Despite Super Mario Galaxy 2 being beaten in 2010 sales by New Super Mario Bros. Wii, the chubby plumber’s second trip into outer space has earned him five BAFTA nominations including Best Game and Best Gameplay. And if that wasn’t enough to celebrate a handyman who hasn’t actually done his job in 25 years, Mario has been voted the number one video game character of all time by readers of the Guinness World Records (via Official Nintendo Magazine). But the competition was tough featuring the likes of Link, Solid Snake and even Pac-Man.
The debate for the greatest character is always a tricky one due to a number of variables like age, gaming experience and genre preferences. In the past, the hirsute Italian lost out to Gordon Freeman in Gamespot’s search for the best character but in the Guinness World Record list, he came in a number 8. Though one could argue that Mr Freeman isn’t a character per se but a shell for gamers to climb into, seeing the world through his eyes with any form of personality driven by the players themselves. Mario is only marginally more fleshed out but is certainly more adaptable to situations and genres.
How about Link? Should he have been first? At number 2 Link shares Gordon Freeman’s attributes of being a silent protagonist and part of a greatly influential series. The pioneering mechanic of locking onto an enemy in Ocarina of Time has aided a vast number of games and gamers alike. But Mario staring appearance in Super Mario Bros. was one of the factors that saved the video game industry in the 80s when all seemed doomed.
Another name that often springs to mind is Lara Croft. If the questionnaire was asked in the mid nineties, maybe I’d agree with Ms Croft as a suitable opponent. But after too many attempts at reinvention that never quite managed to be what we all hoped they would plus how, as a character, she’s quite shallow, I think her place at number 7 is appropriate.
The list of 50 names also includes some newer personalities like Marcus Phoenix from Gears of War. As much as I love that franchise, Phoenix is more of a poster boy for testosterone than what can be considered number one material. He should definitely be on the list but probably as much as Soap MacTavish of CoD4 fame who was number 12 and equally not a top spot contender. Master Chief is slightly older and came third which to me is a little generous but understandable. Halo is huge and the honoured Spartan is one of the reasons why it grew so rapidly. However, Bungie deliberately kept Master Chief vague and mysterious, again allowing the player to feel more immersed in the role like Gordon Freeman.
My fanaticism with games began with Mario and his games be it platformer, racer, puzzler or party and looks to only continue into the future too. The fondness I have for Solid Snake and the impact his journey has had on my time as a gamer makes me want to argue a case for him being closer to or even number one but for what Mario has given the industry, I think being called the greatest video game character is a fitting accolade. Check out the full list over at the Official Nintendo Magazine site.