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“When I tell you to run, I want you to run!”
Mama Mario (referred to as Mama and Mama Mia by her children, maiden name Rigassi), the fictional mother of Mario and Luigi, is a recurring minor character throughout the Super Mario series and its spin-offs, particularly in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, where she was both referenced throughout the television series' run and made two appearances in the live-action segments.
A version of Mario's mother made her first appearance in Super Mario Issun-bōshi. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! was responsible for the expansion of the character; to date it is the only source that has provided an official name, shown her face, or explored her personality, developing her as a comically strict parental figure who ultimately cared very much for her boys. Though Mario and Luigi fear her temper and punishments on the show, both boys return their mother's love. Mama Mario's connection to Mario and Luigi's father is unclear. The two are shown to live with each other in all of Papa's appearances, and the fact that Mama has a maiden name implies that she was married at one time, but their relationship and backstory remain unexplored.
Mama Mario's appearance is relatively inconsistent across the series: The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! portrayed her as a portly, masculine woman, while the Nintendo Comics System artists drew her as a dainty, blonde-haired, young woman. However, one consistency across all appearances save "Mama Mia Mario" is the concealing of her face by objects and camera angles.
Amada Anime Series: Super Mario Bros.
"Super Mario Issun-bōshi," a retelling of the Japanese fairy tale, Issunboshi, featuring characters from the Super Mario series, marked the first appearance of the character. Though she did not speak, Mama and/or Papa's hands were visible during the montage of their son's young life and her feet, in slippers, were visible when Mario attempted to convince her to let him travel alone. Throughout Mama's remaining appearances, Mario and Luigi continued to refer to her as "Mama." Another tradition established by the original video animation was the concealment of Mama's face, which has continued throughout all Mario media with only one exception. In the story, when a shooting star flew over Mario's parents' house, Mario was miraculously born. However, he was small enough to fit in the palm of his father's hand, even after he grew older. His parents hesitated in letting their boy travel alone, but after much convincing they allowed him to leave.
The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!
"Plummers Academy" features a flashback to when Mario and Luigi were enrolled in the Brooklyn Plumbers Academy. After Sergeant Kooperman threw them out of the academy, Mario refused to give up, claiming that he had been born with a plunger in his hand. Luigi said that he knew, and that it had been very hard on Mama. Upon hearing that, Mario's courage faded, and he and Luigi temporarily gave up plumbing.
"All Steamed Up"
"All Steamed Up" marked the first reference to Mama Mario outside of Japan. When Luigi first saw Mario shrunken down to a very small size, he lamented over what he would tell their mother.
"Mama Mia Mario"
Six live-action segments later, the character made her first live-action appearance in "Mama Mia Mario," where she and Mario were both played by Lou Albano. The episode's plot was written in such a way that the faces of the two characters never appeared together on screen, allowing Albano to play both characters without the aid of editing. For Mama, the actor spoke in a high, raspy voice, wore a scowl, hunched forward, and when he walked, took small steps and leaned left and right in time with his steps. Near the end of the episode, Mama appears behind a door, talking to the visible Mario. Her arms and hands are briefly shown. During this scene, another, unidentified person played Mama, although Lou still provided the voice.
When Mama Mario called Mario Brothers Plumbing, Luigi picked up the telephone. He attempted to protest and explain Mama's complains as she her voice grew higher and higher. Listening into the call, Mario first suspected that the caller was complaining about the water heater that blew up the week before. After agreeing to let Mama come over, Luigi hung up and told Mario that it was worse: Mama was coming to visit. The two decided to clean up the apartment and lay out leafy vegetables in an attempt to hide their bachelor lifestyle.
Upon arrival, Mama rang the doorbell and ordered her boys to open the door, lest she "break [their] heads!" Quickly, Mario finished the cleaning by taking a garbage can full of pizza boxes into the next room as Luigi went to answer the door. Immediately, Mama hit Luigi upside his head with her purse and lectured him on answering the door timely and listening to her. The scene ended for a commercial break as Mama continued her tirade.
After the cartoon segment, Mama stood over Luigi as he scrubbed the apartment floor and instructed him to tell Mario to see her after he finished washing the street, because she had more work for him to do. Luigi responded with a gentle, "Yes, Mama." His mother interjected, ordering him to shut up and not talk back. Mario rang the doorbell and, through the door, told Mama that he had washed all the steps on Flatbush Avenue. She refused to let him come back in until he had washed the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan, and then commanded that Luigi, still scrubbing the floor, to stop being lazy and help his brother.
