Super Mario’s Biggest Urban Legends and Unsolved Mysteries

Missing Luigis, mysterious codes, the enigma that is Jimmy Poppadopolos...these are some of the most notable urban legends and unsolved mysteries in Super Mario history.

Detective Mario
Photo: Nintendo

The Super Mario franchise is a cornerstone of the video game industry. Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach…we know these names better than we know the names of our own parents (whoever they may claim to be). Yet, for as much as we know about the Super Mario franchise, there is so much we don’t know about it. Much of the series is still shrouded in mystery.

So if you’ve ever wondered what’s in the darkest corners of the Super Mario franchise, here are some of the most notable Super Mario urban legends and unsolved mysteries.

15. The True Origins of Donkey Kong’s Name

The Donkey Kong arcade game may have given Mario his big break, but Donkey Kong has obviously gone on to become a household name himself. That’s what makes it so strange that the true origins of Donkey Kong’s name remain something of a mystery. 

Numerous urban legends have long existed regarding the origins of Donkey Kong’s name. Some claim the name is the result of a typo or bad translation, while others claim the name Donkey Kong was a legally friendly nod to King Kong. Neither story is true. Actually, Nintendo reportedly faced some legal trouble for choosing a name that was too similar to King Kong. 

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So where does the name come from? Donkey Kong creator Shigeru Miyamoto previously said that “Donkey” was chosen to reference something stubborn, while “Kong” was either a King Kong nod or a reference to an obscure bit of slang for when something is crazy. However, even those explanations have been disputed, with one version of the story suggesting that Miyamoto didn’t even come up with the story in the first place. Ultimately, it seems like someone pitched the name and everyone just liked the sound of it.

14. Super Mario FX: The 3D Mario Game For the SNES You Never Played

14. Super Mario FX: The 3D Mario Game For the SNES You Never Played

We’ve talked about some of the Super Mario games that never got released, but one urban legend says that the holy grail of lost Super Mario projects is a title called Super Mario FX

The most popular version of this story suggests that Nintendo was working on a true 3D Super Mario game for the SNES that utilized the same FX chip technology that powered Star Fox and F-Zero (hence the name). Super Mario FX was reportedly quite far into development before the decision was made to work on Super Mario 64 instead. Some fans have even tried to recreate Super Mario FX based on what they “know” about the game. 

The problem is that Super Mario FX never existed. This urban legend seems to originate from an old interview with Miyamoto in which he said that he started thinking of a 3D Super Mario game around the time of Star Fox‘s development. However, it’s never been confirmed that Nintendo actually worked on a 3D SNES Super Mario title. 

Donkey Kong 64

13. The Donkey Kong 64 Expansion Pak Conspiracy

While some remember Donkey Kong 64 for its absurd number of collectibles, others remember it for being the first N64 game that required the Expansion Pak: an accessory that expanded the N64’s memory resources. The marketing pitch was that Donkey Kong 64 was so massive that it couldn’t be contained by the base N64 hardware. However, one urban legend/unsolved mystery claims that bit of marketing got a little too close to the truth. 

Former Donkey Kong 64 developer Chris Marlow claims that Rare was forced to release the Expansion Pak with every copy of Donkey Kong 64 due to a memory leak bug that the team couldn’t fix. They basically needed to “give away” the Expansion Pak to rescue the game’s development. It was a surprising revelation that raised a lot of questions regarding whether or not Nintendo misrepresented the peripheral’s true purpose. 

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However, others say that story is simply not true. Most notably, DK 64 lead artist Mark Stevenson claims that while there was a pretty serious bug that popped up towards the end of development, the game was always meant to be shipped with the Expansion Pak and was developed from the start with that accessory’s capabilities in mind. It’s still not clear what the full story is. 

Toadstool Princess

12. Mario’s Original Princess Was a Toadstool

Mario’s princess has gone by a few different names over the years, but most of the character’s basic design elements have remained fairly consistent However, one Super Mario urban legend suggests that the princess was originally intended to look a lot like Toad. 

This urban legend seems to originate from an old Super Mario Bros. guide that features a drawing of Princess Toadstool that makes her look like a female version of Toad (even if Toad’s actual gender is up for debate). That drawing, and Princess Toadstool’s name, naturally led to speculation that the original version of the character wasn’t human. 

However, while Nintendo has never officially denied that rumor, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s much more likely that the illustration above was simply inaccurate. Many such materials from this time were based on incomplete or inaccurate information, and this seems to be a case of someone hearing the name “Princess Toadstool” and drafting a version of the character that matched the information that was available to them.

Super Mario Bros. 3

11. Super Mario Bros. 3 Is an Elaborate Stage Play

For quite some time, fans have speculated that Super Mario Bros. 3 is actually an elaborate stage play. To be fair, the evidence that supports that seemingly wild theory is actually quite compelling. Super Mario Bros. 3 is loaded with imagery that strongly suggests aspects of the game are at least intended to resemble a classic theatrical production.

