This picture taken on April 26, 2014 shows Japanese videogame giant Nintendo's characters Super Mario and Luigi (L) performing in Chiba, suburban Tokyo / YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images

It's-a him, Mario

Mario's "woo-hoo", and the jingle of coins, might be the most iconic sounds in video game history. And, according to the man behind them, they very nearly didn't exist.

Charles Martinet, who has been the voice of Mario ever since he became able to speak, has spoken on the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros.

Mr Martinet wasn’t actually invited to be part of the audition for Mario, who before Martinet voiced him had been silent. Told to do a voice for an Italian plumber from Brooklyn, he began with a gruff, macho voice — until he spontaneously happened on the joyous, high-pitched, bouncy one, intended for children, that’s become well-known.


Initially, Mr Martinet’s role wasn’t meant for a game but for a special setup that would see him put inside a machine for speaking to people at game trade shows. Martinet, as Mario, would sit inside a box that was fitted with cameras — allowing his facial movements to be replicated on a Mario character on screen.

But eventually he would join the games, too, recording his voice for Mario 64 — and he has voiced the character in a huge amount of games since. (Just in 2015 that has included Mario Party 10, Super Mario Maker and Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash.)

And it’s just not just the red-capped plumber. Mr Martinet is also the voice behind the timid Luigi, the grumpy Wario, Waluigi, Baby Mario and Donkey Kong.

Mr Martinet has said that Mario has become a kind of character that he sometimes talks in when he’s on his own. But he keeps him hidden in public — until someone asks him to do so.