I have to admit, one of the things I love about Nintendo’s mode of storytelling is the way they leave a lot to the imagination. Yes, I know, this could also be seen as a criticism, but I’ve had countless hours’ fun with fellow fans discussing the way that various Nintendo series work and fit together. As a fairly creative person, I wonder if this is part of what draws me to Nintendo and their many franchises. Therefore, when I saw that one of the latest Game Theory videos was about the Mario timeline, I got quite excited as it seemed to be an example of this mental exercise. But, let’s just say, I don’t quite agree with MatPat this time…
That’s not to say I think the video was bad by any means, it was enjoyable to watch and well made. However, I do think that he made a few mistakes and complicated things when more simple explanations were available. Where his theory falls down is when we get to Donkey Kong. MatPat claims that the original ‘Jumpman’ from Donkey Kong is actually Mario’s father, rather than Mario with a prototype name and that Donkey Kong Jr. is the father of the current Donkey Kong.
First, Jumpman being the father of Mario presents one huge problem; Pauline. The Mario Vs Donkey Kong series features the modern Donkey Kong and the current Mario (not that I believe there are multiple Marios) and Pauline, who is identical to her appearances in the old arcade games; for there to be two Marios, that’d mean that Pauline just didn’t age. So, it’s much easier to stick to one Mario, one Pauline and two Donkey Kongs.
“But”, I hear you cry, “how can Donkey Kong age to become a withered old man, while Mario stays the same?” Well, that’s an easy one and in so explaining, I will also tell you why Donkey Kong Jr. is our current Donkey Kong. Imagine that Donkey Kong Jr. and Mario are the same age; in his eponymous game Donkey Kong Jr. could well be a teenage ape; all we know is that he is younger than Donkey Kong Sr. Mario, meanwhile, could be a teenager too, just an early developer, hence the big moustache. Ten years later, and they’re the heroes we know them as today, while Donkey Kong Sr. has aged terribly and become known as Cranky Kong.
This makes a lot of sense when you consider that Cranky Kong has been described as both Doney Kong’s father and his grandfather. Is this a contradiction? No. Cranky Kong is Donkey Kong’s biological grandfather, but he raised Donkey Kong as a father. We know he raised him (mentioned in Donkey Kong Country Returns), we know he has been called his grandfather (in Donkey Kong Country) and we know he has been called his father (in Donkey Kong 64), so it all fits! Plus, that would mean he would be at least in his late fifties in the original Donkey Kong game; an age where he could conceivably still be at his physical peak, but in the following ten years, time really caught up with him (perhaps a result of the physical trauma Mario put him through). Also, since the Kongs where clothes and talk, they’re clearly different from real life apes and therefore we shouldn’t expect them to develop and age in the same ways.
I find it odd that people would try to argue that the current Donkey Kong is not Donkey Kong Jr. all grown up. Firstly, it explains why we never see Donkey Kong Jr. anymore and secondly this was clearly Rare’s intention when they made Donkey Kong Country. Why needlessly complicate things with an unexplained disappearance? Admittedly, my explanation does leave Donkey Kong with an absentee father, but maybe he was never around; I’d rather believe that than that Donkey Kong Jr. may have grown up had a child and abandoned him!
This Donkey Kong issue was my only main problem with the theory, otherwise it was quite interesting, although the evidence for largely reorganising the order of the games seemed quite minimal (for example, Birdo’s ‘birth’ in Super Mario RPG could easily be any Birdo) and I think it makes most sense to assume the Mario games happen in the order that they were released, except for obvious things, like Yoshi’s Island (and I really liked his ordering of the Yoshi’s Island games.)
Of course, I don’t want to outright say that he was wrong. As I said at the start, trying to make a more complex story out of a medium that often features a minimalist plot it a fun creative exercise, and I absolutely adored his videos on Rosalina. I just feel that the Game Theory Mario timeline creates as many problems as it solves and that my own explanation is more airtight. Really, I am just engaging in the ongoing discourse surrounding the mysterious history of the Mushroom Kingdom!
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