Mario is having a moment. He’s 35, practically ancient in the world of digital entertainment, but still maintains his A-list status as the most beloved and well-known face in video games. With over 670 million games sold, and his face adorning TV shows, movies, t-shirts, and toys by the truckload, he’s officially the biggest selling video game star of all time and a bonafide cultural icon.
In fact, studies going back decades have shown that his mustachioed visage is more widely recognizable than Mickey Mouse. And, like Disney’s mascot, he just got his very own theme park to star in, Super Nintendo World, which will open at Universal Studios Japan this month. Similar themed lands are under construction at Universal parks in Hollywood, Singapore, and Orlando.
Superfans Create a New Holiday
Back in 2008, a few science fiction enthusiasts on Facebook announced that they were creating a holiday. They declared that May 4th was Star Wars day for no other reason than because it would be fun to greet each other by cheekily saying “May the fourth be with you.” The trend caught on and eventually was officially adopted by parent company Disney. It seems to grow in awareness and participation every year.
Nintendo’s fans at some point realized that another date on the calendar suited their favorite mascot, and announced that March 10th, stylized as MAR10 to resemble the name of the plucky savior of the Mushroom Kingdom, was the perfect day to celebrate the world’s most popular video game plumber.
The very first Mario Day was held in 2016 and proclaimed on Nintendo’s official YouTube channel. In 2017, Nintendo offered a free Mario-themed frame to Facebook and Facebook Messenger that could only be used between March 10 and 12.
For the following year, they partnered with Google by adding a playable Mario minigame to Google Maps. Discounts for Mario games like Super Mario Party, Mario Kart, and Mario Tennis Aces were rolled out for the 2019 Mario Day. Also that year, in-store events sponsored by Frito-Lay were held at their flagship NYC retail outlet.
For 2020, things were slightly different and more virtual. Select Mario games were discounted again, and special Mario costumes were made available in Mario Kart Tour. They also used the event to tease a new partnership on their Twitter account, which was ultimately revealed to be LEGO Super Mario.
Love for Mario Crosses All Demos
It’s official: everyone loves Mario, and that includes us! So, to join in on the fun, Gigasavvy’s creators, designers, and brand strategists thought up some colorful, fun, Mario-themed co-branding opportunities to drive home his universal appeal.
“Mario is unique in that the game and character represent an era and nostalgia for many, yet transcends generations and remains current. Although the Mario franchise needs no help in exposure, I wanted to imagine what it might look like as a brand collaboration. There’s something powerful about two brands coming together to create something new and unexpected–especially if it’s two brands you already love.”
– Tyler Oslie, Senior Art Director, Gigasavvy
The universality of Nintendo’s success is no accident. Nintendo is a master at using inclusive design that draws in super fans from all demographics, notably by elevating female video game sidekicks into full-fledged headliners.
Gaming is often thought of as a male-dominated pastime, which is why it was so groundbreaking for Nintendo to release a title like “Metroid” back in the 1980s and make the game’s hero, Samus Aran, a space-exploring woman warrior. Even Nintendo’s damsels in distress,’ Princesses Peach and Zelda, have evolved over the years to take on more active roles in their respective franchises. Gigasavvy Designer Brittany Davis has a strong connection with Nintendo and recalls many fond memories and used those childhood impressions to inspire her designs.
“Mario was pretty important to me back in the day. One Christmas when I was young, I got a Nintendo DS from my parents, and it was probably one of the most memorable Christmas gifts I’ve received. My sister and I were always playing Super Mario Brothers and Mario Kart. Even though I would fall off the road pretty regularly, Rainbow Road was one of my favorite courses. Nintendo is amazing at imagining these different worlds, and really immersing you into it. This was a really cool opportunity to jump back into that world as an adult and reimagine one of my levels as an adult! I really wanted to make it as colorful and lively as possible, pairing some retro, lava lamp vibes with a modern illustration style.”
– Brittany Davis, Designer, Gigasavvy
Gigasavvy’s Ryan Schram imagined a fun product using the hero’s iconic mustache as his source of inspiration.
“Mario has some notable features (hat, overalls, mustache, etc.), so I wanted to come up with a product that made sense based on these distinct features and work in all things, Mario. I thought it would be cool to focus on a mustache product. The tin itself represents a pipe from the Super Mario series and then I riffed on some of the other iconic elements from the game.”
– Ryan Schram, Production Designer, Gigasavvy
Art Director, Nicole Pawloski wanted to capitalize on the sentimental charms of a game franchise that goes back decades:
“Now, as many gamers are getting older, there is a great opportunity to create something nostalgic for an adult audience. What better way to celebrate Super Mario, than through a crisp hazy IPA? Specifically, I chose to highlight Princess Peach (my favorite female heroine) in an imagined Triple Hazy IPA, that would pack a juicy punch fit for any beer snob. So grab a “Peachy Keen” and celebrate your favorite childhood game while indulging in your new favorite adult beverage.”
The Game Continues
All of the Mario Day events this year will cap off Mario’s 35th anniversary, and several limited-time promotional games and products will be removed from their online store, such as Super Mario Bros. 35, an online game where 35 players simultaneously compete at classic Mario Bros platforming in a battle royale.
And yet fans are excited for the 31st when these unique, limited-time games and features disappear. Not because they didn’t enjoy them and will be happy to see them go, but because it means they can start getting hyped for the next big Nintendo franchise to get the anniversary treatment: Zelda.
When your brand’s superfans decide they want to celebrate you, let them! There is nothing that brings consumers closer to your brand than some good old user-generated content. Once you’ve created something great, you have to set it free. Do your best to foster a dynamic community that’s empowered and invested in the future of your brand your success will be limited only by your fans imaginations.