The Super Mario Bros. franchise is easily and without a doubt the representative of all things gaming. The character of Mario has evolved with the times as has the worlds he's explored and the characters that have inhabited them over the last 30+ years.
There are 2 reasons for why this project has come to fruition. One purpose for this series of illustrations is to explore and break down the original visual designs of the many iconic characters of the Super Mario Bros. franchise and re brand them in my personal style and taste. This is a personal challenge and test to my designing capability.
When I found that as much as I loved the series and the characters, Nintendo's designs and direction for them were rather safe, boring, and left much to be desired knowing there was more potential to be unleashed in the world's most recognizable game world. In particular, I've always been upset at the fact that with as many Mario characters there are out there, only less than a handful are featured in their games at a time.
This bothered me when several main titles of the Mario franchise featured 2 generic Toads running the adventure with the beloved brothers. The next strike was when Nintendo created a new princess to be captured by Bowser as Peach would not be available as she was made a playable character in the upcoming Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U.
So thus comes the second reason: select a large number of an already larger and diverse cast of the Mario franchise and allow them to interact in one unified world and come up with a new kind of story for the series.
You know, one where there isn't a damsel in distress needing to be rescued as a main storyline.
How can you possibly toss the old design of this most beloved character and attempt to try something new? It seemed almost sacreligious to a degree, doesn't it? That was my thought before I just simply disregarded it knowing that this is my own take and that if people did not like it, then they wouldn't have to worry because its not official or anything.
With Mario, I wanted a character who was a proper plumber. Someone who actually looked like he was equipped to face mundane tasks but inside, was a hero waiting to save the day. Mario was created to be the every man. I played with the idea of having him more muscular and look like a bruiser of sorts, but it didn't feel right. Just because I was redesigning the character didn't mean I had to throw away key qualities of the original. In this case, here you have Mario in a similar kind of body, but someone who looked more prepared than the original. I changed up his palette a bit and it echoes the original clearly, can't mess that up, right? At the end of the day, my Mario is still the hero we all know and love.
My Luigi is a bit more stoic in nature compared to the original. When it comes to Luigi, he's known to be a scared-y cat, someone who is playing second fiddle and is often found in the shadow of his brother. Not this Luigi! He's got a firm gaze and can stand his own. Luigi in this story is a character who in the story is the "front desk" of the business the brothers run. While Mario is a plumber, Luigi is handy with electrical work when needed, but handles customer service and the like, setting up appointments, does the driving and other things in between.
Thus, I wanted his appearance to match. His set of clothes is tidier in style in comparison to his brother. Clean work pants, suspenders (to give homage to the overalls), a bowtie, and clean white gloves show how the two jobs differ. For the italian brothers, I wanted to give them darker skin to show off their heritage a bit more. Overall, my main focus was to give the two more personality than they ever had before. Luigi was originally just a reskin of Mario...Not anymore!
Toad is a character who pretty much kind of started this whole project. When it comes to Toad, I hate the fact that they are this one species all with the same name minus a select few. Seeing a blue and yellow Toad being playable while a whole cast of Mario characters went untouched prompted this whole thing off, and I wanted to use blue Toad as a stepping stone in a direction that will take the Toads and give them more of a backdrop. As Toad was a playable character in SMB2 and blue Toad is prominently featured in the new Wii U game 3D World, I dialed his design up quite a bit.
My concept for Toad is the following: The Royal family of the Mushroom Kingdom (The Toadstools) are given protection in the form of a hero that has earned the title of "Toad" named after the original Toad years ago who served the family. The citizen of Mushroom Kingdom who, after a series of competitions and contests is proven to be the most righteous and brave, earns the title of Toad and is given the honor and responsibility to serve the family as "Toad". They also take up traditional garb like the original Toad (a la Link from LoZ) and will serve out his days with pride to the Princess.
Toad in this rendition has a lot of features that the old did not: legs opposed to just feet attached to a body, a nose, ears, eyebrows to convey emotion, and proper clothes. I decided to translate the ol' Mushroom head with a turban, which I consider to be rather classy and adorned with a sapphire. This was bestowed to the original Toad so this attire is even more important to the legacy of the hero who now undertakes the job. I balanced out all the blue with a magenta sash and was happy with this outcome.
This was a tough one because I had to decide if I wanted to make a Peach an ass-kicker or a helpless Princess as she's most depicted as. Giving her a whole royal get up wouldn't allow her to be as adventurous...Would it? I ended up giving her even more poof than before and decided why can't she hang with the boys in such clothes? Giving her such attire and letting her drop baddies in style would make this Peach a sight to behold. One thing I never liked about the old Peach design is how "wooden" she can look. By giving her big eyes and a friendly face, she looks like she can convey more emotion than before. I envision her using her parasol for fighting purposes more than in Smash and using it as recovery (which she would use for that as well) as well as the classic turnips she can pick from the ground.
Something about this design, which I can't reveal until a certain other Princess is revealed (who might that be?) shall be shared in the future so stay tuned. For the time being, enjoy the glorious pink of Peach, who keeps her color and style but is no longer the helpless Princess getting kidnapped in more than half of these main Mario titles.