Video Games

Has Chris Pratt Even Played Super Mario Bros.?

An investigation.

A man with a brown beard wears a red hat that says the letter M on it. His head is floating atop a blue sky background with white clouds.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images.

During a highly anticipated livestream of new gaming announcements on Thursday, Super Mario Bros. creator Shigeru Miyamoto revealed the voice cast for Nintendo’s upcoming animated Mario movie. In a move predicted by perhaps exactly one person, the titular hero will be played by Guardians of the Galaxy/Jurassic World/The Tomorrow War star Chris Pratt.

Unshockingly, the response from basically everyone was extremely negative. “Imagine surviving two recessions and a pandemic only to have to endure Chris Pratt as Mario,” said one. “Yeah sure let’s get Chris Pratt to do an imitation of Mario for the animated Mario movie instead of getting, you know, the literal authentic voice of Mario who’s been the character for 3 decades to play the real deal.,” said another. It’s difficult—bordering on distressing—to imagine Mario speaking with Chris Pratt’s voice. For one, Mario is not “cool,” as Miyamoto declared in his announcement. (And neither, in the eyes of many, is Pratt.) Also, Mario is a man of “wa hoo!”s, not grunted sentences.  And Mario’s tubby can-do-ness is worlds away from Pratt’s no-longer-tubby try-hard-ness.

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But there’s a vitally important question that’s been missing from all the consternation about the casting: Has Chris Pratt ever played Super Mario Bros.? Let’s examine the evidence.

In a Friday Instagram video about his casting coup, Pratt talks about his earliest memories of the series. “There was a coin-operated laundromat near my house and it had Super Mario Bros., the original arcade game,” he says. “Oh, I loved that game.” He shifts his eyes upward, miming a look of nostalgia. He goes on to say that, despite loving that game, “I never had a quarter” to play it. He then goes on to recall stealing money from a wishing well to play the game (at which point this investigation may have well called it quits, but we’ll continue).

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He ends his video by saying: “I’m really excited to announce that I’m gonna be the voice of that video game that I dreamed about playing as a kid. Dreamscometrue.” Hold up, Pratt. In this slightly mangled bit of syntax, does dreaming about playing the game mean you … didn’t actually play it? Except maybe once with a stolen quarter? Did you otherwise look longingly at people who did play it and perhaps refused to let you join in as Luigi in two-player mode? The arcade version of Super Mario Bros., it turns out, existed for a few short years leading up to 1990. Is it possible there was one in a laundromat in Lake Stevens, Washington? Sure! But given the strangeness of his phrasing, the shiftiness of the way he looks up, it all smells a little cheep-cheepy.

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So I then turned to trying to find out what, if any, relationship Pratt has to video games in general. In the plus column, he’s provided the voice for characters in a handful of games, notably those based on The Lego Movie. Check. Way back in 2012, he was featured in a commercial for the Xbox 360 game Kinect Star Wars, when he was known as the dopey dude from Parks and Recreation. Check. (For the record, that motion-tracking game was super goofy.)

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Once, in a red carpet interview, Pratt was asked what kind of video game his Parks and Rec character, Andy Dwyer, would create. His answer was a Guitar Hero that gets you drunk, which does make sense for Andy, but adds little to Pratt’s gaming bona fides. Everyone knows Guitar Hero! I even played Guitar Hero with my college president one time, and lord knows she doesn’t actually play video games.

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In 2018, the actor starred in South Korean print ads for another, much bigger game: Fortnite, which is also known by almost everyone in the world. No checkmark for Fortnite.

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There are, however, two things that could suggest Pratt knows more about gaming than he otherwise lets on. In 2015, he tweeted out a video from the popular YouTube series Game Grumps, entitled “Super Mario Galaxy: Finale - PART 84.” It’s the conclusion to the hosts’ playthrough of the beloved Wii game, which is also notably part of the Super Mario Bros. series that Pratt claims to love so much. The tweet reads: “These dudes at #gamegrumps have a lot of loyal fans. After listening I can see why. So funny! #EffBowser.” (#EffBowser, to my knowledge, was never a real hashtag.) Game Grumps has over 5 million YouTube subscribers, and this video has more than 1 million views; based on this tweet, I doubt that Pratt watched the previous 83 parts. Still, Game Grumps are a tad more niche than some other game-playing shows, so that at least gives him, like, a respectable point in the gamer column.

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The best, yet most mysterious piece of evidence for Pratt being into games is a photo whose origin is murky. Years ago, Redditors and other Pratt fans from his more innocent, less controversial days found and obsessed over a photo that shows Pratt holding a copy of Spider-Man 2 on the PlayStation 2. The game launched in 2004 alongside the film; it received positive reviews and continues to be a cult classic. Pratt’s making a silly face as he extends out his free hand to make a web-slinging pose. No one has deduced exactly where this photo is from or why it exists, but it’s a very weird and kind of hilarious photo.

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But the age of the photo and Spider-Man 2’s place in the pantheon aside, Pratt is simply holding the game, not playing it. This leaves us no closer to confirming whether he even owned a PS2. But Pratt has never said he didn’t own a PS2, to be fair! And whether or not Pratt has ever seriously played any video game or even Super Mario Bros.—we’ve asked Nintendo for comment and will update with any response—he’s still going to forever go down in IMDb history as the man who voiced Mario. That sound you hear is millions of Nintendo fans seeking a sewer to jump down.

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