#Nintendo boasts some of the most iconic characters in video game history. The gaming giant has had many ongoing series that change the look of its characters with each new console iteration. Let's take a stroll with three of Nintendo's main players to see how their console appearances have altered through the years. Let's start off this trinity of characters with the beloved Italian plumber.
Mario, Nintendo's Favorite Pipe Cleaner
#Mario might be one of the most influential, if not the most influential video game character ever created. We might not get another mascot quite like him ever again. He took the world by storm on his Super Mario Bros. debut in 1985 and has since evolved markedly. The 8-bit era gave us his mustache, overalls and a hat — items that would later be used to define his character, but at the time Mario didn't have a specific color palette. There was some consistency, but no defining selection.
Mario journeyed through stage after stage, doing his best to save the princess. This story element would be used constantly throughout his later adventures. It took a while to break the mold (Super Mario Bros. 2 doesn't count, seeing as it's a previous game, just reskinned with Mario characters).
The Super Nintendo era is where we get the iconic red and blue of Mario, and these are the colors that finally stuck. The character's look became more vibrant and cohesive, with the blues of his overalls easier to distinguish and the reds of his shirt and hat having more pep to them. Mario had finally honed his look.
On the NES, Super Mario World expanded the scope of the prior release Super Mario Bros. 3. The secrets of the previous games continued and were taken to a new level. You also got to ride Yoshi, which was a nice inclusion and made that character more of a staple for Nintendo's lineup of already amazing characters.
We then saw the rise in the kart racer Super Mario Kart. This too would become a constant for every generation of Nintendo consoles from here on out. The SNES gave us multiple instances of Mario starring in games that weren't his usual platformer, one of my all-time favorites being Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. It was the first time that we got to have Mario's archenemy Bowser as a playable character. Sporting some excellent variation in the sprite design of previous Marios, it's a worthy addition to the SNES library.
The N64 era gave Mario his debut into the world of 3D — and boy did he pull it off. Mario finally took shape, the golden buttons popping on his overalls, the M on his hat more substantial — this was the Mario we'd been waiting for. This was also the first time he had a voice, minimal as it was, but it further rounded out his persona. The GameCube and Wii Mario endeavors further tweaked Mario's look. He now had individual fingers versus the boxer-like white gloves of Super Mario 64.
Since Super Mario Galaxy 2's conclusion, he has appeared only a couple more times on the Wii U. This was the first time the 3D Mario installment wasn't a normal single-player romp through stages; this time around, you had the option to have three other friends join in.
Mario has been in a plethora of other titles over the years. The amount of games he has starred in is indeed staggering. Each new iteration keeps tweaking the simple gameplay mechanics born of the NES days. Somehow the games still feel fresh with each new graphic coat, year after year. Mario manages to draw millions of fans to purchase his games.
Now onto the coolest Nintendo character that rocks the color green (sorry Luigi, it isn't you).
The Hero With The Master Sword: Link
#Link from the Zelda franchise might not be as popular as Mario, but that doesn't stop the frantic hype of the newest Zelda game coming to Nintendo's consoles. Nintendo fans seem to revel in the reveals of new Zelda games and what type of Zelda it's going to be this time around.
The NES and SNES days of Link had already established his color palette. Link was going to be green, and green he remains. The original two games had two different perspectives, the first being a more topdown adventure and the second being a side scroller. But that didn't change the core of what Zelda games were about: the adventure. Equipped with a sword and shield (another image synonymous to his look), Link would explore dungeons and hunt for various items. It wasn't until the SNES game that the element dungeons and areas started to truly flourish.
A Link to the Past started to give us what would soon to be known as staples in the Zelda universe: dungeons in the elements. Link, adventuring to save Hyrule, found his way through a desert palace, swamp lands and ice cavers among other settings. Even with A Link to the Past being the only Zelda game on SNES, it started to pave the way to what Zeldas are today.
