Five Things We Learned From Mario is Missing!

By Aaron Matteson in Five Things, Humor, Lists!
Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 11:00 am


Mario is Missing! -- Note: the cover art here is 200 to 500 percent more exciting than anything that occurs in-game.

Every so often Mario, like a nervous, sweaty, uncomfortable dad sitting his kids down to give them "the talk," tries to teach us something. He doesn't like this, and neither do we. He feels that it's his obligation. And it's not that he teaches us about jump stamina or koopa murder. He does that all the time, and we all love it. No, no, no. Sometimes he tries to teach us other stuff. Like, real stuff.

There are several self-consciously educational entries in the long list of Mario games. Mario desperately tries to get your WPM count up so you can land some kind of halfway respectable job in Mario Teaches Typing. In Mario's Time Machine, instead of going back in the titular machine and killing Hitler (or at least Mussolini) like anybody with a soul and a time machine would do, Mario just goes on a painfully informative scavenger hunt.

Perhaps there will be a time when we discuss more in depth those two attempts to educate gamers using Mario lore as a cover. But right now, we're going to focus on the SNES version of Mario is Missing!

Mario is Missing! is essentially an hours-long lecture about geography and world history given by Luigi. If you completed this game as a child, you either had an immense yearning to become an anthropologist at an early age or you had a gun to your head. You do have to hand it to Mario is Missing!, though -- it did teach us a lot. Sometimes it taught us things it wasn't even trying to teach us.


1.) The "Bait and Switch" con works.



This is gonna be so awesome!

Look at that cover art above one more time. Luigi's got a lantern to combat the darkness of a spooky, dark castle. In the background -- a struggle! Mario's being hauled off by the evil Bowser! There's danger, intrigue, suspense! As a kid, how could you not pester your parents into buying you this game? It all but promises a thrilling quest -- one where, in a shocking turn of events, Mario is the hostage, and you, Luigi, are his would-be liberator!

Okay, the game's starting! You're in that spooky castle! Mario is, as has been promised, missing! And now you can go through one of several ominous red doors. You enter, expecting the worst, steeling yourself for battle, willing courage you didn't even know you possessed into existence, and on the other side you encounter... you encounter...

San Francisco. You're in San Francisco. And now you're going to learn about the fucking Golden Gate Bridge.

At about this time, you start asking your mom if she still has the receipt.


2.) When times are tough, no job is beneath anyone.



Ugh, this is awkward. It's like when I saw Wario working at the Gap and pretended not to recognize him.


Your mom does not have the receipt, and even if she did you are not going back into town to exchange the game she JUST BOUGHT YOU.

So, figuring you'll cut your losses, you keep playing. Luigi starts to explore the town. Soon you come across an information stand. Figuring that you'll ask for directions or something, you look up at the information stand worker, only to find yourself staring at Princess Peach.

Whoa, times must be rough in the Mushroom Kingdom that the land's crown princess has been forced to take day jobs. That's right, jobs, as in "more than one." She mans the information booths at literally every tourist destination from New York to Nairobi.

And it's clearly wearing on her. She doesn't really seem to recognize you, even though you're practically her brother-in-law. Oh well. She's got to make those payments on that tiara somehow.


3.) Art is precious.



Luigi and Yoshi -- vigilantes.


Essentially, the koopas in Mario is Missing! are stealing the world's most valuable artifacts so that Bowser can finance his latest power play. No matter that it's going to be hard to find a fence who will take on a stolen item as "hot" as, I don't know, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. And also no matter that when you recover these precious artifacts from koopas, they don't look like precious artifacts, they look like little pieces of raw coal. Your mission is to get the artifacts back to where they belong at any cost.

This cultural crusade is so important that Luigi has decided it's okay to commit straight-up cold-blooded murder. The koopas of the game aren't hurting you. Sure, they're thieves, but they are actually incapable of hurting you. So what do you do?

Well, you kill them. When Luigi's in charge, justice is swift. And not necessarily moral.


4.) Passive aggression works.



Whoa! Sooooooorry!


You remember that Princess Peach is manning all the tourist information booths in the world? Well, she's also in charge of authenticating any missing artifacts being returned to the cultural centers of the world. She proves the authenticity of the piece of priceless art that you're returning by asking you trivia questions about it. They aren't always easy questions, but all of the answers are available in the brochure you can get from her.

If you answer incorrectly (and you will, because by the fourth or fifth quiz on this stuff you stop reading the brochures and just guess) Peach assumes you are a forger (who has somehow flawlessly recreated a Michelangelo) and blows up at you. If you try to speak with her again for the next fifteen seconds or so, she tells you she's "busy," even though it's clear she's just being passive aggressive about you not knowing world history.

It's infuriating.


5.) Diversity is becoming more and more widespread.



Paris, France: home to the same five people as everywhere else on Earth.


One thing Mario is Missing! teaches us is that in every city in the world there are four white people and one black man. Every city also has a scientist, complete with lab coat, who wanders the streets aimlessly.

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