Mario Movie Age
Image: Nintendo / Illumination

Back when Mario was nothing more than an 8-bit sprite on our NES consoles, we were not all that concerned about age. After all, he's the jumpy mushroom guy, who cares how many birthdays he's seen? This is the kind of mentality that's been carried through into most of the subsequent games. Even as the character's design became increasingly detailed, his age wasn't at the forefront of our minds because we had other, gameplay-based things to think about. But now that The Super Mario Bros. Movie is here, all of a sudden, we care.

No longer is Mario just a character that we control, but we've seen another side to him thanks to Illumination and Nintendo's film. We've seen that has a life of his own outside of the games. With this comes questions that we might not have asked after playing, say, Super Mario Odyssey: what are his hobbies? Does he have any dreams? And, most importantly, just how old is this guy?

The issue is that we're still no closer to knowing the answer to this final question, and the movie may have even muddied our thoughts. The Mario Movie presents us with a couple of different options, all separated by a good decade or so, so while we left the cinema with a smile on our faces, we were also scratching our heads. Before we get into the specifics of the film itself (don't worry, we'll let you know when we are about to enter spoiler territory), let's break down what we know about Mario's age up until this point.

Back in 2016, The Independent unearthed an interview from 2005 with Shigeru Miyamoto. In this discussion, Mario's creator made a pretty definitive statement on the issue of how old Mario is — "he's about 24-25 years old", Miyamoto responded. That's despite many fans assuming the plumber is middle-aged, but Miyamoto gave the character this age at the time because it would allow him to be used in other games.

Of course, there has been room to play about with this number throughout the Mario franchise. Nobody is pretending that the nappy-wearing variant seen in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island is legally able to drive a car, and the plumber's trophy in the Japanese version of Super Smash Bros. Melee places him at a slightly older 26 (via The Mushroom Kingdom); but, for the most part, that mid-20s bracket is the region that we have been playing in.

But this doesn't necessarily mean that the Mario seen in the Illumination film is the same age as the one that we have formally come across in the games. In fact, some sequences in the film even go as far as to challenge that grown-up number that we have been dealing with this whole time.

We are going to go into some description of specific moments from The Super Mario Bros. Movie now with some light spoilers. So if you are still hoping to watch the film completely blind, then read no further until you are all caught up.

Super Mario Odyssey New Donk City
You'd need to be in your 20s to jump out of a sewer, right? — Image: Nintendo

Throughout most of the film's opening sequence in Brooklyn, Mario is perfectly believable as a man in his 20s: he has a steady job, some disposable income, a huge moustache — he's an adult. But then we get to a scene that shows Mario and Luigi at home, sitting at the dining table with their family and out of nowhere, the plumbers appear to be pitched much younger.

Mario has his dinner served to him, he talks about his dislike of mushrooms, his parents chastise him for his silly dreams and, climactically, he storms away from the table to go and sulk in his room. None of these aspects are necessarily tied to a certain age, but the whole scene presents Mario as way more of a child than we were expecting.

In the ensuing scenes of Mario without his cap on, we couldn't help but notice that the Nintendo mascot looked unusually smooth. We know that this Mario can drive a van so he's at least 16 (assuming that the fictional Brooklyn has the same legal driving age as the real one), but his naivety, childhood bedroom — crammed full of posters, figures, and references — and bright features got us thinking that this wasn't a man in his 20s, but someone who is much younger; albeit one with a full-time job and impressive facial hair.

On top of all this (we really don't want to throw another spanner in the works, but needs must), you have the live-action presentations of Mario in both the 1989 The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! and the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie. Nothing against professional wrestler Lou Albano or Oscar-nominated actor Bob "I used to play King Lear" Hoskins, but these takes on the character are hardly ones of a man in his 20s — Albano was well into his 50s at the time, and Hoskins was pushing 50 at the time of the movie's release. We didn't quite get a 50-something vibe from the Illumination film, but all we're saying is that anything is possible.

So where does this leave us? In one scenario, you've got the mid-20s game presentation that Miyamoto emphasised back in the day, then in another, you have the film that sometimes leans toward a younger vibe. On a final, third hand that we have magically pulled out of nowhere, you have the live-action takes which depict the plumber as a man who is way older still.

We'd advise against reading into The Super Mario Bros. Movie too far (really, it's not that deep), but this is a question that we need answering. Where do you stand on the debate? Is the Mario of the Mario Movie a grown man or did you have a similar age-questioning reaction to us? Fill out the following poll and let us know.

How old is Mario in the Mario Movie?

Are there any other questions from the Mario Movie that you feel need answering? Drop your head-scratchers in the comments below.