Nintendo’s iconic character Mario first appeared in the 1983 game Mario, and in 1985 Super Mario Bros. burst on to the market and became one of the most successful video games ever. Mario, along with his brother Luigi and the multitude of other characters that inhabit Mario World, came to be pop culture figures far beyond the confines of the gaming community, influencing television, film, music and art. A whole generation of visual artists have grown up with Mario as fixture in their lives, and have delighted in turning their talents to creating images of the heroic plumber. This post brings together 20 of the best examples of artworks influenced by Super Mario, inventive creations to amuse and inspire.
1. Real Super Mario (Jax Pixeloo)
American Photoshop artist Jax Pixeloo takes cartoon and game characters and brings them to life in eerily realistic digital images. For this portrait of Mario he took the shape of the plumber’s face and expertly mapped real skin textures to flesh his face out, with slightly unsettling results.
2. Grumpy Redux (Ryan Wood)
Utah-based artist Ryan Wood created this brilliant portrait of Mario in response to an ‘art challenge’ to re-imagine a favourite video game. Wood has created an impressively grotesque and grumpy image of the world-famous plumber.
3. Super Mario Bros. 2 (Rex Hackleberg)
Rex Hackleberg is a Canadian cartoonist with an amazing sense of playfulness and colour in his video game-themed paintings. In this picture, Mario and Luigi are protecting Princess Toadstool, both armed with turnips.
4. Wii Set a Fire…. Guy (Dirk Eric Schulz and Mario González)
This stylish collaborative project features the characters of Mario, drawn by Dirk Eric Schulz, and Luigi by Mario González. Both artists are massive fans of Super Mario Bros, and as such wanted to create a cartoon of the pair roasting health-giving mushrooms over a campfire.
5. Turnip Murder (Winona Nelson)
Winona Nelson is a concept artist who lives and works in California, specialising in character and fantasy driven artwork. In this image, she has rendered a semi-realist scene of Mario and Luigi fighting off enemies on a precipitous waterfall crossing.
6. Super Mario Bros. 3 (Gabe Swarr)
Gabe Swarr is another Californian artist with a passion for video games and the crazy characters that populate them. In this image he has painted a highly stylised vision of Mario in a simple comic book fashion.
7. Donkey Kong and Mario (Bob Dob)
Yet another Californian artist, this time Bob Dob, who creates brilliantly atmospheric paintings that range from the absurd to the disturbing. In this image, we see Mario and Donkey Kong taking timeout from the demands of video gaming to enjoy a beer and a smoke.
8. Rough Night Out (Bob Dob)
Bob Dob’s double portrait shows Mario and Luigi battered, bruised and apprehended by the LAPD after a particularly rough night out.
9. Super Mario World (Mike Mitchell)
Mike Mitchell’s painting is a crazed image with Mario, looking rather plump, riding a flying dinosaur, who happens to be wearing Nike sneakers. The artists lives, works and sells his art from his base in Los Angeles.
10. Luigi (Mike Mitchell)
This is another fine piece of art from Mike Mitchell, a digital illustration showing Luigi with his trusty monkey wrench.
11. Mario and Luigi (Anthony Jones)
Artist Anthony Jones has created an alternate Mario concept in which the brothers are humble plumbers of Italian extraction, both addicted to a drug called ‘star’; Peach is an actress and model who owes here success to mob boss Bowser; and Wario is another plumber ruthlessly competing for the brothers’ business.
12. Untitled (Handre de Jager)
South African artist Handre de Jager paints scenes of eye-popping madness and violence inspired by gaming culture, pictures that seem heavily influenced by the work of the Surrealists. This slightly sinister image replaces Super Mario Bros’ happy atmosphere with something a whole lot darker.
13. Mario Ravenous Part 3 (Justin Coffee)
Justin Coffee is a Canadian artist who creates superb comic book-style images, including this slapstick moment between Mario and Luigi from a trilogy of drawings based on the game.
14. Mario (Malinko)
This image by artist Malinko shows a worried-looking Mario being pursued, with the action seen from an inventive worm’s-eye-view.
15. My Name is Mario. You Killed My Brother. Prepare to Die! (Jorge R. Gutierrez)
US cartoonist Jorge R. Gutierrez created this cool acrylic painting for an exhibition curated by fellow artist Jon M. Gibson entitled ‘I am 8bit’, held in a Los Angeles gallery in 2007. The work featured in the show was a veritable celebration of computer game culture.
16. Mario’s Breakfast (Alan Defibaugh)
This charming picture of Mario cooking his favourite breakfast of green eggs and mushrooms by Alan Defibaugh also featured in the ‘I am 8bit’ exhibition. The show featured over 200 original works made by more than 100 video game-obsessed artists.
17. Mario on Fire (Nationpoo)
The artist created this candy-coloured psychedelic confection as part of a series of digital paintings called Eight-Beat, featuring favourite characters from the world of eight-bit gaming.
18. Mario (Ted McClung)
Ted McClung is a masterful digital illustrator who takes his inspiration from fantasy, cartoons and video games, including this fantastic image of Mario battling his way past his enemies.
19. Twenty-One Years of Bosses (Yves Bourgelas)
French-Canadian illustrator, comic artist, designer and animator Yves Bourgelas often works under the pseudonym of The Bourgyman. He created this image in 2006 to mark 21 years of end-of-level bosses who Mario has fought against.
20. Super Mario (Jimiyo)
Finally, this image from digital painter Jimiyo brilliantly combines blocky pixilation with super-realistic skin and clothing textures, another mighty example of Super Mario inspired artwork.