Is Super Mario Brothers Fantasy or Science Fiction? Published at Tor


This is my essay for Tor tying all the “Super Mario games into one epic science fantasy narrative.” That meant playing through all of Super Mario Galaxy 1 + 2, Super Paper Mario Wii, all the NES Mario games, the SNES ones, researching the DS Mario and Luigi series, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and the RPGs. It took me almost two months to prepare and write. It was also a blast to research, though it did elicit a lot of skeptical looks when people would ask, what have you been up to, and I’d reply, Mario Galaxy for research, lol. Seriously, those Galaxy games are probably the most innovative and creative games I’ve ever played. Big thanks to for going for my crazy attempt at answering the question of whether Super Mario is science fiction or fantasy. (and Angela of course for playing through all of them with me)

At first glance, it seems pretty straightforward that the Super Mario Brothers games are a fantasy series. They take place in a fantastic world with dragons, princesses, and magic mushrooms. The RPGs in the series have all the typical role-playing elements of a fantasy game. But when you look at the entire franchise, particularly the Super Mario Galaxy games, it seems almost certain that the game is science fiction, or at the least, science fantasy. Here are five reasons revolving around specific titles in the series that prove the Super Mario Brothers are works of science fiction.

And about Galaxy:

The Super Mario Galaxy games that came a few decades later for the Wii weren’t just an evolution of that first foray into gaming art. They are probably the most innovative games ever developed. There are other titles that outdo it in terms of visuals, physical scope, and narrative, but none in its creative blending of game mechanics and gorgeous artistry. Galaxy subverted gravity to literally flip gaming on its head. Planetoids, brand new suits (traverse clouds, use drills to power your way through the center of a planet, and sting like a bee), along with labyrinthine levels, help make the universe your sandbox. Mario is the Kirk of the Nintendo Universe, rushing headfirst into adventure. But unlike the crew of the Enterprise, Mario embraces the strange physics of these vibrant worlds, leaping from world to world, interacting with them and changing their very fabric. It’s an amazing sensation navigating a lava world which you then freeze so you can skate across a barren ice lake to reach a new launch star—just one of many acts of terraforming.


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