The bestselling Mario games of all time

Hi, Elliot here. With the animated Super Mario Bros. Movie released in cinemas this week, it seems a great time for an appropriately geeky look at the Mario series.

This week sees the release of the Super Mario Bros. Movie in the U.S., the second big-screen adaptation of the best-selling video game series.

Mario and his brother Luigi, along with a cast of princesses, turtles, and mushroom people, have starred in well over 100 games. While the Mario games of the 80s and 90s were primarily athletic romps through tricky platform games, these days, the Italian plumber is best known for his moves behind the wheel of a kart.

In case you’re one of the 1 in 10 (British) people unfamiliar with the games: Mario first appeared in the 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong, where he scaled ladders and hopped over barrels to rescue a damsel in distress. ‘Super Mario Bros.,’ released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, is regarded as not only one of the greatest games of all time but also one of the best-selling, shifting over 40 million copies.

While subsequent games have rarely matched that level of commercial success, the series’ sales figures reveal its enduring appeal, especially when it comes to Mario Kart, which now routinely outsells traditional platforming games. No wonder the new movie appears to be leaning into vehicular action.

What does this mean for fans of traditional Mario platforming games? While they might not be hitting the same numbers as Mario Kart, they remain among some of the best-selling titles on their respective systems. I can’t imagine Nintendo giving up on them any time soon.

(A postscript on video game sales numbers: unlike box-office figures for movies which are closely watched, freely published, and go back decades, game numbers are often harder to track down. Nintendo helpfully provides lists of their bestselling games by platform, but even those only go back to 2004, and tracking down reliable sales figures from the 20th century is very difficult. For example, the only source I could find for Super Mario 64 sales numbers was an archived Gizmodo article, which itself was compiled “from a number of sources.” I’ve reached out to Nintendo in the hopes that they can provide definitive numbers.)

That’s all for this week! If you do go see the new Mario movie this weekend, I sure hope it’s better than the 1993 disaster of a film.