Nowadays, everyone knows what Mario does for a living, right? Nintendo’s mascot character is about as recognizable as Mickey Mouse or Superman. Mario’s been a global entertainment icon for decades now but, back in 1988, the New York Times thought the guy was a janitor.
A correction note ran in today’s New York Times—which Kotaku contributes video game features and reviews to—fixing a mistake from a quotation in the obituary for longtime Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi:
An obituary on Sept. 20 about Hiroshi Yamauchi, the longtime president of Nintendo, included a quotation from a 1988 New York Times article that inaccurately described the Nintendo video game Super Mario Bros. 2. The brothers Mario and Luigi, who appear in this and other Nintendo games, are plumbers, not janitors.
It’s that old article that threw a wrench in things. The piece was a business story about Nintendo’s massive success:
Nintendo, the company, is a tale of how a 99-year-old Japanese firm, which got its start making playing cards, came up with a winning product that has broken all toy sales records for two years running. If current estimates are right, within a year it will be found in nearly 20 percent of all American households, up from 12 percent now. Nintendo was the best-selling toy last Christmas and throughout 1988, according to a Toy and Hobby World survey.
Many Nintendo best sellers, like ''Super Mario Bros. 2,'' are based on wildly preposterous premises, this particular one being two mustachioed Italian janitors who endure various trials, such as dodging hammer-swinging turtles and lava balls and man-eating plants, in order to save a Mushroom Princess. No matter. Kids can't get enough of the games.
A lot has changed since that piece ran, huh?