originals\ Nov 15, 2011 at 4:21 pm

The Five Weirdest Mario Power-Ups of All Time


Let's be honest, trying to make sense of the Mario universe for even a second is a completely futile pursuit. This is a world where a fat Italian plumber and his twin brother got sucked down a drain pipe twenty-five years ago, spending their time in this strange realm not only rescuing princesses, but also taking up a variety of leisure pursuits. Golfing, playing tennis, throwing parties, brawling, even competing in the goddamn Olympics alongside a talking hedgehog. This is a world completely devoid of continuity, where one day you're saving a beautiful girl from the clutches of a murderous giant ape, the next that giant ape is riding shotgun in your go-kart, whipping turtle shells at passing racers.  It's just one giant pile of nonsense.

Point is, there's a whole lot of crazy that's piled up in the Mario universe over the years, to the point where we've just gotten used to the lack of logic. And nowhere is this more evident than in the series' various power-ups, which have gotten nuttier and nuttier with each installment. Sure, a mushroom makes Mario big, after twenty-five years we're now willing to accept that sort of oddity as stone cold fact. But a bee suit? A propeller helmet? A water backpack... thing? What the hell is going on?

And so, in honor of Super Mario 3D Land (and the return of the classic Tanooki suit power-up), we're taking a look at five notably weird power-ups from the Mario universe. Those special Items and abilities we've raised an eyebrow at over the years, examples both good and bad, strange and... sexual?

As Mario would say: "It's a me! Awkward segue!"

5. The Penguin Suit (New Super Mario Bros Wii)

Nope, not okay.

 I've been on the internet long enough to know that when overweight middle-aged men squeeze their way into animal costumes, nothing good comes of it (see: furries). So while I'm willing to forgive Mario for occasionally taking to the skies courtesy of his trusty raccoon tail, seeing his fat ass stuffed into a slippery rubber penguin outfit terrifies me beyond explanation.  Not only does the suit uncomfortably hug Mario's thick form like a glove, but based on its ability to slide across ice without friction, I can only assume the entire suit must be covered in some sort of special lubricant.

This guy preordered New Super Mario Bros Wii months in advance.

Speaking of "special lubricant," I can only wonder how many of the aforementioned sexual malcontents found themselves suddenly pausing their Mario game, gazing longingly at the plump penguin form of their plumber avatar.

Damn furries.

4. Unstable Female Hormones (Super Princess Peach)

Hey there! I can do anything a man can do!

Mario's core adventures, though enjoyable, have been a typical masculine fantasy, one worthy of scholarly study. The plot of each is roughly similar: a poor defenseless woman (likely terrible at driving and math) is captured by a horrible monster, and though she was probably asking to be kidnapped given the way she was dressed, it's up to our valiant hero to save this helpless lass and get her back in the kitchen where she belongs.

So while the Mario games have obviously never done much for women's liberation, Nintendo's announcement of Super Princess Peach had gamers excited. This time the roles would be reversed, with the brave and fearless princess now setting off on an adventure to save her fat helpless husband. To accomplish this goal, Peach would have to prove the determination and resilience of the fairer sex, using a combination of athleticism, tactical prowess, and of course, the wildly unpredictable emotions common among broads.

WAHHH! I'm a helpless emotional creature!

That's right, though Mario would've surely resort to more traditional power-ups to conquer the game's various obstacles,  Peach was able to break through using nothing more than the power of PMS. Whether flying into an uncontrollable rage or crying over seemingly nothing, Peach definitely demonstrated the incredible things women are capable of.


Way to set the women's rights movement back twenty years Nintendo. 

3. P-Balloon (Super Mario World)

Hmm... maybe I should stuff the contents of this strange balloon down my throat.

This one is again responsible for some disturbing sexual imagery (search for "mario inflation" on DeviantArt if you enjoy having your eyes bleed), though rather than dwell on the bizarre fetish subculture this power-up panders to, I'm more concerned with just how terrifying it is to watch Mario swell up like a balloon. I mean, look at Mario's face after he grabs one of these, cheeks puffed up as he strains to keep a dwindling supply of helium trapped within his body. Lungs filled to the point of bursting, organs shoved out of the way to make room for all the gas. This is the literally the only power-up that makes it appear as though Mario is in terrible physical pain. 


Given all the alternaite ways Mario has figured out how to fly (raccoon tail, tanooki suit, cape, wing cap, water jetpack, bee suit...) we're assuming his doctor took one look at Mario's withered lungs and told him to retire the damn balloon. Why this same doctor is okay with his patient regularly ingesting psychotropic mushrooms, we're not sure.   

2. Tanooki Suit (Super Mario Bros 3.)

Daww... that's adorable.

In the first Mario game, the power-ups were rather abstract. A mushroom, a flower, a star, all granting abilities not at all implied by their original form. I mean seriously, a flower that lets you shoot fireballs? That's some serious stoner logic. 

It was Mario 3 that would introduce power-ups Mario actually wore, which made a lot more sense than the idea of the fire flower coming complete with a spiffy pair of white overalls. There was a frog costume for swimming, a Hammer Bros suit for hurling hammers at people (don't try this in a Home Depot, they get mad). And of course the Tanooki suit for... turning into a mythical Japanese statue!?

Wait?! What the hell is going on!?

Maybe this made sense to Japanese kids, who knew the legends of the legendary raccoon dog, and his ability to turn into a statue to trick unwitting strangers. But then they'd also likely know that the Tanooki of legend is known not only for its trickery, but for having MASSIVE TESTICLES.

In this beautiful Japanese woodblock print, we see a group of Tanooki helping their friend pull his massive balls along on a giant cart.

Three games into the series and Nintendo already thought mythical raccoon-dog beast with big ol' balls was a reasonable idea for a power-up. I want the number of Miyamoto's dealer.

1. Kuriboh's Shoe (Super Mario Bros. 3)

They see me strollin'...

For those who somehow don't know of the glory that is the shoe, know that it has only appeared in one stage, World 5-3 of Super Mario Bros. 3. In that stage, you find a goomba (known as a Kuriboh in Japan), riding around in a wind-up green shoe. It literally makes no sense whatsoever, and yet you see this mushroom man in a shoe and think "well hell, I should be in that shoe." Not a second later and there's a flattened goomba lamenting his fate, Mario nestling deep into the green footwear. The player thinks "well let's open this baby up, see what she can do..."

What ensues is full-on stompin' carnage, the likes of which will never be seen again.

The shoe is like some sort of invincible super boot, forged in the fires of ragnarok itself. It rips through enemies like butter, stomping flat goombas, pirannah plants, and even those spiney bastards which are otherwise untouchable. The shoe has mad hops as well, Mario catching serious air with each enemy he pounds, then descending again from the sky to pound another sucker flat into the dirt. The entire stage lasts about a minute. The experience stays with you for a lifetime.

To this day, no one knows why the shoe winds-up, though it is said in prophecy that when the key on Kurioh's Shoe stops turning, hellrifts will burst open across the surface of the earth, all manner of demon spilling forth to rend our world asunder.

Until then, Kuriboh's Shoe will forever be known as the greatest goddamn power-up the world has ever known.

About The Author
Vito Gesualdi GameZone.com Senior Editor, DraftMagic.com Editor-in-Chief, NoNoComedy.com Contributor, and the hardest working man in show business. King of video walkthroughs for new games. Follow me on the twitters @VitoGesualdi.
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