Game Theory: Toad’s DEADLY Secret (Super Mario Bros.)
Yeah yeah, “Thank you Mario, your princess
is in another–” Wait, wha? Is he flipping me off?! (gravelly voice) Oh my god… [Game Theory theme song plays] Hello, Internet! Welcome to Game Theory,
where we do theories on all kinds of games, but the ones on Nintendo get you
guys the most excited, which is why there are so many of them. Supply and demand, my friends; you demand it and I supply it. Which is ironic, since it’s a lesson that Nintendo doesn’t seem to get. (cough cough) Amiibos (cough cough) GameCube adaptors for the WiiU (cough cough) Majora’s Mask 3DS XL. So, while you wait for your $200 Rosalina and Luma Amiibo to arrive from some random Ebay scalper who understands basic economic principles, let’s talk Mario. Does that intro qualify as shots having been fired? Maybe? Anyway, what’s the deal with the Mushroom Kingdom? I get that Princess Peach rules over it, but seriously, where are all the other human beings?! And for that matter, why does the MUSHROOM Kingdom have a human ruler? And then what about royal succession? Princess Peach still isn’t a queen, she’s a princess. Mario doesn’t even seem CLOSE to becoming a prince, and as weirdly suggestive as her sweet little notes can be construed, it really doesn’t seem like either of them are putting much work into making a little Mushroom Kingdom heir. And for that matter, what’s Bowser’s deal? Why is HE, demonic LORD OF THE KOOPAS, so intent on kidnapping this lousy princess, instead of getting it together and cranking out a straight military victory? The point is, something awful fishy is definitely going on here. But this time I submit to you that we’re not looking for a flat-out villain. No, that would be too obvious. This time, our person of interest is someone secretly nefarious. Someone coasting along while the heavies take all our attention. Slide on those vests and pull up your diapers, because I’m talking about TOAD. What IS Toad? Or more accurately, what are TOADS? Why do THEY all look the same, and why does Peach — their ruler — look nothing like them? Well, would you believe me if I said they’re a parasitic lifeform that took over the bodies of the Mushroom Kingdom’s original citizens? No? I don’t blame you. Those gravelly voiced bubbleheads don’t look too threatening, after all. It seems like a pretty extreme claim. But give me the next ten minutes of your life, and I may just change that attitude. Let’s look at the facts: mushrooms play a very prominent role in the Mario franchise, and Toad’s design is just another reflection of that. I mean, seriously! He has a mushroom growing out of his head! And before you call me out on it just being a hat, yes, he removed it in the TV series, but that’s a non-canon source. In the games, it has always been firmly planted on his head, no matter how fast he’s running, being shot out of a pipe or whatever. Why’s that important? Well, there’s a real world fungus that grows out of your head and can control your mind and body. Pretty terrifying, right? Well, I believe that whatever the fungi know as Toad actually is, it behaves a heck of a lot like a mutated strain from the genus “Cordyceps.” If you’ve played The Last of Us, you can get an idea of what I’m talking about. But for those of you who prefer cold, hard facts to half referenced, two-year-old video games, Cordyceps in nature is famous for infecting things like ants. The fungus exerts control over the mind of the host, forcing it to an environment with the proper temperature and humidity for its growth, as well as the optimal wind conditions for the spread of its spores. For ants, this often means climbing up and attaching themselves to the side of a plant, but for the Toads, this would mean any number of dark, moist, out of the way places. Which — surprise! — is very often exactly where you find them. Huddled together in groups, or all by themselves, just sort of…standing there. Waiting. Then it starts to send out little threads called mycelia. As its mycelium threads slowly replace the body of the host, the host dies, and the spore bearing fruit body emerges, often near the head. Sound like some NPCs you may know and love? So how do ya like them apples? I mean, them fungi? So I know what you’re thinking. “Man, nature is scary!” And yes. Yes it is. It’s like a FOX show from the early 90’s. “When Fungi Attack!” You’re also probably thinking that the people themselves weren’t mushroom-like until they were body-snatched, then why is it called the Mushroom Kingdom in the first place? Welp, there’s an easy answer to that as we turn to the original manual for Super Mario Bros. The manual introduced the Goombas, or should I say the little Goombas, as mushrooms who betrayed the Mushroom Kingdom, implying that the Mushroom Kingdom is actually their homeland, and that it’s the GOOMBAS that were the lands namesake in the first place! And before you start