Next time you’re strolling through the Mushroom Kingdom, there’s a place I’d like you to visit. It’s called Dreamland, and it’s on a planet called Popstar. It’s a fair bit away from Mushroom World, but then again, you’re no stranger to hopping around planets if you’ve been hanging around with Mario for more than a day.
How do you get there? It’s easy! Take out your pink cell phone — the old kind, not one with a fancy capacitive screen — and call in a warp star. When it comes, you better hang on for dear life. In a matter of seconds, it will take you out of Grand Finale Galaxy and through the dimensional rift. Give your wishes to the Milky Way as you pass through deep space and crash explosively into a star — wait actually it’s a planet. Popstar’s a star-shaped planet in Gamble Galaxy. Don’t worry, everything explodes here. It’s just how things work in a Cookie Country called Dreamland.
Dreamland is a contradiction of extremes. It’s the optimism of a sunny day at the beach and the doom of a worldwide nuclear war. It’s the nostalgia of a fond childhood memory and the terror of a nightmare you can’t wake up from. It is the light and the darkness.
In reality, however, everything in Dreamland is just a manifestation of real life with its myriad highs and lows. The sunrises and eventides. Yet, friends, loved ones, and people who are in your corner remain to help through it all. For me, one of those people who are in my corner is Mario.
I’m not here to talk about how prevalent Mario is to the cultural zeitgeist. So many fantastic writers in this collaboration are no-doubt discussing that. I’m also not here to discuss the prodigious quality of Mario’s games. That’s a given at this point. What I am here to say is that Mario is always, unshakably and undeniably, there for me.
There is a surface-level reality here — Mario games consistently provide fun and distraction from real-life happenings which may not be too enjoyable. A number of series, however, boast that distinction, but none are so approachable as Mario. There must be something greater in play, at least in my life.
No matter the era or phase of life, Mario exists and operates in the background to provide a sense of friendly continuity. Friend? A fictional character? Stranger things have been known to happen.
Friendship, in my opinion, is not measured by traditional metrics. It’s not about how fiercely loyal someone is to you in the moment. The natural ebb and flow of most people in life means that allegiances are built on shifting sands. Watch any high school drama television program from the early 2000s for a case study in witnessing these friendships morph in short order.
There is a certain type of friendship, however, that is measured more accurately by duration. Specifically, it’s the art of someone you’ve known for years always being in your corner. They’re the people you can go years without talking to simply because life is busy, but never stop thinking about with affection.
Enter Kirby Super Star, in which Mario is always in your corner. Strangely, I mean that literally. When you’re taking on King Dedede in the boxing ring at the end of Springbreeze, a close look at the background reveals there is Mario and Luigi cheering you on… along with Birdo for some reason.
And when you’re attempting to crack Popstar in half in Megaton Punch, there they are again, along with some rather convincing clones on the opposite side. Oh, and Birdo is there too. Are we sure Birdo’s not the true super star?
Mario makes one other appearance, however, and this one gets to me the most. With the stone ability, Kirby has numerous statues he can transform into. While most are fairly common, there are a couple of rare ones. You have about a one in a million chance (possibly an exaggeration, but not by much) of transforming into a golden Mario statue. Playing Kirby Super Star as a kid, one day I activated the stone ability, and there he was.
I was taken aback. I just wanted to let the world pass me by with golden Mario permanently etched there on-screen. The fact that Mario cared enough to show up when least expected was such a kind thing to do, and still is to this day.
It’s so very rare to sight a Mario statue in Kirby Super Star. For the purposes of this collaboration, I must have tried to summon the golden plumber at 5,000 times to no avail. That’s okay though, I know Mario is there somewhere cheering me on. Perhaps he’s just very good at knowing when to show up at the right time.
After all, isn’t that what being a friend is about? Knowing when to show up at just the right time. Mario, you’ve helped me through more than I realized with your impeccable timing. Thank you for being a friend.
Wahoo! You are a Super Reader! But the adventure doesn’t stop here… There’s more of this project in another castle! This article is just one level in an entire Super Mario Multiverse, a galactic collaboration between writers around the world sharing a bit of our hearts and memories about our favorite Mario games. Visit the Center of the Multiverse to see more: