I’d always assumed Nintendo’s most popular mascot, Mario, was aged somewhere from 45 to 60. Sure, he sometimes looks younger, relatively speaking, but we love a man with a good skincare routine. If I close my eyes and picture Mario, the image I see is no cartoon red apple: It’s Mario as played by Italian American wrestler Lou Albano in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show — red overalls, huge mustache, and a tool belt slung across his waist. In 1993, Super Mario Bros. gave us another live-action way to judge Mario’s age, with Bob Hoskins, just pushing 50 at the time, donning the red jumpsuit. I’ve never questioned my belief that Mario was a middle-aged man.
So when I watched Illumination’s new film, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, I was shook. There’s evidence here that Mario is not actually a middle-aged man. Beyond that, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto once just came out and said it: Mario is roughly 24 to 25 years old in his original ’80s game appearances.
“I think it was fortuitous that we didn’t put any restrictions on Mario as a character,” Miyamoto said in an interview in 2005, as translated by The Independent. “Normally when you create a character and present him to the world, all the details get filed in [sic]: what’s his favorite colour? what kind of food does he like to eat? […] Aside from the fact that he’s about 24-25 years old, we didn’t define anything else.”
Mario has been shown at different ages in different games, including as a baby in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island and a toddler in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. Nintendo also put Mario’s age on his Super Smash Bros. Melee trophy, specifically in the Japanese version, which states he’s 26 years old. That’s the most official confirmation of his age range that we’ve got. Either way, 2023’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie is essentially Mario’s origin story — the start of his plumbing business and his first foray into the Mushroom Kingdom. It makes sense to assume he’s younger than the storied plumber we’ve seen in certain shows and movies.
One scene in The Super Mario Bros. Movie feels like further evidence that Mario is relatively young, maybe even barely out of his teen years. Shortly after Mario and Luigi come home from their first day of work as new business owners, their parents chastise them for leaving stable jobs to launch this new gig. Daddy Mario (voiced by original Mario Charles Martinet) isn’t happy with Mario for cajoling Luigi into the business plan. Everyone’s mad! One family member even hates the brothers’ funny rapping commercial for their new venture. And Mario’s had enough. Both Mario and Luigi live at home with their parents, which doesn’t necessarily hint at their age until Mario ends up stomping away from the dinner table — and his mushroom pasta — to angrily play video games in his room.
It’s the sort of reaction you’d expect from a teenager, not a 50-year-old man. Everything changed for me after that scene. I spent the entire movie looking for further clues as to his age, to no avail, except to note that Mario can run, jump, and smash question-mark blocks without any sign of aches or fatigue. Still, it’s hard to believe that someone in their early 20s could grow such a robust mustache, but facts are facts. I guess Mario is in his 20s, if we’re to believe the official sources.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is in theaters now.