Mario—the beloved Nintendo mascot and video game icon—has left the plumbing profession.
A newly-uploaded profile by Nintendo of everyone’s favorite Player One describes Mario as having worked as a plumber in the distant past, suggesting he’s a plumber no longer. The profile, first reported and translated from Japanese by Kotaku, focuses instead on Mario’s present-day activities, which include playing sports, racing, and generally being a hip dude:
All around sporty, whether it’s tennis or baseball, soccer or car racing, he [Mario] does everything cool. As a matter of fact, he also seems to have worked as a plumber a long time ago…
A spokesman for Nintendo referred us to the same profile of Mario on the company’s website and did not elaborate on his apparent career change.
While Mario’s history with sports and racing games is long and formidable, it’s his identity as a plumber that has helped forge him into the icon many of us grew up with. The genius behind Mario’s persona—one that is rarely copied successfully by other video game giants—is the unusual specificity of his life, as well as its everyman appeal. By making its mascot a blue-collar serviceman, the Japanese corporation created someone to root for in all situations, no matter how weird it got.
And it got pretty weird: An Italian plumber named Mario Mario who spends his time rescuing princesses and fighting giant turtles. The premise is simply so incongruous, implausible, and good-natured that it was impossible to resist.
Mario’s plumber identity also explains his special relationship with pipes. Pipes are as integral to a good Mario platform game as jumping. The early hits of the Mario franchise dealt heavily with travel through pipes, and the imagery of those plumbing networks was maintained throughout dozens of Mario iterations.
Mario’s green drainpipes have become so iconic, in fact, that Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe emerged from a gigantic green pipe, wearing Mario’s hat, during the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympics. The crowd, understandably, went totally nuts.
Mario’s video game franchise is the best-selling of all time, a consistent hit for a company with an otherwise tumultuous financial history. He has existed (in one form or another) for over three decades. Chances are high that his reputation and popularity can survive this career move.
But to remove Mario from his plumbing origins is a disservice to the fans who fell in love with Nintendo’s hero long before his days of racing, playing tennis, or flying through space. Mario is a video game hero we can all relate to—one that gets his hands dirty under the occasional sink.