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Our favorite 'Super Mario Bros. Movie' Easter eggs: Game references, cameos & more
Whether you're a fan of classic NES games or a casual viewer, there are plenty of references in The Super Mario Bros. Movie to keep you looking!
The Super Mario Bros. Movie was always going to be a gamer's dream. Put aside the all-star cast — Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Keegan-Michael Key, and more — and you've still got the crack creatives at Illumination bringing their know-how alongside the Powers That Be at Nintendo.
That being said, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a feast for the Easter egg-inclined viewer. While the entire movie is itself one giant Easter egg where everything is a reference to Nintendo lore or Mario history, there are plenty of standouts. We here at SYFY WIRE put our thinking (mushroom) caps on while viewing and collected the below list of our favorite Easter eggs. Be on the lookout for them the next time you watch — because you know you want to relive the Mushroom Kingdom madness all over again.
Obviously, SPOILERS AHEAD.
Keep up – Side-scrolling gameplay
Even when Mario (Pratt) and Luigi (Day) start out as humble plumbers looking to find their place in the world, they're the heroes of their own story. Mario proves to be a bit more adept at this hero stuff from the start when we see him lead his brother on a quick romp through Brooklyn — to the tune of The Beastie Boys' "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" — in the classic side-scrolling style from the games.
The camera follows along as the pair hop along platforms (or, in Luigi's case, struggle a bit to keep up with the screen, as many younger siblings have done IRL while playing Mario games for decades) and avoid obstacles. We encounter additional moments like this in the Mushroom Kingdom, such as when Toad (Key) leads Mario through the maze of pipes that keep spitting Mario out in the wrong places.
No capes! – Cape Mario and Cape Luigi
Mario and his friends discovered the magic of power-ups many times throughout the film, but the least obvious of them popped up right at the start!
In their heavily accented commercial, we see Mario and Luigi doing the Superman pose while lying on top of stools and wearing yellow capes. "Cape Mario" was first introduced in 1990's Super Mario World, which saw Mario utilizing a yellow cape obtained via collecting a "Cape Feather" that allows Mario (or Luigi) to fly through levels and attack enemies by spinning.
The power-up is similar to the Raccoon Mario power-up (first introduced in 1988's Super Mario Bros. 3), which is also utilized in the movie when Mario uses its powers against the Banzai Bill Bowser aims at Peach's Castle.
Throwing barrels – Classic Donkey Kong arcade game
Even those individuals with a passing knowledge of video game history are probably aware of the fact that Mario got his start in the original Donkey Kong arcade game from 1981, where the red-hatted pipe-worker was simply known as “Jumpman.” Similarly, the damsel he was saving from the barrel-throwing ape was not Princess Peach, but a woman named “Pauline.”
All of that is to say that an arcade cabinet of Donkey Kong prominently appears in the Brooklyn pizza parlor at the start of the movie when Mario and Luigi admire the low-budget commercial for their new plumbing business. As the siblings wonder if the exaggerated Italian accents they adopted for the ad was overkill, a man playing the classic video game turns around and tells them it sounded great. If this kind stranger sounded familiar, it’s because he is portrayed by none other than Charles Martinet, longtime voice of Mario and Luigi in the Super Mario games. (Martinet also voices Mario and Luigi's dad!)
How’s your right hook? – Punch-Out!! Pizza
The great thing about The Super Mario Bros. Movie is that it not only pays homage to the totality of the Mario franchise, but to Nintendo history in general. That aforementioned pizza parlor frequented by the Mario brothers and their former employer turned competitor, Spike, is named “Punch-Out Pizza,” a nod to the widely successfully Punch-Out!! franchise that first began in the early 1980s.
Quack! Quack! – French restaurant named Duck Hunt
As Mario and Luigi race across town to make it to their first plumbing job, the duo passes by a fancy French restaurant called “Chasse au Canard,” which, when translated into English, means “Duck Hunt.”
Unless you’ve been living under a mushroom for most of your life, you’ll know Duck Hunt is one of the most iconic games ever released for the Nintendo Entertainment System console. It’s so famous, in fact, that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate offers the mallard and laughing dog as a playable duo.
