Recently, I have had a notable amount of requests, mostly from tween boys, for books about â€œMario.â€ No, not meaning a certain celebrity chef or famous Canadian hockey player. People are asking about the Mario so famous he needs no last name. Sometimes his brother is included in the requests as well: Luigi. And it has been breaking my librarian heart, because time after time I’ve been sending them away empty handed. Although I may try to pitch a book about the history of video games, or even see if I can interest anyone in a compendium of cheat codes, what the people want are stories starring one of the most famous video game heroes of all time, and there are none.
With Teen Tech Week upon us (my own library is hosting a Super Mario tournament on our Wii) I have been wondering why this is the case. I can see it being difficult to make up a compelling story around some other classic video gamesâ€”Pong doesn’t exactly strike me as becoming a real page-turner any time soon. But the strength of the Mario games, and many of the games which helped Nintendo revolutionize the gaming industry, is the story. The story is so widely appealing, reaching out to people who aren’t traditional gamers, because its framework is so familiar. Mr. Everyman (in this case, a plumber) gets the chance to save a princess from an evil bad guy. There are sidekicks and inventive settings, layers of storytelling which grow increasingly complex as the technology does, and best of all, the player takes an active role in controlling the characters’ destinies, which means we are already unequivocally on Mario’s sideâ€”really, he’s just an extension of ourselves. When I was younger I loved to watch my brother play Mario games, perhaps even more than I enjoyed playing them myself, because it was like a constantly changing movie with a cast I had grown to love. Who among us hasn’t greeted the arrival of Mario’s faithful steed Yoshi with the same enthusiasm a previous generation surely felt when the Lone Ranger’s horse Silver showed up in the radio show? The characters are eternal. So why don’t they get their own books?
Well, internet research led me to the discovery that they did, once upon a time. In the early 1990s there was a comic book series through Valiant comics starring Mario and Luigi. By all accounts, it fell short. The storylines were inconsistent, the artwork not great, and the distribution not wide. These days, the internet abounds with Mario fanficâ€”clearly those who love the plumber have found plenty to expand on in his story. People want to read stories about Mario and Luigi so badly that they’re even willing to write them! Nintendo should realize that they are missing out on a huge market. After building characters that generations of teens of all backgrounds have grown to love, it’s time for Mario and Luigi to make their biggest leap yet: from the screen to the page. (We’ve grown so accustomed to this happening in reverse– how often do we hear someone claim that a book was better than its movie version counterpart?)
Nintendo, you already have so much in place, from fantastic artwork to storylines and characters. Listen to what your fans are asking for: we love the Mario games. But we want books, too!
— Mia Cabana, currently reading The Borribles Trilogy by Michael Larrabeiti
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