Art: Mark Kelly
Full name: Mario Mario
Weight: 140 lbs.
Home: Mario's Pad, The Mushroom Kingdom
First appearance: Donkey Kong (arcade)
Last appeared in: Donkey Kong 64 (cameo)
"It's-a me, Mario!"
Unlike non-Nintendo mascots such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Crash Bandicoot, Mario was in a trio of successful arcade games before hitting the consoles with full force. Mario first appeared in Donkey Kong, which established the standard formula of a Mario game: the antagonist (DK / Bowser / Tatanga) abducts Mario's girlfriend (Pauline / Princess Toadstool / Daisy), and Mario must travel through zany settings in order to beat the bad guy and free the damsel in distress. After Donkey Kong, Mario appeared in Donkey Kong Jr., and then in Mario Bros., which was Mario's last pre-NES arcade hit. Mario Bros. introduced the other brother, Luigi, and there we got a first glimpse of Mario as a plumber.
After the successful arcade games, Nintendo used Mario's ever-increasing popularity to promote their new systems. For example, a multi-cartridge containing Super Mario Bros. was bundled with the NES, and Super Mario World was bundled with early versions of the Super NES. Using this marketing tactic, it wasn't long before Mario became synonymous with Nintendo.
Motivated only by a job well done (or maybe Peach's kiss...), Mario seems to enjoy his many adventures. Taking time out from stomping and smashing with reckless abandon, Mario will often flash a smile and the V-sign before continuing his relentless assualt on the bad guys. Perhaps this is why Bowser despises Mario; Mario always wins, and wins while having fun.