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Mario Power-Ups as Interpreted Through Dream Imagery

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For reasons better not gone into, Art Attack has a background in dream interpretation, the study of the meaning behind objects that appear in our dreams. You thought that your brain was just being funky when it had you downing a bowl of raisins with Kesha and Cornelius from Planet of the Apes, but it really means that something sinister is working against you. That's the raisin bit, anyway. No idea what Kesha and the ape are doing in your head.

Another passion is everything involving Super Mario, and like most people we've always wondered why the hell a flower gives you the ability to shoot fire, or a feather turns you into a crap, Italian version of Superman. Dream imagery seems as good an explanation as any, and actually does sort of make the whole system a little more understandable.

Super Mushroom

Originally called the Magic Mushroom until someone had a little talk with Japan, we always assumed that the inspiration for a mushroom that increases your size came from Alice in Wonderland, but according to Shigeru Miyamoto, the mushrooms were actually inspired by the concept of mushrooms being associated with magical worlds. Who are we to argue with the man who invented fun? They remain the most constant staple in the games, with a variety of effects, but mostly the getting bigger thing.

The mushroom symbolizes unhealthy vices and poor decisions.... Such as, we don't know, constantly running after a princess that can't stay un-kidnapped for five minutes instead of really putting time and effort into your plumbing practice. Also, when Bowser Jr. claimed Princess Peach was his mom, her response boiled down to "Really? Me? Okay?" so poor choices seems to be the norm even in the aristocracy of the Mushroom Kingdom.

On the plus side, eating mushrooms in a dream can be a mark of confidence and power, and Mario must have that in spades if he's man enough to take the sloppy seconds of a giant turtle dragon.

Fire Flower

By eating a special flower, Mario can hurl fireballs that bounce along the ground. Originally, Mario was going to come straight out of Compton and use a gun, but in the end it was fireballs courtesy of posies with faces.

In dreams, flowers symbolize pretty much what you would expect: beauty, tranquility, happiness, love, etc. Not exactly the best item to give you a devastating weapon. However, flowers growing from barren soil -- and what's more barren than a block of brick? -- is a sign that your energetic and cheerful nature will help you overcome obstacles. That's pretty damned spot-on.

On the other hand, if you see a fireball in your dreams it means you're on a hideously self-destructive path. Another indicator that perhaps Mario's chosen profession of Koopa stomping isn't the most constructive thing he could do with his life.


Grabbing the Starman causes a kick-ass tune to play, as well as granting Mario invincibility against everything but falling and lava. Using it is the closest thing in a Mario game to God Mode, and in Super Mario RPG it killed whole armies of tedious turn-based battles instantly.

Seeing stars in your dreams indicates a belief in your own excellence, and the ability to accomplish lofty, idealistic goals. Basically, if you're dreaming of stars, it means you feel on top of your game, and being that in Mario games it makes you unstoppable, that interpretation seems pretty accurate.

Of course, dreaming of invincibility is actually a warning against overconfidence, which is a nice thing to remember when you go running off at full-tilt-boogie thinking that you can't die and then stumble right into a bottomless pit.

Kuribo's Shoe

The best power-up in Mario history appears in a single level of Super Mario Bros 3. Kuribo's Shoe is a giant boot that you can get into and proceed to super-stomp your way through the level, walk on spikes and kill enemies that are otherwise unkillable from above. We bring it up as often as possible to try and talk Nintendo into bringing it back.

Wearing boots in your dreams is the epitome of manliness. It symbolizes kicking ass and chewing bubble gum with a swagger, just as the use of the boot allows you to do. Sadly, it can also mean that you are about to be forced out of somewhere, which Kuribo's Shoe has unfortunately been.

Cape Feather

In Super Mario World, a feather gave you a cape, and while, yes, that sounds ridiculous from a dream interpretation standpoint, it actually makes sense. Feathers represent comfort and achievement, rising above it all. Possibly it also represents humiliation, which is pretty standard for someone wearing a cape in public.

The cape gave you the ability to fly, and before someone drops down to say it in the comments, we can assure you that flight dreams are not sex dreams in disguise. Being able to fly is more of an indicator of being free to pursue something without obstacles. Something like giving up your day job unclogging toilets to become a bounty hunter specializing in blond princesses. Sounds sweet, but remember...

Super Leaf/Carrot

One turned you into a Raccoon that could fly (Don't ask), and the other into a rabbit that could float (We said not to ask). What on Earth does that mean? Dreaming that you're turning into an animal always, always indicates that you are on the road to Hell. It is one of the worst omens, a portent of a descent into primitive lusts and actions.

So, to recap. Taking the Mario games as one long dream by Mario, he is a brilliant, powerful, charismatic man who possesses great ideals and dreams, but doesn't realize that the pursuit of those dreams is self-destructive and ultimately harmful. We imagine this will be conclusively proven when Nintendo finally makes a game that ends with Mario walking in on Bowser and Peach in flagrante delicto and he crushes them with his enormous shoe before turning it on himself.

Or maybe...we should pretend we never took a dream interpretation class.

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