Games

Meet the Meticulous Fan Behind the Internet's Most Meticulous Mario Blog

Since 2012, Supper Mario Broth has been proving, over and over, there's more to learn about Nintendo's series. Recently, though, its creator was forced to go public and ask for help. His power was about to go out.

by Patrick Klepek
Sep 17 2018, 7:29pm

“You can call me just Broth, for the purposes of this conversation,” said the voice on the other end of the Skype line.

On March 22, 2012, a then-unknown Tumblr blog posted a series of innocuous images from Paper Mario. Over the next six years, it would share thousands of images, facts, sprites, and other obscure minutia from the world of Mario, ranging from fascinating to downright creepy. Described as a “Super Mario variety blog,” Supper Mario Broth has an enormous following on both Tumblr and Twitter, where it thrives in 2018’s world of memes and ironic shitposting.

It manages to serve dual purposes: entertainment and information.

“You'd think everyone has said all there is to say about Super Mario Bros. by now,” said video game historian and founder of the archival-focused Video Game History Foundation Frank Cifaldi. “Broth proves that if you dig deep into ephemera and data-mine the games themselves, you can find all kinds of new and interesting talking points.”

The blog’s most popular post it a GIF from Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, where Luigi’s trying to look cool after scoring, but Mario’s doing flips in the background. Most of the blog’s most popular posts are like that. Some are a mixture, like discovering the number of eyelashes on Princess Peach’s eyes—six—matches the curves in Mario’s mustache. It’s the same for Princess Daisy’s eyelashes—two—and Luigi’s curves. Others, such as realizing how Super Mario Galaxy grotesquely changes Mario’s body when he drowns, border on cosmic horror.

One of Cifaldi’s favorite posts has to do with a single piece of geometry. In the shipping version of Super Mario 64, during a stage where Mario is sliding, a YouTube creator discovered an invisible wall right above an upcoming turn. The creator hypothesized Nintendo had, at one point, meant to put a left-turn sign in the game. After careful research, Broth managed to discover early gameplay footage from the game that proved him right.

“We now know about a creative decision that Nintendo made and ultimately abandoned during one of the most influential video games of all time,” said Cifaldi. “That just doesn't happen without something like Supper Mario Broth examining every possible angle in this game, and I love them for it.”

Tonally, Supper Mario Broth is equal parts fascinating and bewildering. The blog’s steadfast dedication to pinpoint accuracy often comes across as part of a larger, tongue-in-cheek performance built around a potentially unhealthy obsession with Mario factoids. Last week, for example, Supper Mario Broth said it took down a tweet because it “mistakenly identified a Zip disk as a floppy disk.” The tweet was removed “in accordance to my veracity policy.”

Most people would probably issue a correction and move on, but not Supper Mario Broth, and this zeal-like dedication to accuracy is one of the many reasons people love the blog.

“My veracity policy.” My. A real person runs Supper Mario Broth, but until recently, the guiding presence behind one of Mario’s modern historians has been largely anonymous. But the social currency of likes, retweets, and reblogs doesn’t translate into money, and a moment of financial vulnerability forced Supper Mario Broth’s author to launch a Patreon, creating a personal connection between creator and fan that’s becoming more common.

Patreons typically supplement someone’s hobby to make it financially justifiable. For Supper Mario Broth, it was more urgent: the power was about to go out. This is how fans learned the reason Supper Mario Broth sometimes went without updates is because its author lacked “funds to consistently pay for an Internet connection, a working computer, or even electricity.”

“[long pause] The people that I could turn to normally in real-life at all had their own difficulties,” said the blog’s author, who asked to be addressed as Broth, out of respect for his privacy. “Normally, I do not try to trouble my readers. I know that people come to Supper Mario Broth just to see some Mario facts. They do not come here to listen to my problems.”

His problems aren’t simple, though, and have repeated in recent years. A little while back, he was forced to sell every video game he’s ever owned, including the consoles they ran on. The majority of his collection was Mario-related, and some of the items went back decades.

“It was very saddening, but I'm, of course, more glad that this could help me out of the trouble I had at that time than than the fact that I needed to sell them,” he said. “Because in the end—this just may sound a little bit sentimental—but these Mario games are all living on inside my own head. I do not need consoles to close my eyes and imagine myself playing Super Mario Bros.

“When I first saw Mario on the screen, I thought ‘This is it. this is my life now.’ And it was. It still is.”

Broth does have a job, one where he works with elderly individuals from Alzheimer’s and other mental afflictions, but it doesn’t pay very well. This wasn’t the only time he’s turned to fans for money, either. Separate from Supper Mario Broth, he runs a Paper Mario comic influenced by the fan-favorite game The Thousand-Year Door, and during another time where money dried up, he requested commissions from regular readers to fill the gaps.

“This was just one of the times where I was out of options in real-life,” he said, “and had to turn to the Internet, to the readers of my blog, to help out.”