Mario's a gamer, too – Kid Icarus
Prior to traveling to Mushroom Kingdom, Mario can briefly be seen in his room playing a video game. No, not Super Mario Bros. (that would be absurd, though as we've mentioned, a character can be spotted playing the Donkey Kong arcade game in the background and DK later appears as a character, so maybe the movie really is that meta). Instead, Mario’s playing the 1986 game Kid Icarus, a fantasy platformer where the player controls the winged warrior Pit (who's often a playable character in the Super Smash Bros. franchise).
And also kind of a fanboy? – Mario’s posters
The walls of Mario (and Luigi’s) room, both their Brooklyn residence and their Mushroom Kingdom home at the end of the movie, are covered with posters.
Several of them are references to other classic Nintendo games. There’s an F-Zero poster, showing Captain Falcon’s ride from the classic sci-fi racing series. (This is not the first time F-Zero and Mario have crossed over, as Mario Kart 8 has two courses from F-Zero and the Blue Falcon as a kart option, not to mention Captain Falcon’s Super Smash Bros. appearances.) Mario also has a poster featuring the cool, sunglasses-wearing polar bear from the Ice Climber game series.
Keep an eye out for other Easter eggs on the brothers’ walls!
Democracy at work – Pauline
In Mario’s first appearance, the 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong, Mario is not saving Princess Peach but a brunette named Pauline. Though Pauline was pushed aside in favor of Peach for years, she’s made a reappearance in modern Mario games, notably in Super Mario Odyssey, in which she’s the stylish mayor of New Donk City, a level that’s styled after the Big Apple.
In The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Pauline can be seen on TV where she’s being interviewed about the burst pipe that’s flooding the streets of Brooklyn.
A window to the soul – Peach's Castle window
Princess Peach's castle has been a mainstay in the Mario games for years, making its first appearance as far back as the Kodansha Super Mario manga, in which it pops up at the start of the Super Mario Kart adaptation. However, gamers will probably associate the current look with its appearance in Super Mario 64 where it serves as the game's main hub for you to jump through paintings and explore its many (many) locked rooms.
When Mario first arrives in the Mushroom Kingdom and is led to the castle by Toad in The Super Mario Bros. Movie, we get a shot of the now-iconic castle in all its glory, complete with the colorful stained glass window of Peach herself. No one could blame you if you got a little nostalgic pull in your stomach at the sight — and immediately relived running across the stone bridge to enter the castle all those years ago as Mario.
Boo! – Luigi’s Mansion theme
Shortly after Luigi finds himself stranded in the Dark Lands (the spooky and desolate domain presided over by Bowser and his minions), composer Brian Tyler sneaks in a few bars of Kazumi Totaka’s ominous theme for Luigi’s Mansion.
Launched in conjunction with the Nintendo GameCube in 2001, the Ghostbusters-inspired title thrusts Mario’s easily frightened younger brother into a haunted manor full of irate ghosts. He clears the house of its squatting spirits with a nifty, vacuum-like device known as the Poltergust 3000, which was developed by Professor E. Gadd. Sadly, the eccentric scientist — who also developed Mario’s water jetpack F.L.U.D.D. in Super Mario Sunshine — does not make an appearance in The Super Mario Bros. Movie, though one can only hope he’s being saved for the sequel!
Bowser in the Pick of Destiny – Jack Black's music career
OK, so this isn't so much a Nintendo reference as it is an IRL one. But considering how important it was to Bowser's character, we're counting it.
Anyone who's anyone knows that Jack Black is much more than a hilarious comedian — he's also a musician, and the creative team behind The Super Mario Bros. Movie clearly wanted to pay homage to that in his rendition of Bowser. Fans will know him from his outrageous work in School of Rock (2003) and Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny (2006), a comedic fantasy musical written by and about the very real comedy rock duo Tenacious D (Black and Kyle Glass), who've been on the scene since 1994.
Bowser's hard-rocking minions and his own penchant for musical drama are a clear homage to Black's own musical talents. And while Peach might not have been impressed, we certainly were.
Float like a princess, sting like a bee – Peach’s gliding power from Super Mario Bros. 2
The best playable characters in Super Mario Bros. 2 are Peach and Luigi. Change our minds! Both avatars are exceptionally optimal for platforming, given how they're able to stay in the air much longer than Mario or Toad. It comes in handy when you’re doing flying eggs out of Birdo’s big, pink shnoz.