When Mama stepped out of the room, Mario walked back in and confided in Luigi that, though he loved Mama, he could not take any more of her and wished that she would leave. Luigi agreed, but asserted that their mother was much better than Aunt Luigeena. Overhearing their conversation, or at least the sound of their voices, Mama, from the other room, yelled at them to keep working.
As the prelude to scenes from The Legend of Zelda, Mario and Luigi discussed how Mama had instructed them to show the scenes and they would be right back afterward provided Mama allowed it. They also noted that The Legend of Zelda was her favorite television show.
Secretly, Luigi called Mama over the phone and told her that she had won the lottery. She fell for the trick and prepared to leave, saying goodbye and hitting Mario over the head with her purse, knocking his hat off. When Mario asked why she hit him, she responded, "Just in case." Shortly after, Aunt Luigeena arrived and rang the doorbell. The brothers hesitated in answering, fearing that Mama had realized the truth.
When Mama Mario left her basil bush in the care of her boys, Mario and Luigi were horrified to realize that it was dying in "Super Plant." Answering the brothers' hopes for a miracle, Dr. Toby arrived and gave them a packed of his experimental Super Plant Growth Formula. Mario added too much formula to the soil, and the plant grew into a monster. However, with more help from Dr. Toby, the plant returned to its normal size. Luigi notes that the plant is once again healthy, and that Mama will be happy.
During the events of "Fake Bro," a conman attempted to trick Mario and Luigi into selling Mario Bros. Plumbing by telling them that he was their long-lost brother, Pietro. When the brothers questioned why they had never heard of him before, he claimed that he had brought such shame to Mama Mario that he ran away from home before they were old enough to remember him. Even the sound of his name would bring grief to Mama. Luigi quizzed Pietro with some family trivia, including Mama's maiden name. The latter answered all the questions correctly, answering that Mama's maiden name was Rigassi. Still suspicious of Pietro's identity, Luigi claimed that would call Mama Mario, but in reality he was about to test the conman's intentions. As a result of the test, Pietro admitted that he had simply researched the brothers and made up the story about Mama.
"Little Marios" features a flashback to when Mario and Luigi were still young children. Again, she is voiced by Lou Albano, but because Mama is only on-screen in scenes where Mario also is, another person played Mama, carefully keeping their face off camera and making exaggerated hand gestures. Mama, overhearing them arguing over the outcome of their race through the house, scolded them and grounded Mario because as the oldest, she argued, he should know better. Shaking, Mario whined that she had already grounded him five times that week. Mama decided to punish him instead by peeling the garlic for the next five days, a punishment that Mario complained would make him smell so bad that no one, not even himself, would want to play with him.
Mario was so upset that he decided to run away. Mama and Luigi enjoyed their time without Mario, eating popcorn. She noted that, without Mario to share with, she and Luigi could eat much more popcorn. When Mario returned, he asked Mama if she missed him. She replied, "No!" and went on to say that she did not miss his yelling, his fights with Luigi, and his room being a mess, but that, ultimately, she did miss him. Upon this, Mario's face lit up. Mama hit him across the face with her purse "just in case" he deserved it, and then affectionately pinched his cheek as Mario's face of shock turned into a smile.
"Gorilla My Dreams"
Mario and Luigi reference Mama twice in "Gorilla My Dreams." When Mario wonders where the ears on his bunny costume are, Luigi states that he remembered Mama using them as oven mitts. Later in the episode, Mario asks the gorilla and Luigi, who is wearing a gorilla costume, how many warts are on Mama's nose to determine who was Luigi and who was the gorilla, claiming that only Luigi would know the answer to the question. The gorilla answers by beating his chest three times and Luigi protests that it was a lucky guess. Mario interjects, saying that he's not talking about the one on her chin.
