Charles Martinet has been the voice of Nintendo's mascot Mario since 1996, but no more. Nintendo has announced that the actor is to step down from the role, and will instead act as a "Mario ambassador" in the future, which is all rather ceremonial and full of pomp for a gig that mainly involves shouting "wa-hoo!"
Martinet has been the voice of Mario since 1996, and his first role is probably what sealed the deal: Super Mario 64. Arguably the most accomplished and polished 3D title of its era, part of the game's appeal was its characterful and fun reinvention of Mario himself, with the "let's a-go" accompanying each star selection burned into the brain of any '90s gamer. Martinet would go on to voice Mario across a wide range of titles, with Nintendo's plumber never short of side-gigs, including the Mario Kart and Mario Party series.
The news comes after this year's Super Mario Bros. movie, which featured Chris Pratt as the main character's voice actor and a performance that was less of an Italian-American caricature (Martinet played Mario's dad in the film). Perhaps more notable was the announcement of Super Mario Bros. Wonder, the next mainline entry in the platforming games, the trailer for which features an unnamed Mario voice actor that is not Martinet.
Nintendo says the 67 year-old Martinet "will be stepping back from recording character voices for our games, but he'll continue to travel the world sharing the joy of Mario and interacting with you all!
We have a message for fans of the Mushroom Kingdom. Please take a look. pic.twitter.com/U1ASicOuTOAugust 21, 2023
"It has been an honour working with Charles to help bring Mario to life for so many years and we want to thank and celebrate him. Please keep an eye out for a special video message from Shigeru Miyamoto (the creator of Mario) and Charles himself, which we will post at a future date."
Martinet has also provided the voices for other characters in the Mario series, including Luigi, Wario, Waluigi, and the baby versions of characters. It's easy to be sniffy about Martinet and the over-the-top nature of his work, but it's inarguable that he created a sense of fun and enthusiasm in a character that can otherwise be regarded as a cipher. Mario means fun, and part of that fun is the exuberance and joy the character expresses as the player throws him around Nintendo's wonderlands.
"My new Adventure begins," wrote Martinet on social media. "You are all Numba One in my heart!" adding the hashtag "woohoo!!!!!!!" More poignantly, his last major contribution to the series comes at the end of the Mario movie as Mario and Luigi's father, pointing at the pair and declaring "These are my boys."