Ryu doesn't have an RPG. Samus doesn't race karts. And Link has never played Sonic in the Winter Olympics. What am I saying? I'm saying that whatever you're looking for, Mario has it.
Okay, he doesn't have a gritty shooter yet but zombie survival is coming to Mushroom Kingdom no earlier than 2014. For the most part, what you want, Mario has. And whether you prefer your games in 2D or 3D, Mario's got both. Hell, thanks to Paper Mario, Mario can come as close to 1D as any game since Pong.
So next time you're praising a franchise, ask yourself: would this protagonist take the time to teach me typing? If it's not Mario, the answer's a no.
The Mario series isn't just about variety; it's how deep it goes. There isn't just one good Mario RPG and there isn't just one cool Mario sports game. No, the series has done the near impossible. It has made great franchises within a great franchise: Franchise-ception.
There are no fewer than three good games in every franchise within the Mario universe. For RPGs, there's Super Mario RPG and three Paper Marios. There are more Mario Parties than any man could play, enough Mario Karts to give you blue-shell-trauma, and even three Smash Bros. games to cover your fighting game fix.
And before you call Smash Bros. anything but a Mario production, ask yourself: what other Bros, outside the Mario bros, are doing the smashing? Exactly.
We all love Biggie Smalls. But part of his appeal is how short his reign was; we only got the highlights. Did we miss out on some greatness? Maybe. But we certainly missed out on some misguided Dubstep/Country remix? Undoubtedly.
The Mario series has been consistently great since its inception and has maintained (and in some cases, improved) from console to console. The NES/SNES classics built the foundation, the N64 launched with arguably the series' best game, the Gamecube era more or less continued what worked without ruining it, and both Mario Galaxy titles have proven that Mario is still relevant in the current console generation. There's a lot of pride in that: you can't take longevity for granted here. Consider this: Sonic the Hedgehog has been a werewolf. A werewolf.
Give props, folks; you can't take this kind of production for granted. Mario has had an unprecedented streak of success and continues to hit new peaks. That's unheard of considering the years that Mario has been under those overalls. I mean, It's not like Conker is still having bad fur days.
How does Mario hold up against the big guns? Half-Life? Bioshock? Freaking Skyrim? It's simple. Mario is fun for the whole family. Now, I don't mean fun-for-the-whole-family in the way that ABC Family movies are, which is to say, fun for nobody. I mean actual fun-for-everyone.
Consider this: it's Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus morning. Your whole family is there, and in case your family isn't big, a bunch of random people of various ages are there. It's snowed in. You have dozens of TVs and outlets and the people demand entertainment. What franchise do you pull out?
You're not going with Nintendogs. Your little sister is going to be happy, but that's it. Bioshock is going to scare your little/older relatives. You'll be damned if you let Flip (who names these kids?) mess up your Starcraft 2 ranking or your Skyrim profile. And maybe you'd pick Call of Duty but you can't trust Dwayne with guns, real or imaginary.
Mario isn't going to offend anyone. Your gamer cousin can play The Lost Levels until his face melts. You can introduce your little brother to Super Mario Land or Galaxy depending on his interests, your aunts have Mario Kart, your Uncles can yell way too much about Mario Party while drunk, and Dwayne can just sit there, far, far away from any guns. Everyone wins.
A good way to judge a rapper is by the success of his posse. And Mario's posse would make any of Kanye's yes-men feel slighted. Mario is so successful that even his sidekick little brother is one of the biggest stars in videogames.
Luigi has been the star of two games and is about to star in a third, the sequel to Luigi's Mansion. Luigi has been in Smash Bros., Mario Parties, cameos across the galaxy, and more. Hell, even Luigi's weird evil twin gets more play than some franchise stars.
And then there's Yoshi. Mario's glorified car has his own games, and is featured in most of the franchise games. Mario even summoned him a girlfriend from his own nightmares (Birdo from Super Mario Bros 2, and yes it was all a dream.)
Even hanging with Mario gets the job done. His generosity is boundless. That giant ape who tried to kill him now has his own franchise. What's Epona been up to?
Mario has grown up with the industry. The original Mario Bros was a simple arcade game like the rest of them. Gradually, the series matured. It innovated what a platformer could be, then it helped show what a successful 3D game could be. It took us on a journey, and yeah, so did other games. But we have more to thank Mario for than any other franchise.
Mario is the reason video games are real, respected and acknowledged, and something that you don't have to put quarter after quarter into. Mario is the reason many of us are into videogames now. Mario was our gateway. Mario was the reason my older brother was interested in buying a Super Nintendo even when we already had a Sega Genesis. And Luigi was the reason little brothers like me were even allowed to play at all.