home in Brooklyn and being sent to a world in which dinosaurs still roamed and had evolved into a full-fledged humanoid species. They arrive in this world through a kind of dimensional door, then find themselves in “Dinosaur World”. This reality is very different from anything that exists in the world. Super Mario Bros. games, but it’s still a markedly different reality the heroes go to, which makes it as much an isekai as anything.
Mario being an Isekai has a basis in the game’s canon
The concept of Mario and Luigi ending up in the Mushroom Kingdom isn’t exactly made up. The early game canon established a premise similar to that used in the mario anime, in which plumbers Mario and Luigi travel to the Mushroom Kingdom via mysterious pipes. This makes Super Mario Bros. a very literal sequel to the arcade game Mario Brothers., which showed the siblings battling Koopa-like enemies in an underground cave filled with pipes. Previous games donkey kong, Donkey Kong Jr. and Demolition Crew established a more contemporary setting for Mario’s early adventures, away from the wacky, Alice in Wonderland– locations inspired by the Mushroom Kingdom.
Later games such as Yoshi’s Island would establish that Mario and Luigi were indeed from the Mushroom Kingdom before being taken by a stork to their parents. A magical stork going where it wants is one thing, but it would seem that getting to the Mushroom Kingdom and back involves using its likely trans-dimensional pipes. So the Super Mario Bros. the games are as much isekai as the movies, laying the groundwork for why these adaptations feature Mario as an outsider in a strange land among the mushrooms.