Actor’s 29-year run as Nintendo mascot comes to a close.

For many fans of the Super Mario video game series, there was a bittersweet aspect to the success of this year’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, in that it came without longtime Mario voice actor Charles Martinet reprising his role. Now comes the sad news that Martinet will no longer be voicing Mario in the games either.

Nintendo made the announcement on both its U.S. and Japan official Twitter accounts, describing the situation in English as Charles “stepping away from recording character voices for our games.”

As the plural “voices” indicates, Martinet wasn’t only the voice of Mario, but also the voice of his brother Luigi, their evil counterparts Wario and Waluigi, and the quartet’s occasionally appearing baby versions.

Martinet first voiced Mario in 1994’s Mario Teaches Typing for PCs, but the vast majority of gamers first heard him in the role two years later, in Mario 64. Prior to that, Mario hadn’t spoken within the games, and his English-language portrayals in other media tended to lean into the “Brooklyn plumber” part of his backstory by giving him a gruff, brusque manner of speaking, as seen in Lou Albano’s performance in 1989’s The Super Mario Bros. Super Show and Bob Hoskins’ in the 1993 live-action Super Mario Bros. film. Martinet’s higher-pitched, more invitingly friendly take on the character has done much to solidify Mario’s current image as perpetually cheerful and upbeat, and nearly 30 years later, there’s a whole generation-plus of fans who’d never heard Mario speak with anyone else’s voice prior to Chris Pratt’s portrayal of the character in The Super Mario Bros. Movie.

This isn’t the end of Martinet’s involvement with the Mario franchise, though. Nintendo says he’ll now be moving into the new position of “Mario Ambassador,” which Nintendo of Japan describes as a “goodwill ambassador” role. Martinet now lists “Mario Ambassador” as the first thing on his Twitter profile, and his above reaction to Nintendo of America’s announcement, in which he says “My new Adventure begins!”, makes it sound like this is an amicable shift in status. Nintendo of Japan also says that Martinet will be appearing with series creator Shigeru Miyamoto in a video, to be posted soon, where they’ll talk more about the arrangement.

Adding an extra layer of sadness is that we’ve apparently already heard the last of Martinet’s in-game voice work as Mario, as he won’t be part of the currently in-development Super Mario Wonder for the Switch.

No reason has been publicly given for Martinet stepping away from voicing Mario, and he hasn’t made any indication that he’s retiring from voice acting as a whole either. With the popular and financial success of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, an eventual sequel, once again starring Pratt, seems like a given, but it’s unlikely that a Hollywood actor of his prominence and price point would be a viable option to voice Mario across all media, games included. Given Martinet’s expressed enthusiasm for transitioning to the role of Mario Ambassador, it’s entirely possible that after 29 years as Mario, the 67-year-old actor was ready to move on to a less involved role. Regardless of the reason, though, it’s the end of an era for one of the best-known, most-treasured voices in video games.

Source: Twitter/@Nintendo, Twitter/@NintendoAmerica, Polygon
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