Before asking for help, he was on the verge of being evicted.

The Patreon has become an extension of his “veracity policy,” a commitment to absolute transparency. In recapping the first week of Supper Mario Broth’s Patreon backing, he noted, among other things, a “279% increase in output in the first week on the main and side blogs.” The level of specificity borders on disturbing, especially if it’s reflective of someone feeling as though taking crowdfunded money means having to document everything being done with it.

Or...it’s a bit? Part of the the ironic humor embedded in everything Supper Broth Blog does?

“To support something as preposterous as a Mario variety blog with real, actual money, you have to get some value back,” he said. “I want to make it clear people are getting value back.”

This is just how Broth is, both online and in real-life. He’s aware of how it’s perceived.

“I'm not a humorous person,” he said. “I'm the sort of person who likes facts. If you have looked at my blog for even a second, you might have noticed that the content post is very outlandish, but it is all factual. And I realized that outlandish factual content looks a lot like joke content.”

But it wasn’t always that way. These days, Supper Mario Broth is run by a single person, but when the blog launched in 2012, there were two authors. (Like Broth, the other author asked to remain anonymous.) The other author focused on humorous one-offs, like audio clips where Luigi says “thunder” over and over for several minutes, while Broth stayed in factland.

The two knew each other in real-life, and bonded over a shared hobby. The name Supper Mario Broth came from a brainstorming session where Super Mario Borscht and Soapy Mario Bath were both names they almost settled on. But they decided to stay in the realm of food, thanks to the series’ regular theming around the topic, and Supper Mario Broth stuck.

In 2016, the other author decided to move on from the blog, following a hiatus. The rights were transferred to Broth, and he decided to make sweeping changes. For one, he deleted anything that wasn’t 100% factual, but more controversially, took down many of the humor posts, like the legitimately funny Luigi “thunder” track. This prompted a backlash among fans, and he was later forced to apologize. Some of the more popular posts were then reinstated, albeit with a new disclaimer from Broth that proved funny for reasons he likely didn’t intend:

“Disclaimer: The content of this post is for entertainment purposes only and is not intended to be factual information about the Mario series.”

This is an extension of the aforementioned “veracity” policy rolled out in early 2017.

“Normally, I do not try to trouble my readers. I know that people come to Supper Mario Broth just to see some Mario facts. They do not come here to listen to my problems.”

Whatever the ups and downs, Broth is able to come back to his love for Mario, a passion that goes beyond the intricacies of platforming and into the world, characters, and overall aesthetic. The moment he played Super Mario Bros. 3 at three years old, he was hooked in a way that went beyond merely liking how it played.

“When I first saw Mario on the screen,” he said, “I thought ‘This is it. this is my life now.’ And it was. It still is.”

Mario became part of his life, a way of tracking milestones along the way. When I tried to pin him down on a favorite game, he refused. Instead, he named four games across two categories, best and favorite. The best Mario games? Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario 64, and Super Mario Odyssey. His favorite Mario game? Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.

And here’s a twist: he hasn’t even played one of the “best” games, Super Mario Odyssey, because after selling all the games he owned a few years ago, he can’t afford new ones.

“I've never had a Switch,”he said. “I know a lot about Super Mario Odyssey. I have watched hundreds of hours of footage of other people playing it, and I could close my eyes and and just imagine a path through, for, example the Wooded Kingdom, one of the kingdoms from the game, very easily, simply due to how much content I have consumed about that game, but I've never played it. I wish I could, but I've never played it.”

One of his long term Patreon goals is to raise enough money to buy some games. For the moment, however, the Patreon is about life’s basics, not entertainment. The 222 people currently backing the blog have, for example, allowed Broth to purchase an entire month of Internet, rather little chunks of data, which frequently forced him to do much of his work offline.

That work takes Broth down some strange rabbit holes, like one of the more recent phenomenons to spin out of his research, Big Yoshi. (Commonly known as Fat Yoshi.) Big Yoshi started as something Broth was forced to stitch together from various strategy guides, before the holy grail—high-resolution Big Yoshi—was found on a Japanese trading card by a reader.

Broth’s job is to inform, but what happens from there is out of his control. Like this:

Or this:

This isn’t the end of his journey, though. Broth, like the world, always wants more Big Yoshi.

“This is something people can look forward to when they read my blog,” he said.

That anyone will be able to read anything on Supper Mario Broth going forward is fortunate, given how things recently looked only a few weeks ago. There are no plans to make running the blog a full-time gig (“I really don't think there's enough people on Earth right now interested enough”), but Broth is taking it one day at a time. Who knows what’s in the future?

More Big Yoshi, hopefully. And if he’s fortunate, maybe the chance to buy a Mario game, too.

Follow Patrick on Twitter. If you have a tip or a story idea, drop him an email: patrick.klepek@vice.com.

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