I had planned to make this post sooner; it was meant to be the first post on the newly-relaunched PMO, but thanks to E3 and the time needed to get Mario’s Hat up and running, it fell by the wayside.

This one’s a bit of a personal story, but one I wanted to share just the same. It’s no secret that I love Super Mario Bros. 2, perhaps thanks in no small part to the fact that it was The Next Big Thing Nintendo was promoting when I was just beginning to get into the whole video game thing. But another part is that it was the game which not only seemed to make Mario feel like a real character (the cartoon-like style) in a real world (hills, caves, deserts, waterfalls, log bridges instead of just blocks, bricks, and pipes), but a special piece of imagery also managed to cement him in my young mind as a total badass.

Granted, what makes one a “badass” can be kind of subjective. To an older, more “mature” person, it might be a tough, manly man with muscles, a big chip on his shoulder, and an attitude that says he won’t take any bull from anyone. Maybe there are some other attributes, too: Drinks beer, smokes, has stubble or even a full-grown beard, maybe some tattoos. Meanwhile, I think kids are a little more lenient in their definition of the term; a character can be more colorful, more cartoony, and still be a badass to them, even if they aren’t thinking with that exact term in mind (I’m pretty sure I wasn’t).

Mario already had some good things going for him, what with the throwing fire, breaking bricks with his hands (and not his head like some people tend to think), and toppling giant fire-breathing turtles to free an oppressed kingdom and its rightful ruler. But the image at the top of this article (click to enlarge) managed to take it to a new level.

It’s from one of the posters which Nintendo used to insert into the boxes for all its systems and games (those were the days), and you can see a full example of one such poster at X-Entertainment. The screenshots per game were limited to one in number, and the blurbs were brief, yet they seemed to manage to tell you all you needed to know at the time. In this case, the screen said plenty.

So, here’s the deal: I’ve never been big into scary movies (not because they’re scary, they just do nothing for me), but I picked up on a few things. However, not caring for the genre much… well, some of that information got mixed up.

“Mario & the whole gang!” the poster proclaimed. “An adventure in the Land of Dreams.”

That simple blurb did a lot to color my perception of the picture, and for a time, my perception of Mario as well. I had Freddy Krueger, the star of A Nightmare on Elm Street who haunts the dreams of his victims, mixed up in part with Jason Voorhees, the hulking hockey mask-wearing antagonist of the Friday the 13th movies.

So with no greater context regarding the game at the time, nor a proper understanding of how these things work, I took the mask-wearing Shy Guy to be Jason Voorhees, who was probably doing his thing in the Land of Dreams. And here comes Mario, who apparently did not give two shakes about the murderous psychopath, picking him up and throwing him at some other baddie. Mario just took care of Jason “like a boss,” as they say now.

Sure, the setting was more colorful than in those movies (that again, I did not watch). Sure, “Jason” was a bit more cartoony. And sure, the likelihood of such a crossover is so infinitesimal here that it could span an entire franchise in a mirror universe, but I have just one thing to say to that: Youth. I was young and I was dumb, but I got better. Also, the fact the poster was in the window of a video rental store might have had something to do with it.

Still… you have to admit, the concept is pretty awesome, as misguided as it ultimately proved to be. Can you imagine? Honestly, I’d love to see someone with more artistic talent try to recreate that screenshot as I once saw it. There have been so many other strange, bizarre interpretations of Mario… what’s one more?

So that’s my story. And honestly, I’d be interested in hearing of any such misconceptions which made something like this (video game or not) all the more awesome in your book, enough so that even learning the reality of the matter would not quite diminish what you saw in your imagination. Feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Oh, and as an aside, if anyone was wondering: I did manage to acquire a copy of that poster more recently, to help keep that little spark alive. Though I wonder if I can get a bigger version to hang up someday…

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