It seems to me that video game cartoons are much less popular today than they were when I was young. Then again, I don’t have any kids so I’m not often watching children’s programming so I could be mistaken. I’m sure Pokemon is still kicking around some network and Sonic may be running in syndication, but that’s all I can come up with off the top of my head. When I was young there were several video game adaptations for the small screen. Just going off the top of my head I can come up with Dragon Lair, Super Mario, Zelda, Captain N (not a strict adaptation of a game, but comprised almost entirely of characters from popular games), Sonic, Battletoads, Mega Man, Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat. I’m almost positive I’m forgetting some but that’s still a pretty solid sample for comparison. Maybe it’s because so many popular games these days seem to be of the M and T rated variety that we don’t see many cartoon adaptations. Or maybe it’s because companies like Nintendo are still shell-shocked from less than stellar cartoons based on their properties. If that is the case, then we can lay a lot of the blame on The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3.
The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 was, naturally, based on the video game Super Mario Bros. 3. It was also the sequel of sorts to the more popular Super Maro Bros. Super Show which featured Mario cartoons that took place in a world based off of Super Mario Bros. 2 (the American version). That show is mostly remembered for the live-action Mario and Luigi and the songs the welcomed viewers and saw them off (Do the Mario!). The Super Mario Bros. 3 adaptation contained no live actors and no such songs. The opening is simply a narrator talking over an animated sequence that sets up the series. There’s no continuity from one episode to the next and each one runs a little over 10 minutes with 26 total episodes. The retail release is three discs worth of content and I would be surprised if any of the discs is filled to near capacity. Mario and Luigi had their voice actors recast to Walker Boone and Tony Rosato but the rest of the cast remains intact. The animation style is also slightly different, most notably Mario is a little trimmer and the Koopa Troopa design from the previous show was scrapped.
The biggest changes from the previous show to this one occurred with the villains and the location. Location wise, this is a more faithful depiction of the Mushroom Kingdom from the game complete with numerous warp pipes and floating blocks. For the villains, King Koopa is still the antagonist but now he’s accompanied by his seven Koopa Kids. The Koopalings resemble their video game counterparts in design but all have different names. Allegedly, this was due to the series being developed before Nintendo had provided the names. The characters, for the most part, have pretty stupid and unimaginative names. Morton Koopa Jr. is now just called Big Mouth, because he has a (you guessed it) big mouth. There’s a Bully Koopa, Cheatsy, and Wendy is now Kootie Pie. It’s not very important what their names are but I’ll give credit to the writers for mostly giving each of the seven a distinct personality (with the exception of the twins Hip and Hop, who are basically the same). The ones that end up standing out include Cheatsy, who’s cunning seems to surpass his father’s as he is often able to manipulate him (usually with flattery). Cookie is the evil genius of the kids and is definitely the most insane. And Kootie Pie, being Koopa’s only daughter, is not surprisingly a spoiled brat and her father is a slave to her whims.
The Koopa Kids are perhaps the only bright spot of this program. Well, that and the power-ups. Super Mario Bros. 3 is famous for its numerous power-ups and they’re all represented here, for the most part. For some reason I get a giddy thrill from seeing them used in the show from the common raccoon tail to the absurd frog suit. Even Koopa gets in on the action in the series finale which is certainly noteworthy. The rest of the show though is comprised of tired writing and simple plots. Not much has changed from the previous show and the majority of the episodes follow the same formula of the Mario Bros. having to foil one of Koopa’s attempts at taking over the Mushroom Kingdom. There’s usually a chase sequence or montage set to a parody of a licensed song which had to be removed from the DVD release. There is one exception in the episode “Recycled Koopa” which contains a song called “Trash City USA” (2:05 mark in video link). It sounds suspiciously like the Glenn Danzig song “Spook City USA” and I wonder if it was intended by someone as a parody of that. Since the song is so obscure it wouldn’t surprise me if it snuck past the legal team (at the time the episode was produced, the song only existed as a B side to the single “Who Killed Marlyn?” which was not exactly a wide release). There’s also the requisite episode where things get turned around and Mario and Luigi have to be saved by the Princess and Toad. There’s also a celebrity appearance by Milli Vanilli in one episode, “Kootie Pie Rocks.” This may be the most hilarious episode in hindsight.
This series also establishes the existence of the home world of the Mario brothers as The Real World. This means several episodes take place on earth and in places like New York and Venice. There’s even one episode where each koopaling takes over a continent. This labeling of this world as The Real World bugs the crap out of me. This show isn’t like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with characters often breaking the fourth wall, instead that’s how the characters view this supposed real world. What does that make the Mushroom Kingdom then? The fake world? I’m surprised the princess would stand for that!
Because of the short run-time, plots are often resolved quickly and haphazardly. It’s clear the writers had little respect for children as the show is fairly thoughtless. The animation isn’t anything to get excited over either. For the most part, it’s fairly typical of its era but there are other shortcuts that bother me. Most notably, whenever a character morphs into another form there’s no transition animation, it just happens, which is utter laziness. Unfortunately, the transfers by Shout! Factory for the DVD release are atrocious. Some episodes are okay while others drop out and look worse than what can be found on the internet. Supposedly the master tapes for the series no longer exist, so I don’t know what the source was for the DVD, but clearly it sucked and no attempt was made for the episodes that are really bad. The last two episodes on the set are especially bad and should have never been released in such a state.
I bought this set when I found it on sale and did so only for nostalgic purposes. I liked the show enough when I was a kid but my memory of it wasn’t strong. It didn’t last long as it was quickly replaced by a Super Mario World themed cartoon. Even though the set was relatively cheap, it still wasn’t worth the purchase. Don’t make the same mistake I did, just let this one pass, as your memories of the show are likely much better than the actual product.