Mario's debut into the 3D world on the N64 was amazing at the time, but Link's was truly groundbreaking. Ocarina of Time still stands as one of the highest-rated games to this day. The green tunic, the shield, Link's "Hya!" sound effect — everything transitioned superbly. Hyrule felt vast and Link looked spectacular as he ventured through forests, mountains, deserts and water environments. Majora's Mask refined the look of young Link and took a twist on way the game progressed, but kept the element-based dungeons.
The GameCube era went through some experimentation. Like Mario with his water pack named F.L.U.D.D., Link found himself turned into a cel-shaded adventurer. It was the same Link we were used to, but it was jarring for a lot of fans. It didn't stop the game from being excellent and rating well. With fans taking awhile to adjust to the new look, a similar artistic style found its way onto the Nintendo DS. GameCube was also home to Link without his iconic green tunic in Twilight Princess. He eventually dons the green apparel, but the GameCube was all about experimenting with Link's look.
Skyward Sword dropped on the Wii, and it sure was colorful. It might be the brightest version of Link that we'd seen so far, not counting Wind Waker. The only change to Link this generation, besides refining the details, was that he switched from being left-handed to right-handed (all because of that pesky Wii-mote).
We also found Link in an offshoot series called Hyrule Warriors. The Warriors series is known for its hack-and-slash gameplay and the formula didn't change much, but swapped in the art of Zelda games and coated it with a fresh, new paint. Link looks freaking awesome in this iteration, probably my favorite look to date.
Link is coming to the Wii U and once again the art direction is tweaked. There are rumors that the art style for the upcoming new Nintendo console might differ from the Wii U version, which are supposed to launch simultaneously. Regardless, I look forward to our next adventure together.
Onto the last Nintendo character — the space explorer Samus Aran.
Space Isn't Safe, But We Have Her: Samus
Nintendo surprised fans when, at the end of the first Metroid game, it revealed that #Samus was a girl. The side-scrolling space adventure was a niche that Nintendo needed, and to have a butt-kicking female protagonist was a win-win for the gaming juggernaut.
The one thing with Metroid games is that they are few and far between console generations. Link and Mario have a much larger catalog of games than our space-fighter counterpart. Sometimes this does make the experience more invigorating, knowing it might be a while between drinks, but most of the time it's Nintendo dropping the ball (or not morphing it in time).
Samus started off with her staple color palette, much like Link, that would stay until more current versions (for the most part). The orange-red helmet, the orange body and the gun arm began to define Samus. The body would get more bright and start to mix in yellow. Samus's armor gets more defined in its SNES debut, giving her the bulky shoulders that became inherit for every game going forward.
Samus Aran skipped the N64 era, kicking the door down into the GameCube days, leaping from a 2D side scroller to a first-person game. Samus's model was sharp, well-defined, and changed throughout the adventure of Metroid Prime as you collected upgrades. Seeing through Samus's visor, watching the water drip down or fogging up brought us right into the fray. Metroid Prime came with rave reviews, and deserved the high praise. It embodied the ambiance and the environmental feel of the game just as much as the look of its star character.
We got three Prime games before Nintendo did what it always seems to do with its iconic characters — change up the feel and style from what we're used to. For Mario and Link it came in the GameCube era, for Samus it came with the Wii. We got a more personal look at Samus. We saw her in everyday attire and what she wears underneath that bulky suit, known now as the Zero Suit, in Metroid Other M.
Samus will not be partaking in the Wii U cycle for Nintendo. This will be the second time that a Metroid game is not on the home console. Samus doesn't have many offshoot-style games either, besides being playable in Super Smash Bros. and having a game on the 3DS called Metroid Federation Force, but even that doesn't feature Samus. It's a peculiar thing, why Nintendo has not supported Samus in her space adventures as much as our previous two characters. At least, for the most part, every era is pretty much a guaranteed hit with Nintendo's wide fan base.
That concludes our look at the holy trinity of Nintendo characters who have been around since the beginning of the NES days. That's 31 years of Nintendo love. With the #NintendoNX soon being announced, I anxiously await to see what my beloved characters will look like this time around.
Tell me about the other Nintendo character alterations you've noticed throughout the years, and what you think of them.