What’s really crazy though, is the fact that this urban legend appears to be true. In 2015, Shigeru Miyamoto participated in a kind of “ask me anything” session on Twitter. When he was asked whether or not Super Mario Bros. 3 was “all just a performance,” he responded with a resounding “YES.” This is one of those former myths that makes it so much easier for fans to buy into other urban legends. 

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Bowser Jr.

10. Who Is Bowser Jr.’s Mom?

Bowser Jr. was introduced in Super Mario Sunshine as both Bowser’s son and a powerful new enemy for Mario. Actually, much of Bowser Jr’s motivation to stop Mario in that game stems from his apparent belief that Princess Peach is his mother. At the end of the game, Bowser confirms what Bowser Jr. began to suspect by telling him that Peach is not his real mother. 

So…who is Bowser Jr.’s mom? Miyamoto previously joked that he is Bowser Jr.’s mother, but the actual origins of this character within the Super Mario universe remain a mystery. A separate urban legend suggests that Bowser once had a wife named Clawdia Koopa, but that rumor has been shot down over the years. Given that Nintendo reps still bring this mystery up from time to time, it’ll be interesting to see if they ever bother to answer it. 

Luigi Super Mario 64

9. Luigi Is Hidden In Super Mario 64

There are some urban legends that remain true in the minds of millions long after they’ve been disproven. The idea that Luigi is in Super Mario 64 is one of those urban legends. 

To be fair, this urban legend once made quite a bit of sense. Not only was it odd that Luigi wasn’t in a major Super Mario game at that time, but the fact that Yoshi appeared as a very well-hidden secret character in Super Mario 64 only strengthened fan theories that Luigi was hiding in the game as well. Furthermore, there’s a mysterious statue in Super Mario 64 that fans were once convinced featured the words “L is real 2401.” That led to a number of theories regarding how to supposedly unlock Luigi in the game. 

However, all of those theories were inaccurate, and it turns out that we always should have known they were. In a 1996 interview, Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed that Luigi was going to be in Super Mario 64 but was cut due to limited hardware resources. Years later, fans actually discovered the abandoned Luigi character model in the game’s files. He also appeared in the DS version of the game.

The Hell Valley Sky Tree Monsters

8. The Hell Valley Sky Tree Monsters

Not every urban legend has to be scary, but the best urban legends often are. So far as Super Mario goes, there are few urban legends scarier than the mystery of the Hell Valley Sky Tree figures. 

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Boot up Super Mario Galaxy 2, head to World 5 (Shiverburn Galaxy), and look towards the mountains in the background. You should just barely be able to see the mysterious figures seen above. The game makes no real references to them, and you can’t interact with them in any way. However, the figures are reportedly located in the game’s files under the file name “HellValleySkyTree.”

It’s still not entirely clear what these creatures are supposed to be. The file name implies these may be modes for intergalactic trees, but they certainly don’t look like that. Besides, what’s with the “Hell Valley” name? Are these designs just remnants of an abandoned idea, or were they put into the game to mess with fans? If anyone knows the answers, they’re not sharing them. 

Super Mario 64

7. “So Long Gay Bowser

Super Mario 64 was the first Super Mario game to give Mario proper voice acting. While many of Mario’s lines in that game have since become iconic, one of the game’s most memorable lines may have never actually been said. 

When Mario tosses Bowser during the pair’s Super Mario 64 brawls, he will occasionally utter a line that certainly sounds like “So long gay Bowser!” Now, that is almost certainly not what he is saying. It’s probably just one of those lines that someone puts in your head to the point that you can’t stop hearing it. However…well, it really sounds like he’s saying something very close to that. If that’s not what he’s saying, then it’s not entirely clear what he is saying. 

Mario voice actor (the real one) Charles Martinet previously claimed that he believes the line was “So long King Bowser” (or “So long Kinga Boswer”), but that never quite sounds right. To make matters more confusing, Nintendo actually removed this line in the Super Mario 3D All-Stars version of the game. While this is likely a case of bad audio quality, active imaginations, and Nintendo simply porting a version of the game that contains a slightly altered line, you can see (and hear) why conspiracy theorists eat this one up. 

Super Mario Bros.  flagpole

6. Jumping Over the Flagpole in Super Mario Bros. 

If you grew up an NES gamer, there’s a good chance you once heard someone claim that they could jump over the flagpole in Super Mario Bros. It was one of those “my uncle works at Nintendo” or “my girlfriend in Canada” claims that kids liked to make. It was believable enough when you first heard it but seemed like it had to be a lie in the minds of anyone who actually tried it. Many of us were content to write it off as an urban legend and just be done with the topic entirely. 

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Many, many years later, though, it was discovered that you can jump over the flagpole in Super Mario Bros. It’s just that doing so requires you to pull off a very specific set of steps during specific levels. Doing so also happens to break the game, which is an unfortunate side effect of accomplishing something incredible.

That revelation seemingly confirmed the myth, but it raised a more important question. Were any of those kids who claimed to do this when they were young actually telling the truth? Did they also really have uncles who worked at Nintendo and girlfriends in Canada? It’s the kind of revelation that creates a tear in reality. 

