It’s 10 a.m. on a Monday morning in the Mushroom Kingdom. Green pipes across the land are festering with piranha plants and authorities have deemed them unsafe for travel. It’s a dirty job and someone’s got to do it, but the man usually up for the job can’t bring himself to get out of bed.
At Mario Brothers Plumbing—a tiny shack in the middle of nowhere—business is slow and the stench of used fire flowers wafts down the hall from the sleeping quarters. Stalwart co-owner Luigi sits at the front desk with a look of concern on his face.
“My brother is considered a hero,” says Luigi. “I used to consider him a hero myself, but lately he’s just been putting himself before everyone else. He can’t stop getting 1ups. He can’t stop getting coins to pay for 1ups. He’s got more lives than he can count. But what about my life, Mario? My life.”
The brothers have not paid their rent in months. Whenever Mario goes out, it’s not for a job, but for a cash grab to fuel his 1up habit.
“I’ve had to take up a part-time job cleaning mansions just to pay the bills,” says Luigi, a skilled plumber himself but rarely contracted for work unless accompanied by his superstar brother. “My brother would come home with 99 coins, and I would say, ‘That’s great, let’s just pay off our debt’, and he would say, ‘Just one more coin’, and at that point I knew the money was gone. Spent on another 1up.”
A groggy Mario finally stumbles his way out of the bedroom for his interview. Instead of the coffee pot, he first reaches for a pack of cigarettes and lights one up. He is unshaven, disheveled, and lacking his trademark red hat.
“I’m not in the best place right now,” says the living legend. “The other day I went over to the castle to see my girl Peach. I knocked on the door and yelled ‘Hello!’ My buddy Toad was there behind the door and said, ‘Who is it?’ I’m like, how long have I been away this dude doesn’t even recognize my voice? I said, ‘It’s me, Mario!’ He slipped a note under the door. It said, ‘Sorry, but the princess is in another castle.'” He takes a drag of his cigarette. “Story of my life.”
“…I’m gonna pretty much have to live with (what I’ve done)…about a hundred times over at least.”
Mario and Peach’s relationship has been rocky ever since Peach witnessed a tragic event. A few weeks ago, the couple were out adventuring with their trusty steed Yoshi. Mario spotted a group of coins floating over a large chasm, and with Yoshi as his mount, he jumped for them. Unfortunately, the coins were too high, so he used Yoshi as leverage to make a daring dismount. He got the coins and landed safely on the other side of the chasm. Yoshi, unfortunately, was not so lucky.
“I was shocked at what I saw,” said a tearful Peach when reached for comment. “Mario told me he had no choice, but he did have a choice! He didn’t need to go after those coins. I’m a princess, I’ve got plenty of coins.”
The people closest to Mario aren’t the only ones feeling the effects of his rampant coin-lust. Downtown Mushroom Kingdom is practically in ruins, no thanks to the plumber smashing every brick in his path in hopes of hitting that one bonus block housing multiple coins. Other structures such as pipes fare no better when he gets into his stash of mega mushrooms. The staggering amount of collateral damage has tarnished his reputation, and Mario can do nothing but drown his sorrows in ‘shrooms.
“I don’t know if I can live with what I’ve done,” says Mario. “I mean, I’m gonna pretty much have to live with it…about a hundred times over at least.”
While he tries to pick up the pieces of his shattered life, Mario holds onto the hope that one day the people of the Mushroom Kingdom will forgive him and see him once again as the hero he once was. After an intervention by his friends and family, he is on the road to a cleaner and healthier lifestyle.
“I became so obsessed with gaining lives, I neglected the lives that really matter to me.” He puts on his red hat and steps toward the door. “If you need a plumber, you know who to call.”