"Two Bums from Brooklyn"
Tommy Lasagna, coach of the Brooklyn Dodgers, visited Mario Bros. Plumbing in "Two Bums from Brooklyn" in search of Mama Mario's favorite meatball recipe. However, tasting the meatballs, he was disgusted, declaring that they tasted like horsehide and string. Mario confided to Luigi that Lasagna had tasted the secret ingredient. However, the coach decided to use the meatballs by covering them with leather and using them as baseballs. This episode was the first to give Mama Mario an official name, as she had only previously been referred to as, "Mama" by Mario, Luigi, and Pietro.
After Mario and Luigi retaliated against their neighbor Mrs. Gammliss' horrendous opera singing with obnoxious singing of their own, Luigi told Mario that Mama would be proud.
Having successfully liberated the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario and Luigi were to return to Brooklyn in "Flatbush Koopa." Luigi commented that life without King Koopa would be, "perfect as pasta." Mario commented that, speaking of pasta, it was time to go back to Mama Mario's cooking.
Upon falling into the Intergalactic InSinkErator and nearly being grinded alive, Luigi commented that Mama always told him and Mario to be careful when working with garbage disposals. Princess Toadstool then pointed out that Mama had obviously been right.
Super Mario World
Mama Mario was mentioned in the Super Mario World episode "Gopher Bash", when Mario compliments Luigi for successfully teaching the cave-people to grow crops. Noticing a bountiful harvest, Mario tells Luigi that Mama always said he was good at growing.
Nintendo Comics System
"Family Album 'The Early Years'" featured various photographs of Mario's early life, including one in which he was being bathed by his mother in the kitchen sink. "Little Mario", playing with locking pliers, detached the sink's faucet, sending a stream of water into his mother's face.
In the comic, the artists drew Mario's mother as a young and shapely blond-haired woman in a purple dress.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
At the end of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, Mario and Luigi's mother made her first video game appearance. She is portrayed as a wide-set woman wearing a pink nightgown, and only her lower half and hands are seen. Once Yoshi rescued the Stork and Baby Luigi, the stork took Baby Mario and Baby Luigi and continued on his way to deliver them to their parents. The video game's narration states that the boys' delivery has been, "long awaited." Flying to a small, unnamed town surrounded by mountains where "mom and dad live," the stork leaves the bundles on the doorstep of a Mushroom house. The parents awake, turn on a light, open the door, and are pleasantly surprised to see their twins have arrived. Luigi is picked up by his father and Mario by his mother.
Yoshi's Island DS
The introduction to Yoshi's Island DS features a short retelling of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. Baby Mario and Baby Luigi are seen in the hands of one of their parents. Additionally, the introduction shows various children from around Mushroom World being kidnapped by Kamek and his Toady minions one night, including Mario and Luigi. During the abduction, the lights are on and red marks indicating commotion are emerging from Mario and Luigi's house; it is likely, yet unconfirmed that their mother is one of the people making the commotion.
Yoshi's New Island
It is revealed in Yoshi's New Island that the parents seen in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island are not the parents of Mario and Luigi, and the stork made a mistake. By the end of the game, the stork delivers the Mario Bros. to the right parents.
Mario and the Incredible Rescue
There have been multiple instances in which a character invokes Mario's mother in a general sense, rather than speaking of Mama's person, such as Rawk Hawk's jab "Didn't your momma teach you any manners?!?" in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Another noteworthy case is in the German Club Nintendo comic, "Super Mario in Die Nacht des Grauens", when a demonically possessed Peach tells Mario that his mother scrubs toilets in hell, in what can be taken as a "your mother" joke. Additionally, in the Super Mario Bros. film, Luigi jokingly says Mario's been like a father and a mother to him, as their real parents died when he was still a baby and he was brought up by his brother.
In the games, Mario and Luigi are Mama Mario's only children, and their father is presumed to be her husband. If the two are married, that means Mama's father in-law is Grandpapa (who was mentioned in the Super Mario Bros. movie). The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! introduces two characters known as Grandma Mario and Grandma Mia, though it is not revealed as to which one is Mama's mother or mother-in-law. The show also reveals that Mama has a pair of nieces named Marianne and Luigeena, and two nephews called Mario Joe and Luigi Bob, though like the two grandmothers, it is not known if they hail from Mama's or Papa's side of the family. The same goes for Aunt Luigeena and Aunt Maria (who was mentioned in The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3): either one could be a sister or a sister-in-law of Mama's. There is also an Uncle Tony who is either her brother or brother-in-law.
Names in other languages