Let’s talk about Super Mario Odyssey for a second. Mario’s new ability to possess different objects using his hat? That’s pretty cool! It’s definitely different from anything Mario has done before, and it seems like it adds a ton of variety to Mario’s move set. He can just possess so many things, from statues to t-rexes to… people…
Woah… woah, hold on a second. Did I just see Mario jump into a human being’s head and start controlling them?
Is everyone OK with this?
Alright look, Super Mario Odyssey is already bringing up some uncomfortable questions. Like, why is Mario this short, chubby, cartoony guy while everyone else appears to have normal human proportions? It gives me a strange Sonic 06 vibe, but while Sonic could be explained away as being another species, isn’t Mario human?
Is Mario human?
Does this mean Mario isn’t human?
Is Mario Human?
But… Pauline is human, right? And she’s the mayor of New Donk City, which is implied to be the same city that Mario saved Pauline from in the original Donkey Kong. But, that was Cranky Kong. Cranky Kong has aged considerably, but Mario, Peach, and Pauline haven’t aged a bit. Well…maybe Pauline has. In the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, Pauline had similar proportions to Mario, but in Super Mario Odyssey she has similar proportions to a human, which brings us back to the question: is Mario human?
Heck, I’m not sure. In fact, I’m not sure anyone is the species they appear to be. Take Yoshi for example. Yoshi is a dinosaur, right? Except he looks all chubby and cartoony and short. If we are to believe the Super Mario Odyssey trailer, actual dinosaurs exist somewhere in the Mario universe. Mario possesses a T-Rex, after all. So is Yoshi the real dinosaur or is the T-Rex the real dinosaur, and does this apply to other species? Is Donkey Kong actually a gorilla? Are there photorealistic gorillas in the jungles of this universe?
And I haven’t even gotten to the reason why we are here in the first place. Mario now has the ability to possess things, to literally take over their mind and body and wear them as a meat suit. This is all thanks to his new hat, Cappy. Cappy’s true form appears to be a Boo. He is assisting Mario by possessing his hat, which allows Mario to throw his hat and have it return to him as if it had a mind of its own. Neat, right?
But that doesn’t explain why Mario can possess things. This is a power that he didn’t even have as a Boo when he picked up a Boo mushroom in Super Mario Galaxy. In fact, it doesn’t appear to be an ability that Cappy has either. He only seems to be able to possess inanimate objects – in this case, hats.
This strange power kicks in when Mario throws his hat on top of another being or object. Mario loses his physical form and gains control of that being.
I want to focus again on how disturbing this is. Giving life to statues or inanimate objects is low-level poltergeist stuff, but completely taking over a sentient being’s body? We are going to need to call in the exorcist for that!
Imagine, if you will, walking through the park with your loved ones when suddenly your body starts moving without you telling it to, proceeding to kill everyone you love in a cold-hearted massacre. Terrifying, right? Well, that’s exactly what you’re doing when you possess a Hammer Bro and use its abilities to kill the rest of Bowser’s minions. Paper Mario taught us that Bowser’s minions have friends, family, and lives, and you are turning them into crudely controlled meat puppets of murder!
Mario! The family-friendly game for the kids!
But beyond the absurd and disturbing implications of this new ability, we still have to ask the question, “Why?” Why can Mario do this? Why can Cappy do this? We have seen Boos possess objects before in Luigi’s Mansion, but never people.
Hats all the way down
That’s when I realized… it’s all about hats. Hats are the key! Hats are the one thing that Nintendo has been hiding from us from the very beginning.
Hats have a very specific role in the Mario universe. They are essentially magical. The most basic power of Mushroom Kingdom hats is to defy the laws of physics. Mario’s hat always stays on his head no matter how fast he is jumping. But hats get much, much more powerful than that. We have seen hats in the Wario series bestow the power of flight and pyrokinesis. We even saw hats in Super Mario 64 grant Mario the ability to fly, turn into metal, and phase through objects.
And it’s Super Mario 64 that holds the answers we seek – and not the original Super Mario 64 but Super Mario 64 DS! This is one of the only other instances where we have seen Mario without his cap. Toad reveals that Mario’s cap is special; possibly even the source of his powers. If it were to get blown off Mario he would have nothing but bad luck. He is implored to seek out the cap if he ever loses it? Why?
Well, we get to see what happens when someone else puts on Mario’s cap. If the player takes Yoshi, Wario, or Luigi into a level and they find and put on Mario’s cap, they turn into Mario! They gain all of Mario’s abilities and even his appearance. They retain all of these abilities until they get hurt, at which point they lose the cap and go back to normal. Note that the hat isn’t destroyed; they just lose it.
Sound familiar? Maybe it sounds like they are being possessed? Possessed by Mario? Possessed by Mario’s hat? Isn’t that exactly what is happening to the characters in New Donk City?
Just hear me out….
Which brings me to my latest tin-foil hat theory: Mario is actually a sentient power-up! Think about it. Hats have routinely been power-ups in past Mario games, and if Mario’s cap is the source of his power, maybe Mario’s cap is actually Mario. Maybe the Mario body that we see is just a homunculus, created as a vehicle for the hat to get around. Maybe Cappy is what happens when a sentient hat power-up ends up dying. After all, he looks different from other Boos. His entire body is essentially a hat!
Plus, the mechanics of Super Mario Odyssey support this theory. The only thing that stays constant in every one of Mario’s possessed forms is his hat. Some forms have his face, some have his moustache, but all of them have his hat. When the forms he is possessing die, the hat pops off (as seen when a possessed Bullet Bill explodes). Then, a new Mario body forms from out of the hat!
Hence my thought that Mario’s main body is his hat. Whenever Mario loses his hat, his body tries to find it because if any damage were to come to it, he would die. Perhaps this is why Mario can keep re-spawning, life after life. These “lives” represent the amount of times the hat can spawn a new biological body.
So why hasn’t Mario possessed anyone before? Simple. Mario couldn’t move his hat without moving his biological body. He would have to wrestle a Koopa Troopa to the ground and put his hat on it, at which point his biological body would go limp. Then he would need to do whatever he needed to do as the Koopa Troopa and then get his hat back onto his biological body. This is likely far more trouble than it is worth.
But Cappy changes all of that. When Cappy possesses Mario’s hat (or should I say Mario’s main body), he can move it around without the need of a body at all. He simply uses his ghostly powers to put Mario’s hat onto something else’s head – and BOOM – Mario is now possessing it. He also seems to somehow be able to conserve the biological mass of Mario’s meat sack of a body, since it disappears whenever he possesses something. In other games, it would have to die. This allows him to hop from body to body without losing a life.
The clearest example of this is what happens when Mario possesses a plastic road marker. His body disappears and his cap shows up on the marker. The marker pulls back and flings, not Mario’s body, but his hat. This is the character you are controlling. The hat is Mario. THE HAT IS MARIO!
Suddenly, all the strange plot holes in Mario’s history make sense if we just think of Mario as his own hat. Mystery solved, Mario is a sentient power-up that, with the help of a lesser phantom, goes around possessing biological beings in order to make them murder their friends and family.
… for the kids!
Now all I have to do is figure out how the Rabbids fit into this story and my universal theory of Mario will be complete.