We get to see the princess’s ability to gracefully glide through the air in the movie when Peach schools Mario on the Mushroom Kingdom obstacle course.
'He’s finally here to kick some tail!' – The DK Rap from Donkey Kong 64
Once maligned, it is now beloved by fans the world over.
Composer Grant Kirkhope’s genius “DK Rap” for the opening of Donkey Kong 64 remains as inextricably linked with the tie-wearing gorilla as much as barrels and ladders. Indeed, the track serves as Donkey’s (Seth Rogen) pump-up song when he enters the arena like a star baseball player, ready to put the simian beat down on Mario — Super Smash Bros.-style.
(Editor's Note: Seth Rogen's laugh is unmistakable in his portrayal of Donkey Kong and should be given the respect it deserves.)
"When I wrote the 'DK Rap' I thought everyone would get the joke: A rap about monkeys with funny instruments in the background!" Kirkhope told SYFY WIRE in 2020 when the song celebrated its 21st anniversary. "Alas, no one did. Everyone thought I was trying to make a credible rap track! It's taken 20 years, but I think that people are finally coming 'round to the idea...ha! For all the music I've written and have yet to write, when it comes to my tombstone it'll say: 'Here lies the body of Grant Kirkhope, he wrote the 'DK Rap'!!"
The whole Kong crew – Diddy Kong, Trixie Kong, and Chunky Kong
Donkey Kong may not have the approval of his father, King Crankey Kong (Fred Armisen), but he’s got plenty of supportive friends in the gathered audience of the Kong Island colosseum, including a pair of Donkey Kong Country veterans — Diddy Kong and Trixie Kong — and what appears to be Chunky Kong from Donkey Kong 64.
But where the heck are Lanky and Tiny?! This is Lanky and Tiny erasure.
Baby, baby, baby – Baby Mario and Baby Luigi (sans Yoshi)
Forget the Muppet Babies — Mario Babies are where it's at. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is, at its core, a movie about the love between brothers, and no scene demonstrates that more than when a terrified Luigi reflects on how his older brother has always been there for him, even back to when they were kids playing in the sandbox. Rather than let a young Luigi get bullied, young Mario jumps in to save the day, and an adult Luigi is reassured once again that his brother will come for him.
The movie's versions of Baby Mario and Baby Luigi — complete with tiny black eyes, diapers, and oversized caps — were first introduced in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (1995), in which Yoshi is challenged with reuniting the brothers as Baby Mario rides along on his back. (And, yes, they do eventually do battle with Baby Bowser in the game. It's delightful.)
'Choose your character' – Customizing Mario Karts
Fans of the Mario Kart franchise no doubt smiled as our heroes stepped up to design their own custom go-karts because, man, did those display menus look familiar or what?
Mario, Peach, and Toad were able to choose custom bodies, wheels, and kites for their go-karts, just like in the Mario Kart games. Of course, their experiences were a bit more ... personal than those of us prepping to do battle with friends and family members, thus destroying relationships for years to come. In the movie, they step up to the plate in order to design karts to help save the world. In real life, there's just a lot of swearing.
Endgame – Blue Shell
Speaking of Mario Kart, there's nothing a first-place player dreads more than another player grabbing a blue shell and throwing it their way. While they're practically unavoidable in the games, the Blue Shell in the film decimates Rainbow Road and sends Mario and Donkey Kong overboard to the monster-infested sea below. It's effective, to say the least.
Was it just us who were a little taken aback that the Blue Shell is really a blue shelled-Koopa who folds up and hurls himself into the fold whilst letting out a battle cry — "Blue shell!!!" — thus sacrificing himself for Bowser's cause? Talk about loyalty ...
Throwback for the ages – The Jumpman arcade game
As previously mentioned, when Mario was first introduced to the masses in the Donkey Kong arcade game from 1981, he was known simply as "Jumpman." And while he wasn't the main character, The Super Mario Bros. Movie includes an arcade cabinet game in the pizzeria where Mario takes a breather before jumping (get it?) back into the action.
As our hero sits there, bruised, battered, and nearly defeated, we get glimpses of the game, which only adds to the nostalgic momentum as Mario gets the strength to stand up and keep fighting. He never did know how to back down — and thank goodness for that!