This week on The Ringer, we’re hosting the Best Video Game Character Bracket—an expansive competition between the greatest heroes, sidekicks, and villains of the gaming world. And along with delving into some of those iconic figures, we’ll also explore and celebrate the gaming industry as a whole. Welcome to Video Game Week.
Ever since Mario earned 97 percent of the vote in the first round of The Ringer’s Best Video Game Character Bracket, we’d been trying to convince ourselves that his next opponent would be more of an obstacle: Surely Tails will give him trouble. Sonic has a real shot at winning. And so on and so forth, all the way to the tournament final, when Mario faced off against Zelda’s Link. Link had been similarly dominant, and so it appeared we were in for an even match. But wire to wire, Mario demolished this competition like he was playing on Rookie Mode.
In the end, Mario defeated his Nintendo pal with 64 percent of the vote, much lower than his tournament average of 91 percent, but still an overwhelming victory. (Our other bracket champions won with 51.8 percent, 53.7 percent, and 63 percent.) The performance makes him the most dominant bracket entrant in Ringer history. I can’t even come up with a real-life, college basketball comparison because I don’t think one exists. Duke wishes it were Mario.
The result might lack a certain drama, but it’s hard to argue with. From his early days running from the left side of your screen to the right side, to his emergence as a three-dimensional hero, to his expansion into racing, tennis, and whatever you wanna call Super Smash Bros., Mario’s appeal has been undeniable. Always welcoming you with a delighted reassurance of his name—“It’s a-me, Mario!” is both pretty unnecessary and wholly essential—the character faces grave danger with a grin and a laugh. He squashes goombas with a vigor we should all aspire to have in our professional lives. He thwarts Bowser with a sort of “Did I do that?” nonchalance. He gets the girl. And he does it all while being a plumber, and having the full name of Mario Mario. (Going through life every day with that name—now that’s bravery.)
He’s as embedded in popular culture as Mickey Mouse; a brand all to himself; a character who’s survived for decades, who’s been passed down from generation to generation. Consider: Mario’s games are named after him and Link’s games are named the princess he’s trying to save. The voting numbers he put up this past week seemed shocking, but when you really think about it, is Mario’s dominance all that surprising?
Congratulations to a legend. I hope he eats a bunch of stars and has a really wild night in celebration.