Mario the Blue-collar Working Man
Mario was originally a carpenter (Donkey Kong, Arcade, 1981). One day Donkey Kong broke into Mario’s work site with a kidnapped Pauline and busted everything up while scaling the unfinished building. Mario followed the rampaging gorilla, took him down, and saved the day. He was then immediately fired for violating safety regulations scaling a hazardous structure when he should have left the heroics to the proper authorities.
Mario was left with no job, but he did have a captive gorilla, so he decided to try being an animal tamer (Donkey Kong Jr., Arcade, 1982). This career was cut short when Donkey Kong Jr. arrived to rescue his father - they smashed through Mario’s secret lair and left him for dead.
At this point, Mario got some help from his brother Luigi, who got him a job at the bottle factory with him on the assembly line (Mario Bros., Game & Watch, 1983). However Mario, having learned from losing his first job, made note of the lack of proper safety equipment throughout the factory. When he threatened to report their violations to OSHA, the bosses decided to sabotage Mario, running the assembly line at a pace nobody could possibly keep up with. A few pallets of broken bottles was all the excuse they needed to fire both brothers.
Before long, Mario found another factory job making cement (Mario’s Cement Factory, Game & Watch, 1983), but this work site was even worse than the last one. He was forced to work on high catwalks with no railings, and the unforgiving pace of the factory line led to cement overflowing directly onto other employees. Once again Mario threatened to report their safety violations, and once again he found himself sabotaged and fired.
To Hell and Back
Sick of dealing with the corrupt industrial sector, Mario got together with Luigi and established a small plumbing business (Mario Bros., Arcade, 1983). They quickly lucked out by landing a government contract to maintain the sewers of New York City. Little did they know that the city sewers contained a portal to the Mushroom Kingdom, where King Bowser Koopa was on the warpath. A contingent of Bowser’s troops stumbled through the portal, and the brothers suddenly found themselves fighting monsters to keep the sewers safe. They stopped the unintentional invasion in its tracks, and were heralded as heroes by the city.
The brothers’ actions caught the attention of some federal big-wigs who wanted to see those heroics happening on their front lines, and before long a pair of draft notices arrived at their door. While Luigi failed his physical and was sent home, Mario was immediately deployed overseas (Mario’s Bombs Away, Game & Watch, 1983). Mario’s status as a hero caused him to be fast-tracked directly into the least competent squadron in the entire armed forces, with the expectation that he would whip them into shape. Of course, Mario had no military experience or training what-so-ever, and was met with nothing but disaster. A few too many friendly-fire incidents forced the generals to recognize that this crazy idea wasn’t working out, and Mario was dishonorably discharged.
Meanwhile, with Mario out of the picture, Donkey Kong was free to get up to more mischief, and attempted to take over a small garden (Donkey Kong 3, Arcade, 1984). He picked the worst possible garden to invade however, as the owner, Stanley the Exterminator, immediately snapped and retaliated with his high-powered pesticide sprayer. Stanley began blasting Donkey Kong away with single-minded obsession, chasing him out of the garden, over country roads, into a conveniently-nearby UFO, and off into space (Donkey Kong 3: Dai Gyakushū, Sharp X1, 1984).
Mario returned home shaken. He decided to take some time to relax before jumping into yet another new career, and took up golfing as a hobby (Golf, NES, 1984). Then one night he went to see a show at a local circus, and found Donkey Kong performing there (Donkey Kong Circus, Game & Watch, 1984). They wound up speaking after the show, where Mario learned that this was in fact Donkey Kong Jr., who had grown up and taken his father’s name as is their tradition, and was desperately trying to make enough money to go to space and rescue his father again. Mario offered to help, and together they put on an exhibition hockey match to raise funds (Donkey Kong Hockey, Game & Watch, 1984).
Helping the gorilla was just what Mario needed to reinvigorate himself and get back into the workforce. Luigi once again got him a job at his new workplace, a demolitions company (Vs. Wrecking Crew, Arcade, 1984), and once again Mario found himself threatening to report numerous safety violations. Foreman Spike, like Mario’s previous supervisors, attempted to sabotage Mario’s performance to create an excuse to fire him. Spike, an accomplished dark magician, filled their work sites with sentient attack wrenches, eggplant warriors, and mystic flames. Luigi was quickly scared off and quit on his own, but Mario toughed it out, even when Spike began attacking him personally (Wrecking Crew, NES, 1985), and after gathering evidence across dozens of sites, he submitted his report to OSHA, who shut the whole company down.
Hero of the Mushroom Kingdom
Once again unemployed, Mario is approached by a strange mushroom person. News of his heroism in the sewers managed to reach the Mushroom Kingdom, where Bowser’s conquest was complete. He’d used dark magics to turn the people of the Mushroom Kingdom into plants and rocks, and had captured the only one who could break the spell, Princess Peach Toadstool (Super Mario Bros., NES, 1985). They implored the brothers to come to the Mushroom Kingdom, defeat Bowser’s minions as they had once before, and rescue their princess and all the kingdom’s people. Unable to refuse their pleas, Mario and Luigi did exactly that, and after a long journey that led them through every one of Bowser’s fortresses, finally found the princess and freed the kingdom.
On returning home, Mario once again needed some time to unwind, and went on a globe-trotting golfing tour (Family Computer Golf: Japan Course, Famicom, 1987; Family Computer Golf: U.S. Course, Famicom, 1987).