The Mario Phenomenon: How a Video Game Character Conquered YouTube

Video game icon Mario has done it all. He’s rescued a princess, battled a giant ape, driven go-karts, and been in two movies. Over the years, he has become a pop culture legend, and he has now racked up over 100 billion views on YouTube.

Americans spend between eight and twelve hours each week playing video games. However, many of them are now spending as much time watching others play games online. This fact explains why video-sharing platform YouTube announced that Super Mario Bros. and other Mario titles have accumulated over 100 billion views on the platform.

There are now over two million YouTube channels that have uploaded Mario-related content, and a new video is uploaded every twenty seconds. In addition, there are now around 2,000 channels dedicated solely to the video game character. Surprisingly, sixty percent of all “Mario Makers” on YouTube are from Japan, and the United States and Japan only account for just over 40% of all Mario viewers.

To celebrate Mario reaching 100+ billion views, YouTube Gaming created a playlist of some of the most popular videos, and shared the news across social media to help boost the views further.

The Legend of Mario

What is most impressive about Mario’s content accumulating 100 billion views on YouTube is that he was only created as a generic hero for 1981’s Donkey Kong, where the player attempts to rescue a woman from a giant ape.

The legend is that Japanese video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto had wanted Mario to be a throwback to the Popeye cartoons of the 1930s. He failed to secure the rights, so he created a throwaway character instead. According to Steven Kent’s “The Ultimate History of Video Games,” the hero was initially known as “Jumpman.” Although the graphics were primitive by today’s standards, he was essentially the same chubby, mustachioed hero that could jump over barrels, climb ladders, and save the day.

He then became the villain of sorts in the game’s sequel, Donkey Kong Junior, where this time the giant ape was held captive, and his son sought to free him. More importantly, Jumpman became known as “Mario.”

Mario became the star of the Super Mario Bros. series of platform games beginning in 1985. He quickly became the most famous character in the video game industry and a pop culture icon.

Saving the Video Game Industry

Arguably, Mario also saved the video game industry, which was in a slump in the mid-1980s until the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) arrived on the scene. Super Mario Bros. is largely credited, alongside the NES, with reviving the video game industry after the 1983 crash. The game also helped popularize the side-scrolling platform game genre.

Although the game offered a two-player mode, where the second player had to settle for Mario’s brother, Luigi, Super Mario Bros. proved that it was still enjoyable to watch others play.

“Watching others play Mario has always been part of the shared experience in video games,” says brand marketing expert Scott Steinberg, creator of the recently released board game “The Future is Yours.” “It is always fun to play, but it can be fun to sit and watch others play to see how they do.”

Watching As Much As Playing

Today, Generation Z has shown an increasing desire to watch YouTube videos of popular games being played. It makes sense that Mario would lead the way in views.

“The younger generation has simply grown up watching games, which is as much a part of the gaming experience as playing the games themselves,” says Steinberg.

In conclusion, it is clear that Mario is a gaming phenomenon. He has become a pop culture legend

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