yelling at me about Goombas actually being chestnuts because their Japanese name is “Kuribo,” Takashi Tezuka, assistant director and game designer from Mario 1, in an interview with Satoru Iwata, confirmed that no matter what you think, Goombas are in fact based off shitaki mushrooms. Assistant director and game designer. That’s a primary source, my friends. So if this is THEIR kingdom and they’re getting displaced from it, it would be natural they would want to defect to Bowser if it meant getting their homeland back! It might also explain why one of Bowser’s core troops are so weak; they’re not really fighters at all! They’re just refugees of war, victimized by the Toads, and they’re doing anything in their power to get back home! Skeptical? Yeah, I don’t blame you! I mean, mind controlling MUSHROOMS? Yeah, ok, sure. But I wouldn’t present you with this theory if there wasn’t more. Remember that mycelium I mentioned earlier? Those thin fungal threads that slowly replace the hosts flesh? Well, they serve another important purpose in real life, too. Criss-crossing through the soil, connecting plants and fungus to a vast, natural, underground, fungal internet! Seriously! Mushrooms are SCARY, my theorists. Around 90% of land plants are in some sort of beneficial relationship with fungi. And it’s through this subterranean mycelial network that these organisms can do anything, from helping out their neighbours by sharing nutrients and advantageous information, to sending toxic chemicals to sabotage an unwelcome invading force. Lemme re-emphasise that; this is a fungal thread network connecting 90% of the worlds plant life! It’s like the Ethernet for plants! It’s extremely beneficial for pre-existing flora to be plugged into this network. It even boosts their immune system! So it’s no stretch to imagine that in the Mushroom Kingdom, where the fungi have acheived SENTIENCE, that the natural Internet would do much more, making the landscape seem almost…alive! Which sounds totally crazy at first, until you realise that all those weirdly shaped Mushroom Kingdom hills, really DO have eyes. Which, when you think about it, is much scarier than the movie by the same name. And if you’re thinking I’m gonna be relying on a retro game and and old, poorly translated manual for all my evidence here, think again. We recently had a game focused entirely on Toad, and it revealed a LOT. In a recent GameSpot interview with producer of Captain Toad Koichi Hayashida, He explained that Toads don’t have genders in the way that we think of them. He also went out of his way to confirm that Captain Toad and Toadette aren’t romantically involved in any way. So why are we celebrating two video game characters NOT getting it on? Well, glad I asked. Most fungi reproduce using spores in an extremely non-sexual process that involves around 36 THOUSAND different genders. Facts that directly parallel how Hayashida described the Toads behaviour. If Toad and Toadette were having a bunch of Toad: mMMMMMMMMMMMrahaAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! MatPat: in the old kart garage, boom! Our theory would be busted. Instead, we get confirmation that the Toad species doesn’t act that way. It’s almost as though each coloration and variety of Toad is like its own sex! Hundreds to THOUSANDS of different Toad genders! Just like the real life ‘shrooms. And if that’s not enough, in the same interview, Hayashida confirmed that Toads aren’t mushrooms at all, stating, quote: “This particular riddle might stay unsolved. That’s one of the great mysteries of the Mario universe,” endquote. Oh yeah? Never thought anyone would put together that Toads were brainwashed husks, controlled by mushrooms operating a vast fungi intelligence network? Hah! Well, think again. Need more proof? Remember those mycelium we’ve talked about twice now? The fungus Internet? Well recently, mycoligists — that’s fancy talk for mushroom professors — have discovered a method for drying out mycelia and mixing it with other natural compounds to create a self growing building material that’s stronger than CONCRETE. In fact, in 2014 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, they erected a tower made out of these exact blocks! It’s awesome! And it looks really neat, but um…turning mushrooms into bricks…where have we heard that one before? Oh, yeah! That’s exactly what Bowser did to the people of the Mushroom Kingdom way back in Super Mario Brothers for the NES. Now if we crack open the ol’ manual again we can see that yes! It explains Bowser’s first plan was to, quote: “Transform all the Mushroom People into things like rocks, bricks, and horsetail plants, thus causing the Mushroom Kingdom’s downfall,” endquote. Still not convinced? Well, good for you! You should always question things people tell you. But take a look at this: the rocks and bricks make pretty good sense right away; we alreay know what the deal is