Over the weekend, I got involved in a silly discussion with my daughter where I tried to convince her that Mario was a zombie. The more I argued in jest, the more I started to see a pattern that suggests that it's feasible he is.
So what does the evidence say? Well, in Mario's defense:
Mario isn't a Zombie, because…
He's Mario, for crying out loud! The world's best known video game mascot, the reason why (up until recently) Nintendo was rolling around on piles of Yen, and a cute, cuddly plumber-type person who never seems to unblock any s-bends.
Mario is a Zombie, because…
How many times has he risen from his grave now? It's got to be in the millions, if not billions — so much so, that even The Onion had fun quoting him as decrying how much he dies. Who rises from the dead, time and time again, taking Bullet Bills to the head only to rise again? Mario The Zombie, that's who.
OK, that might not be enough to convince you. But think about this. Mario inhabits a world that's always changing; from the original blocky Super Mario Bros to New Super Mario Bros U, there's always a "new" world that looks suspiciously like worlds we've seen before. Prior to that, in Mario Bros, he was actually doing something vaguely close to plumbing, but even that verged on the fantastical. What if, instead of this being the result of too much magic mushroom ingestion, the ongoing Mario story is, instead, the Zombie Mario's way of interpreting the world around him as his brain slowly rots?
It would, once and for all, make perfect sense of why Princess Peach keeps getting kidnapped by Bowser. She's not getting kidnapped at all; for all we know, Bowser might be an accounts receivable clerk from New Jersey who keeps having to move home because the shambling zombie form of a plumber he employed back in the early 80s keeps rising to pester his wife!
What, after all, is a Zombie? Well, it depends on which bit of Zombie lore you're reading. In most classical Zombie literature, it's a shambling creature that never stops until it gets what it wants, moving across the landscape at a steady pace in search of its goal. Remind you of anyone? Even in the more modern lore, they can run at quite a pace, but again, that's something that Mario is more than capable of with just a tap of the run button.
Often, as in, say, Romero's original "Dawn Of The Dead", they're attracted to the things they held onto in life, which would explain why there are so many plumbing pipes in Mario's world, but he never does any actual plumbing.
Zombies often repeat the same phrases over and over again, because it's all their decaying brains can remember. How many times have you heard Charles Martinet declare "Its'a Me, Mario!" or "Oh Nooooooo!" by now?
Zombies clearly prefer the taste of human flesh, but there's very few humans in Mario's world. He seems to get by on a diet of mushrooms, but they largely don't seem to kill him. An awful lot of fungi are in fact poisonous for human consumption… but not for already-dead zombies.
What kills a Zombie? Very little; they just keep going, but they're often destroyed by fire. When Mario's got an invincibility star, nothing can stop him… except for falling into fire. OK, also being crushed to death, but I suspect if you squashed a zombie flat, you'd stop it effectively functioning.
Some have bemoaned that Nintendo, by endlessly publishing new Mario games, are running the IP into the ground. It's just possible, despite the advances in video game graphics over the last thirty years, that the ground is exactly where Mario is.