Luigi's Mansion

5. Luigi’s Hanging Shadow (Luigi’s Mansion)

Do you know the urban legend of the hanging munchkin from The Wizard of Oz? Well, Super Mario has its own version of that rumor, and it’s just as strange. 

There’s a scene in Luigi’s Mansion that requires Luigi to walk through a dark room in search of a telephone. At certain points during that sequence, flashes of lightning will briefly illuminate the darkened room. If one of those flashes of lightning hit when Luigi is using the phone, you’ll briefly spot a strange shadow that appears to show a version of Luigi that is suspended in the air as if he’s being hung. 

It’s a surprising sequence that many fans immediately interpreted as a jump scare. Even then, it was a strange one. Did Nintendo really just suggest that Luigi was being murdered? 

As it turns out, they did not. The shadow in question is the result of a glitch that caused it to be rendered at a slightly wrong angle. That’s why Luigi’s shadow looks suspended in the original version of the game. In the 3DS version of Luigi’s Mansion, the glitch has been fixed, and we can see what the animation was supposed to look like. 

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Paper Mario: Sticker Star

4. Paper Mario’s Serial Number (Paper Mario: Sticker Star)

Way back in the day, it was fairly common for developers to sneak phone numbers into games. More often than not, those numbers would lead players to a special answering machine or perhaps a tip hotline. Sometimes, though, those numbers would actually be used to help players solve a puzzle in the game. Well, there’s a mysterious set of numbers in Paper Mario: Sticker Star, but nobody has any idea what they actually mean. 

There’s a scene in that game that forces Mario to wade through some trash. In that trash, he finds a piece of paper with the code “XD3R-B8HH-9ZR2-FL16” written on it. You’ll probably think that the code must be part of some in-game puzzle, but that soon proves to not be the case. There’s no use for the code in the game, there are no other such codes in the game, and, so far as anyone can tell, there is no purpose for the outside of the game. 

What, exactly, the code is remains a mystery to this day. Some think it’s a simple way to troll players, while others believe it was part of some big plan that never came to pass. Some even suspect that the code is the result of a strange glitch and that the paper’s intended text has never been revealed. 

Super Mario Bros.

3. Super Mario Bros. Bricks Are People!

While this list is presented in no particular order, this certainly has to be one of the weirdest Super Mario urban legends. 

In the original instruction manual for Super Mario Bros., there is a line that explains that the Koopa invaded the Mushroom Kingdom and turned the kingdom’s peaceful people into “mere stones, bricks, and even field horse-hair plants.” As you might imagine, that caused the Mushroom Kingdom to fall into an era of darkness and chaos. 

“Wait a minute,” you’re probably saying. “Does that mean that all those bricks I destroyed in Super Mario Bros. were actually…people? Well, that does seem to be the implication. To be more specific, a later line suggests that the power-up bricks are the ones that were former Mushroom Kingdom residents and that they will reward you with power-ups when you find and hit them. 

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No other Super Mario game utilizes that piece of lore despite the fact that those blocks are an iconic part of the series. This was likely a case of the instruction book team (or the translation team) having a little fun or working without the proper information, but it’s a dark and fascinating piece of the franchise’s history. 

Super Mario Sunshine book

2. Super Mario Sunshine’s Mysterious Book

In the Noki Bay area of Super Mario Sunshine, you can find a mysterious book located near a door that seemingly can’t be opened. Granted, you have to utilize some glitches and camera manipulation to see the book, but it’s definitely there. 

So…what is it? For quite some time, the popular theory was the book would help you access a special area of the game. That theory was disproven, but it was quickly replaced with the theory that the book contained a hidden message that you could see if you got the camera in just the right spot. Some said that the hidden message contained inspirational words from Shigeru Miyamoto. Others said it contained a Shigeru Miyamoto message that simply read “You have no life.”

All of those rumors turned out to be false, but it’s still not clear why the book is in the game. It’s possible that it was once part of some piece of cut content, though technical tests performed on the area suggest that the book is closer to a part of the world rather than a separate object. Of course, that only raises more questions about what it’s doing there and what its original purpose was. 


1. Waluigi’s Real Name Is Jimmy Poppadopolos

Waluigi has become a bit of a fan-favorite character over the years. If a game features other characters from the Super Mario universe but doesn’t include Waluigi, you can be sure that you’re going to hear about it. Of course, Waluigi is also a bit of a meme character who is most popular among the fandom’s trolls and little stinkers. That brings us to the strange story of Waluigi’s “real name:” Jimmy Poppadopolos

A few years ago, someone claimed to have discovered a forgotten page from an old issue of Nintendo Power. The page suggested that Waluigi’s real name was Jimmy Poppadopolos and that he had it legally changed to Waluigi in 1999 once he started running around with Wario. It made “sense” in the silly context of this franchise. At worst, it was probably a case of an editor having a little fun. 

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However, it was later discovered that the whole thing was a lie. Someone found the real issue of Nintendo Power that the Photoshoped page was based on and found that it made no references to the name Jimmy Poppadopolos. It did contain a reference to Waluigi selling Luigi’s underwear on eBay but…well, that’s a story for another day.