Hollywood is having its second bash at sprinkling some movie magic on the Super Mario Bros video game franchise, three decades after the last attempt.

The pint-sized plumber from Japanese game maker Nintendo has enjoyed 40 years of extraordinary popularity that has transformed the character into a truly global icon.

Nintendo owes a lot to its moustachioed hero, created by a young game designer called Shigeru Miyamoto initially as the protagonist in the Donkey Kong arcade game 1981.

The firm had been struggling to crack the North American market and, according to some accounts, was on the verge of financial ruin.

With Kong, the Japanese studio finally succeeded in the United States and invented the platform video game along the way.

The hero was known as Jumpman until 1983 when he was given the name Mario.

Miyamoto then let him loose in his own Super Mario Bros game in 1985, where he was finally renamed Super Mario.

The main Super Mario games have since shifted more than 400 million units.

And that does not account for wildly popular spinoffs like Mario Kart and Mario Odyssey or Mario Golf and Mario Tennis.

Mario's stratospheric success helped propel Nintendo to the pinnacle of the gaming world.

Game designers have built a Mario universe with characters including his green-clad brother Luigi, turtle-demon nemesis Bowser, and friendly dragon-like sidekick Yoshi.

The franchise has thrived through transitions from 2D to 3D and from consoles to smartphones with Super Mario Run and Mario Kart Tour.

And retro-gamers are still willing to pay big bucks for a slice of its history.

A sealed Nintendo 64 cartridge of Super Mario sold for $1.56 million in 2021, a record for a video game, according to Heritage Auctions in the US.

"He is a pop culture icon known to everyone, young and old," Morihiro Shigihara, a writer and former arcade manager, told AFP.

"The only other video game character with a claim to be more famous is Pikachu," he said, referencing the hero from the Pokemon franchise.

Nowadays, movie adaptations of video games are everywhere. Some, like Resident Evil and Tomb Raider, have become bankable franchises.

But Super Mario was there first with the 1993 movie Super Mario Bros starring Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper.

But it bombed. Critics and audiences hated it.

Nevertheless, the wider Mario universe has expanded undeterred with the genial working-class hero getting toy tie-ins with Lego, watches made by Tag Heuer, and a backpack range from Eastpak.

Mario theme parks are also popping up -- first in Osaka in 2021, then Los Angeles last year, and a planned third Super Mario World in Florida.

One of the attractions being considered is the ultimate tie-in, where the real world and Mario world finally meet - an augmented reality Mario Kart race around Bowser's castle.

Source: AFP

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is released in cinemas on 7 April