Like most Mario games, Super Mario Odyssey has a weird premise, but this one is particularly odd. The game pulls Mario out of his usual confines of the Mushroom Kingdom and puts him into the “real” world setting of New Donk City, where he is presumably originally from but doesn’t seem to fit in at all now that gamers have actually seen him running around in it.
Mario’s creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, was apparently concerned about what gamers would think when they saw the plumber running around the game’s faux New York City. “I was worried about how players would react to being in a world where Mario is this tall and normal person are a little bit taller,” Miyamoto told IGN in a recent interview. “Or the fact that people don’t get mad at Mario when he’s jumping up and down all over the place. But with all that said, I think I realized that the character Pauline has already existed, and the idea of this game taking place in the city worked out really well. And so we ran with it.”
The character Pauline is New Donk City’s mayor in the game, but, as Miyamoto mentioned, it’s hardly her first appearance in a Nintendo game. In fact, Pauline first appeared all the way back in 1981’s Donkey Kong as Nintendo’s first damsel in distress, so she predates Mario’s more famous damsel in need of saving, Princess Peach, who first showed up in 1985’s Super Mario Bros.
Although Pauline has, like all Mario and Donkey Kong characters, always had a cartoonish look to her, she has usually appeared more realistic than Mario with his super deformed features. As such, Miyamoto apparently thought he could use her as an anchor between a semi-realistic world’s denizens and the Mushroom Kingdom’s completely fantastical cast of characters.
Super Mario Odyssey launches October 27 for the Nintendo Switch.