Mario and Luigi turn 35 this year. The iconic Mario Bros. have been kicking arse and taking names for just as long, making a name for themselves as the Mushroom Kingdom’s most valiant protectors. But throughout their decades-long career, a haunting mystery has plagued them. Who are Mario and Luigi? Why are they known mononymously, like Madonna or Rihanna? If they’re really brothers, do they have a surname? Join Kotaku Australia as we investigate the mystery.
The ‘Mario Bros.’ name first cropped up in 1983’s Mario Bros. video game for arcade machines. Here, Mario and Luigi fought-off strange creatures they found in the sewers of New York. The issue here isn’t the sewers or the monsters, it’s the use of ‘Mario Bros.’ to refer to both Mario and Luigi. Only one of the brothers is called Mario, and it feels strange to refer to a pairing based on the popularity of one of the brothers (although this is the most likely reason for the game’s name).
If ‘Mario Bros.’ doesn’t refer to Mario’s exceeding popularity, logically it refers to a surname — Mario Mario and Luigi Mario, the Mario Bros. But it might not be so simple.
Throughout the history of Mario and company, no mention is made of a surname for Mario and Luigi. This is in spite of the obvious implications of the ‘Mario Bros.’ moniker. In a 2012 interview with Game Informer, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed a total lack of surname for the pair: “Just like Mickey Mouse doesn’t really have a last name, Mario is really just Mario and Luigi is really just Luigi.”
But later in 2015, Miyamoto apparently reneged on this claim. Reports surfaced during Japan’s 30th anniversary celebrations for Super Mario that Miyato stated Mario and Luigi’s surname was ‘Mario’ making the pair ‘Mario Mario’ and ‘Luigi Mario’. It’s currently unclear whether this name is still canon, but it has appeared multiple times. ‘Mario Mario’ and ‘Luigi Mario’ have popped up in official game guides and been stated to be fact by Mario actor Charles Martinet. So where did the confusion start?
It can actually be traced back to the abysmal and critically-hated Super Mario Bros. film adaptation from 1993. When creating the film versions of Mario and Luigi, the producers decided they needed surnames and logically concluded the ‘Mario Bros.’ name implied their surname was Mario. While the Super Mario Bros. film is generally hated, this decision became entrenched behind the scenes and was slowly adopted into official Mario lore.
Miyamoto’s eventual agreement about the ‘Mario Mario’ and ‘Luigi Mario’ names is largely accepted as being the official stance on the Mario Bros. surname. While it’s yet to work its way into a mainline ‘canon’ Mario game, it’s safe to say these surnames are here to stay.
‘Mario Mario’ and ‘Luigi Mario’ are the full names of the Mario Bros. Until we hear anything to the contrary, we can state this as fact.