Mario is as synonymous with videogames as Harry Potter is to wizardry, or a round ball is to football. Charles Martinet (USA) is the voice of Mario and holds the record for the most videogame voiceover performances as the same character: 104 (with two more games due for release in late 2019).
Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto – described by Charles as “such a wonderful, nice, kind, incredible man” – is the creator of Mario. He is the game designer behind Donkey Kong, which was Mario’s first ever foray into gaming back in 1981 when he was simply called "Jumpman".
He was later renamed "Mario" in the 1982 arcade game Donkey Kong Junior, the only game in which he has been portrayed as an antagonist. But as technology improved, soon it became possible to give Mario a voice and in stepped Charles Martinet.
It’s usually thought that Charles’ first performance as Mario was in 1996, when the character first stepped into the third dimension in the genre-defining classic Super Mario 64. But it was actually two years before, with the CD ROM version of Mario Teaches Typing in 1994.
Charles, alongside Miyamoto, must be given some credit for developing the character of Mario. His animated exclamations are one of the reasons Mario games are so fun to play.
Charles has many a story to tell about how he landed the role. “I had no intention of being an actor whatsoever. I was dreadfully shy,” he revealed. But after auditioning for a role in a school play, and failing to even get cast as an inanimate background tree, a spark was ignited inside him and he became determined to succeed.
Fast-forward to grown-up Charles who has indeed fulfilled his acting ambition. Spurred on by a friend, he was encouraged to turn up for an audition that he wasn’t invited to. The casting team reluctantly allowed him in and briefed: “You're an Italian plumber from Brooklyn, for this company called Nintendo and the character's name is Mario. Make up a voice, make up a videogame, start talking and whenever you run out of things to say, that’s your audition.”
"Make up a voice, make up a videogame, start talking and whenever you run out of things to say, that’s your audition."
Charles believed that if he was going to be playing a character, he would want to enjoy doing it. So he decided against a gravelly toned New Yorker with an “I’m walkin here” attitude. Instead, Charles opted for a different approach, as he recalls: “I heard action and I said: 'Hello, I’m a Mario. Let's make a pizza pie together',” in a high-pitched, excitable voice. He then proceeded to talk about sausage and spaghetti, turning everything he said into an exclamation of joy. The Nintendo casting team loved it. Charles got the job and the rest is history.
Play any game from Super Mario 64 onwards and every move Mario makes is accompanied by a “Woo-hoo!” or a “Yippee!”. So even though Mario may be on a perilous rescue mission to save Princess Peach, it doesn’t stop him from having fun. “I’m a huge Mario fan. I love this character. I want to be more like this character. Full of joy and happiness and fun and courage,” Charles told us.
This attitude perfectly sums up Charles too. He is such a wonderfully, bubbly and energetic person. He believes that life should be fun and that you should love what you do – he certainly does. “There’s a world of happiness waiting for you when you're committed to your own happiness and joy. That's my lesson in life,” he advises.
"When I met Charles and he called me 'Super Lukey' in the voice of Mario," says gaming records category manager Luke Wakeham. "I will admit to it being one of my absolute favourite moments in my time working at Guinness World Records."
We're happy to report that Charles doesn't foresee himself moving on from the character that has defined his career any time soon: “To do the voice and see people smile, it's so easy and fun for me. It can never get old because I will love doing this until I’m 147.”