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Creepy Virtual Mario’s ancestor was even creepier

By John Teti • June 12, 2013

Today, in his commentary on Nintendo’s E3 press event, Ryan Smith introduced us to Creepy Virtual Mario, a Mario avatar who clumsily interacts with show attendees in real time. In essence, voice actor Charles Martinet (Nintendo’s official voice of Mario) sits backstage with a video feed of Nintendo’s booth and improvises patter based in part on the people he sees. As this happens, magical technology maps Martinet’s voice onto Mario, and it looks like a dragon-slaying video game hero is shooting the breeze with YOU!

Because Mario’s appearances are typically polished and stage-managed, it’s weird to watch Mario struggle for words. He becomes distressingly mortal, as if we’re catching Santa Claus bum a smoke by the stage door. It doesn’t help that the banter on display is halting and often uncomfortable, but I don’t envy Martinet in his task. He has to do one-man improv while also staying in character as Mario, whose defining characteristics are enthusiasm and overalls. Martinet doesn’t have much to work with here.

Unbeknown to me, Martinet has been at this shtick for a long time. Twitter follower Jamie Spong pointed us toward the video featured at the top of the page, which shows “Mario In Real Time” at a consumer electronics expo in the early 1990s. (The YouTube description claims this is 1992, but it’s hard to tell.) This version of Mario is far creepier than the one at Nintendo’s present-day E3 booth, given that huge swaths of his face periodically disappear altogether. Martinet talks more about the Mario In Real Time system in this enjoyable 2009 interview:

In other people-pretending-to-be-Mario news, our colleagues over at The A.V. Club posted a nifty video of Nathan Barnatt, a game-loving comic, dancing his heart out with a Super Mario Super Dance. You can look at that by clicking on these brown words.

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8 Responses to “Creepy Virtual Mario’s ancestor was even creepier”

  1. Cloks says:

    They were going to get Wario but in the test run-through he ate the microphone and fell asleep.

  2. George_Liquor says:

    Woah, Charles Martinet sounds like he’s spent a little too much time in the Mushroom Kingdom himself. 

    That is an impressive display of real-time CGI for 1992, though.

  3. Toparaman says:

    I can’t search or watch YouTube right now, but there was a great past E3 video of Charles Martinet doing classic cinema lines (“I’m your father”, etc.) in the Mario voice.   It was charming and not creepy at all, so I guess he’s just run out of schtick at this point.  Who can blame him?

  4. Sam_Barsanti says:

    How tragic will it be when Martinet gets replaced by Kiefer Sutherland?

    • Electric Dragon says:

      Right-a now, terrorists are-a plotting to assassinate a princess. My-a brother and-a evil twin have been targeted. And Goombas that I work-a with may be involved in-a both. I’m-a federal agent Mario, and-a today is-a the longest day of my-a life.

      • mizerock says:


        *begins to saw off Koopa Troopa’s leg*

  5. Guywhothinksstuff says:

    Who saw the last episode of ‘Black Mirror’? Because I’m telling you, that’s Waldo up top. Except less of the talking about his dick.

  6. Girard says:

    Wow. I had no idea Martinet was doing Mario voicework before Mario 64.