Ah, the 80s, the age of Reagonomics, synth pop, and cheap cash-in cartoons. If it existed, it had a cartoon tie-in. Didn’t matter if it could work as a tv show or not, there was money to be made. Nintendo certainly had no issue plastering its name and characters on everything and anything they could, so of course there would be cartoon tie-ins, comic books, toys, and even cereal. No matter where you turned, Nintendo was everywhere in the 1980s. One such cartoon was the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, which was an hour special bundled with the Legend of Zelda cartoon back in 1989. You can read more about that here. Super Mario Bros. is a simple platformer, how could they possible build a cartoon around it and fill 30 minutes? The short answer, they really didn’t. One of the first things you notice is this show is strange, very strange.
The first episode begins, and we’re greeted with Mario’s face all 64 style and welcomes all us paisanos (he just called us peasants in Italian). Then suddenly, they start rapping the Super Mario Bros. theme. Boy, that sure won’t seem dated 30 years later. Every episode has these weird live-action sequences that come off as like it’s the start of a porno. Mario and Luigi are played by professional wrestler Captain Lou Albano and Danny Wells. Alright, Captain Lou as Mario is pretty badass. These skits are awkwardly acted and seem to only be there to fill time. Celebrity cameos will abound in this segment, such as Sgt. Slaughter and Cyndi Lauper. Its just bizarre and strangely awesome.
Finally, we get to the actual cartoon, shit’s about to get weird. The people who wrote this show must have been dropping acid or at the very least doing lines of coke (it’s the 80s after all). Almost every episode follows the same formula. Each episode is a parody of various pop culture items. King Koopa cooks up an idiotic plan to best his plumber rivals. Mario and friends put a stop to his shenanigans, but not without lots and lots of pasta jokes. Did I mention they make a lot of pasta jokes? How else would we know they were Italian?
Episode 1 begins with little context of what’s happening. We are just thrown in and expected to know everything. Anyway, Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Toad are out in the snow for some reason. Suddenly a flying Birdo comes out of nowhere and kidnaps Toad. Birdo believes that Toad is her baby, despite looking nothing like it in the slightest. Since when could Birdo fly? I sure as hell can’t remember that ever being a thing. Toad just bitches the entire episode. His voice is incredibly grating, even more than the current Toad voice. Mario, Luigi, and Peach journey to get Toad back and thwart King Koopa’s dastardly plans, which are usually idiotic.
Episode 2 is a parody of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, taking place in the Wild West. Koopa is up to his old tricks, but this time as a bandit. For some reason, he sets the sheriff on Mario and Luigi. That’s right ladies and gentleman, Mario and Luigi are sent to prison. The Super Mario Bros., skilled at plumbing and prison breaks. For whatever reason, the sheriff is a mouse with a German accent, don’t question it. Mario cooks up a plan in which Mario and Luigi play pattycakes and knock the sheriff’s hat off his head. Toad then squeezes into the hat and escapes when the sheriff puts the hat back on. This is the kind of logic the Super Mario Bros. Super Show operates on, having none whatsoever. Toad gets the Sherriff out of the way by bombing the saloon he goes to. Not only did they murder a law enforcement officer, they committed an act of terrorism, no doubt killing dozens of innocent people along the way. Isn’t that a great message for the kids? Anyway, the episode ends with the heroes accidentally stumbling upon the Princess. Bandit Bowser is defeated, and the episode ends.
Everything about this show is so bizarre and weird. The show follows absolutely insane logic. To its credit, it had me in stiches many times. Though, I’m not sure its always intentional. There was several moments each episode that had me gasping for air from laughing too hard. The leaps in logic are endlessly entertaining. Similar to The Legend of Zelda cartoon, Super Mario Bros. Super Show has moments that may be considered inappropriate for the target age group. There was one scene in which King Koopa is having his feet licked by his underlings. I felt a little uncomfortable. We didn’t need to know about Bowser’s foot fetish.
The cartoon also features sound effects and music from the Super Mario Bros. games. This should be a nice touch but somehow, it falls short. The sound effects are literally ripped straight from the games and is in constant use throughout the episode. It becomes grating on the ears after hearing the same sound effect about 20 times in an episode. Then the music, it is awful. How do you take the brilliant music by Koji Kondo and make it sound this bad? The cheap synth sounds of the 80s did not age well.
The Super Mario Bros. Super Show is a glimpse into the late 80s commercial culture. Cartoons were simply there to act as a commercial to whatever product they were trying to sell to kids. Nintendo smeared their marketing feces upon everything and anything. This resulted in bizarre cartoons like The Super Mario Bros. Super Show and Legend of Zelda. These shows are incredibly dated and only bring the viewer ironic enjoyment. After 30 years I would be very interested in Nintendo attempting to animate IPs such as Mario and Zelda. A creative and imaginative team of animators could make something truly amazing. Come on Nintendo, step your game up!