There is one bit of irony about the rumors of Mario dying. Mario has perfected dying! He dies for a living! He eats and breathes dying!
Dying is easy: living is harder.
The special games were for Super Mario’s anniversary: the dad bod hero has been running (and jumping) for the last 35 years. (More if you start the clock not with Super Mario Bros. in 1986 but Mario’s debut Donkey Kong in 1981.)
In 1980, Nintendo was a Kyoto, Japan, toy company branching into the arcade game market. It planned a Popeye game tied into an upcoming film to break into the rich American marketplace, but its license was delayed.
The human villain Bluto was reimagined as a garage-sized gorilla puzzlingly named Donkey Kong. Popeye, now with a hat and a dark mustache instead of spinach-built forearms, was called Jumpman. Donkey Kong was shipped to a Seattle-area warehouse, where thousands of unpopular Nintendo arcade cabinets were waiting to be rejiggered with a better game.
It was too late to rename Donkey Kong, but the American staff wanted a better name for its protagonist than “Jumpman.”
Modern Mario games are more about the experience than the challenge. What were blindfolded three-pointers are now Pop-a-Shots on a footstool. It’s a different sort of fun, with cushioned guardrails instead of walking on hot coals.
Rides and movies are great, but Mario is a game star first and foremost. The reason kids love Mario isn’t because of who he is, no more than Mickey Mouse’s success is due to kids’ love of talking rodents. No, kids love Mario because they can become him. Picking up a controller is like yelling Shazam: now they’re a full-sized adult, ready for all the extra life they can fit in before dinnertime.
No Mario? Thank God! he lives, and lives forever. A thousand deaths from now, nay, ten times ten thousand deaths from now, Mario will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.