there. But what about this weird horsetail plant thing? What-What are those? Pretty weird thing for the manual to specifically mention, right? You might even think it was some kind of translation error, but nope. It appears in both the Japanese and English versions. And then you start doing research, and you begin realising that horsetail plants are a real thing. In fact, horsetail plants are often used in farming, precisely because the plants high silica content effectively stops fungal growth. A plant that stops mushrooms from growing. From that one bizzarely specific detail in the manual, we INSTANTLY can understand that Bowser is trying to stop the spread of some fungus. A Toad fungus. Imagine you’re Bowser: You rule your own kingdom, you ARE King Koopa! Everyone living beneath you is pretty happy doing whatever they’re doing, when all of a sudden there’s a tiny little knock on your castle door. “Help! Help!” the thousands of tiny little goombas say. “Our kingdom is being overrun by a parasitic fungus!” Now, normally you wouldn’t carry out an act of war against a neighbouring kingdom, but partly because you don’t want it spreading to your own kingdom and partly because you don’t wanna deal with thousands of useless little shitaki drones at the gate, you do everything you can to eradicate this fungus menace. From repurposing the invaders into environmentally friendly masonry to planting horsetail plants as a countermeasure to keep them from coming back. And even securing the royalty next door in your castle until the plague passes, so she doesn’t get infected! It’s actually a pretty upstanding and logical thing for Bowser to do, but then greedy ol’ Mario shows up hungry for his cake or his kiss or whatever. He touches your axe that makes your bridge fall — why DO you keep that thing around, Bowser? — and boom! You fall into the lava and suddenly you’re the bad guy for all times. Mario, the guy who in the manual is described as, quote: “the hero of the story (maybe)”. What an odd thing to say! Sure, we may make a big deal about Bowser being a bad dude and everything, but history is written by the winners, Internet, and if you’re a good player, that winner is you. And Mario. And Peach. Which brings up one last question: where does Peach fit into all this? Why isn’t she infected? Well, you already know the answer. I showed it to you a few minutes ago. Toad, the mushrooms, serve the princess. The American manual changes it to say, quote: “serves in the court of the princess,” endquote, but a direct translation of the Japanese just says that the Toads serve HER. And we see in Smash Brothers that she’s very adept at using toads to get what she wants. Ever wonder how an airhead who can’t tell wether or not she’s won a kart race can maintain control of a kingdom? Cordyceps. One word: Cordyceps. Peach is the one who brought the Toads to the Mushroom Kingdom in the first place. That’s why they all worship her, and that’s why in the U.S. for 8 years she went by another name; one that tipped us all off to her grand scheme from the very beginning. Peach’s other name: Princess. TOADSTOOL. Peach/Toadstool: Oh, did I win? MatPat: So, like I said at the beginning of the episode, something is certainly rotten in the state of the Mushroom Kingdom. But hey; that’s just a theory. A Game Theory! Thanks for watching. Hey guys! This episode was made possible by Squarespace.com. If you’ve ever wanted to build your own website, make it look beautiful and have a design that scales to any device, check out Squarespace! I can say first hand how difficult it is to get a website up and running. I’ve wanted one for the Game Theorists for…I don’t know how long, but I had a bunch of people flake out in the middle of the project. And the reason was because I wanted the site to look pretty, have an online store for merch, forums for you guys to chat and theorize together! All that good stuff you want in a website! Well, had I known about Squarespace at the time, I would’ve tried them. It’s completely intergrated with Google apps to have a ton of functionality, Getty Images to make it pretty — and even more important, legal — and every website come with a free online store! There’s even 24/7 livechat and email support for all you web noobs like me out there. Squarespace only costs $8 a month; small price to pay if you want a really beautiful website! And you get a free domain if you buy Squarespace for the year! AND you can get 10% off your first purchase by using the code “Game Theorists!” So if you want a website, check out Squarespace.com/GameTheorists! Click on the annotation here or the link in the description and start building your GT fansite today! Or a “Mario is a Communist” blog! Or your own personal takedown of IGN! Y’know, whatever floats your boat! I hear that “MatPatIsHawt.com” is still available, too! So get on it, people! Now if you’ll excuse me, next episode…’s gonna be a doozy.